Is Zoo Hypothesis Plausible?

I guess there are many responses to Fermi’s Paradox. And admittedly some are more likely than others.

Alien conspiracy theories are one response. Most scientists reject it. But it’s admittedly still there.

Then there is Zoo Hypothesis. The view there are advanced ET’s. They just choose not to interact with us.

Where does this fall on the scale of plausibility? Cause it does seem more likely than flying saucers, to me at least.

Also the fictional Star Trek universe does kind of allude to it with their Prime Directive theory. A little bit of a tangent, I know. But their predictions have been right in the past. And their writers have clearly thought about the matter.


It does? Simple compounding probability suggests otherwise:

P = the probability of the existence of spacefaring aliens capable of reaching Earth.

Q = the probability of the existence of spacefaring aliens capable of reaching Earth who have deliberately chosen not to do so.

I don’t see how Q > P. It is at best equal to or less than P.

In any case, it’s perfectly fair to reject the hypothesis until at least some plausible evidence comes to light in favour of it, and if you know of any, feel free to share.

IMHO, if there were advanced ETs capable of reaching Earth, there’d be a relatively small but nonzero probability that they’d choose not to do so.

But this is neither necessary nor sufficient to be The Explanation why we haven’t been visited. We occupy a tiny point in the vastness of spacetime; and we don’t really know what it takes (and therefore how likely it is) for intelligent life to evolve in the first place nor to develop interstellar travel.

What a strange name, a zoo is in now way at all like the Prime Directive. Animals in a zoo clearly know they are, and can clearly see their captors, and the smarter species resent their confinement. Their behavior is altered.

My understanding of Fermi’s paradox is not about Aliens visiting Earth (interstellar travel is fantastically unlikely, even with advanced technology), its about detecting the evidence of alien life.

It would not have to be particularly advanced civilization to be detectable, our primitive 20th Century civilization is detectable up about 100 light years out (radio having been fairly common place for 100 years of so).And we have detected no other civilizations.

Personally I never saw the paradox side. It would not take any of the terms being that unlikely for it to have a mean value of 1.0 or less for the entire universe. E.g. if combination of elements required to come together for the creation of life was as likely as a specific combination of cards within a deck (not super unreasonable given what we know about abiogenesis) then right there you have a term that evaluates as 1 in 8.06e+67.

Again I’m forced to correct myself. I believe I got the Fermis Paradox confused with the Drake Equation.

Fermi’s paradox was specifically about being visited by extraterrestrial life not simple observing it in the galaxy (and was triggered by a conversation about UFOs)

First even SETI’s largest efforts to date would only have detected an intentionally directed multi gigawatt transmission to ~200 light years and could only have detected “leakage” to a few light years. Limitations due to other signals and noise are far more challenging than one would expect. For many transmissions like TV and radio you would have to have radio telescopes many times the radius of the Earth. This is not impossible but the leakage idea is not a practical.

The zoo hypothesis assumes that there are lots and lots of advanced aliens and that they are extremely private and are fanatical about natural development.

Is it possible, perhaps but so is the idea that there are invisible elephants living in our sewers. There is a very remote possibility but the zoo hypothesis is really just fantasy.

In case you were wondering, here is the Youtube video that partly inspired this topic.

As you can see, some answers to the Fermi Paradox are quite disturbing. I chose Zoo Hypothesis because it is relatively benign.


Interstellar travel is not fantastically unlikely. Fast interstellar travel is unlikely, but it doesn’t need to be fast. Space is very vast, yes, but time is even more so. Using only plausible technology, it’d take a mere hundred million years or so for a spacefaring civilization to completely fill their entire galaxy. Do we really think that, in our entire galaxy, there wasn’t one single civilization that developed 1% faster than we did? It’s possible, of course, but it would seem rather remarkable, if so.

The reason it’s a paradox is that actually, since any life remotely like us would attempt to travel to other stars :

a. If it’s possible to travel to other stars
b. And if another form of life similar to humans, but it reached the point of interstellar travel a few hundred million years before we did
c. And if that form of life exists anywhere in our galaxy or in a neighboring galaxy you could reach in a few hundred million years

Then you would reasonably expect to be up to your ass in ETs. They’d be everywhere. We would expect to see them.

We haven’t found a concrete reason to say (a) won’t work. Antimatter-pion rockets, fueled by anti-element rocket fuel that can be easily contained away from the matter, would readily give the performance you’d need to reach other stars. Given the vastness of the universe, (b) seems pretty likely albeit it’s possible we’re the first. And © is an expectation based upon the rules that life operates under.

A paradox doesn’t have any term that’s unlikely. A paradox has two terms both true, which at the same time appear to be mutually exclusive.

That makes it not a paradox.

