In science, there’s an idea called the Fermi Paradox. It refers to a fact that doesn’t make any sense at all: There exists a vast universe with plenty of planetary systems, but we don’t see any evidence of extraterrestrial life.
Yet, astrophysicists are becoming convinced that it is highly likely that life has evolved elsewhere in the universe, just as it has on Earth, where elements like carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen congealed into multi-cellular life.
The sheer number of potentially habitable star systems, combined with the fact that we exist, suggests that life is a distinct statistical probability. Organisms like ourselves have likely existed elsewhere in the universe, and they will likely exist in the future: The galaxies are probably teeming with life like our own.
But if life is so plentiful in the universe, why haven’t we found it?
Just as life on our planet has been increasingly endangered over the last few decades by our own development and destructive technology, so too must it be endangered in whatever other planets have similar conditions as those found on Earth. A mere 582 light years away, Kepler-186f might well be such a planet.
Extraterrestrial civilizations can likely be found in every direction we look, but we are unlikely to ever meet them because both us and them are too similar to bacteria like Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which scientists have shown self-organize into micro-colonies “in a manner analogous to a capitalist economic system,” “guided by synergistic rich-get-richer mechanisms.” Such a system of resource hoarding starves many related organisms, keeping them from achieving their true potential.
Planetary civilizations like our own likely comply with resource-rich individuals bent on controlling ever-more resources in order to accrue symbolic status symbols (such as dollars.) This process leads not only to social upheaval, but to environmental destruction.
Currently, humans face most critical test that natural selection likely places on all intelligent life in the universe: The test of enacting large-scale cooperation for the collective benefit of the species.
It’s simple: We either overcome our exploitative bacterial heritage by enacting a liberating economic system, or we perish.
At the moment, all signs point to doom. The corporations that control the most powerful governments on Earth are invested in a short-term strategy of “survival of the fittest,” which involves both further impoverishing workers and laying waste to the planet in the process.
While the evolution of life has often favored a winner-take-all strategy for success, the greatest tragedy of evolutionary processes is that they have been unable to propel an intelligent species to interstellar space.
Yet, if it can prove itself capable, humanity might yet be the first species to transcend the primitive nature of early-stage evolution. It may defeat the regression toward capitalism in favor of a socialist model that prioritizes collective transcendence over individual successes.
Such is the unappreciated role of capitalism as a “Great Filter” for the interstellar expansion of life. As an economic system, it operates in habitable worlds, on a number of intelligent species, all across the universe, killing off each possibility for interstellar expansion.
True wonders await the first species that can override the capitalist pull of its bacterial ancestry. If only humans decided to be that species. If only we embraced socialism, the only means for our survival and ultimate success.