It’s a paradox if we know that the product of those numbers must be very large , as in many many interstellar travelling Aliens must have reached earth (or in Drake’s form many radio-wave emitted civilizations must exist near us). Yet, paradoxically our observations do not match this conclusion (we’ve not seen or observed any)

My point is while we can’t give exact values for those numbers, it is quite feasible for them to be so low as the product of them is less than 1.0. In fact you point out one of the numbers could be zero, (interstellar travel may be completely impossible, no matter how advanced you get)

So no paradox, just our observations matching a feasible set of numbers for Drake’s equation.

One pet theory I have is that aliens could be watching us constantly, but for entertainment value (not only to watch us for conflict and drama, but also to check the fictional entertainment we create). Can’t contact us because they would really be terrified of the copyright infringement costs. :slight_smile:

There’s a scary story the alien children like to tell each other late at night…

This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or of any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL’s consent, is prohibited.

That’s right, while we scare our kids with vampire tales, the universe trembles at the earthling lawyers the most!

Is this not the same as, “You cannot disprove the existence of a disinterested deity”?

There is probably nothing of value we could give an alien species. They would have as much interest in us as we have in an anthill in the middle of a forest.

All our advances seem rudimentary and backwards to an advanced species.

It may more be a lack of interest than them keeping us as zoo animals to watch.

I just hope the great filter is behind us. I’ve heard that gamma rays were a major great filter, making multicellular life impossible until 5 billion years ago.

But even then, earth has only had multicellular life for 600 million years. That still leaves over 4 billion years for another planet to develop it.

I don’t know. I hope we’re just the first.

Probably only about 1.281 million years if Gliese 710 or sometime in the million years after that when objects from the Oort cloud start bombarding the solar system.

Unfortunately I think the radiation will block humans interstellar travel even if we do solve the other major issues. But maybe some new physics will be found.

The zoo hypothesis seems about the same as the simulation hypothesis. I would assume that anyone simulating us would be doing it to watch how we’d develop. I see no reason not to want to learn about how things might be different with different starting parameters. It’s just the simulation lets you tweak more than a physical zoo.

Anyways, neither matter, because neither are falsifiable. They can only be proved true. And, unlike the version posited by religion, nothing we do changes anything about this. I’m still me, and I’m still real. Cogito ergo sum.

You don’t need all that even. Just people moving out to further and further out frontiers. At some point, someone will be going on to colonize the next asteroid, and calculate that they are actually closer to the next star than they are to Sol. Then they keep working in, and the materials start becoming more plentiful as they approach the new star.

Intentionally building an asteroid based colony, and then trudging out to a new star is a perfectly acceptable idea for the far future as well. Doesn’t matter if it takes thousands of years, or even tens of thousands, if you are taking your whole world with you.

There are no paradoxes, just puzzles that have counterintuitive sounding answers at first. It is a paradox in the colloquial sense in that what we should expect is not what we see.

The answer to the paradox is simple, there are no other space faring species within at least a billion light years or so. Why that is the case is the interesting question.

We know that interstellar travel is not impossible, as we have found objects in our solar system that came from outside of it. We have also launched probes that have gone a good long ways, and have passed through many milestones that could be considered the boundary of the solar system, and haven’t run into any sort of barrier.

Hard to do, sure, but not really all that daunting once you are a proper spacefaring civilization.

And that is one of the more likely solutions, IMHO, is that the chances of spacefaring life developing is so far below 1 and so close to 0 that you would not expect to see an example of it in any particular patch of observable universe. That we happen to inhabit a patch of universe that contains one just shows that in an infinite universe, even the incredibly unlikely can happen. If the chances are low enough, then any space faring civilization should see itself as alone in its patch of observable universe.

Drake’s equation is a poor equation. It really does not explain anything, and just kinda lays out the areas of things that we don’t know. The only thing we know about the drake equation is the answer is equal or less than 1. All the variables in it then have to multiply to reach that low answer. The first terms of the drake equation are very big, like how many stars are there? Then how many of those stars have planets, which we have confirmed over the last couple decades is pretty much in the same order of magnitude.

Now we have questions of how many planets are in habitable zones, which we are just beginning to get into now, and all the variables after that, we only have our own experience to say anything about, useless when you are trying to get statistical results.

As far as that goes, that would be about the only reason why I could see aliens hiding themselves from us. Not out of copyright infringement fears, of course, but out of a fear of contaminating the culture and no longer getting new and original creativity. We’ve written songs and sonnets that the universe has never seen before, and if we find ourselves influenced by an alien culture, we may no longer write those originally, and instead use alien culture as the basis of our creativity.

If that is the case I also hope that there is a galactic BMI that is collecting royalties in our name, and that when we finally do join the galactic community, we have a fat bank account so that we can buy the rights to some culture and technology ourselves.