Next Meeting Presentation

1 October 2020 – Club Meeting Presentation
– Thursday night, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. –

This free speaker presentation will be offered virtually using the online WebEx video-conferencing platform. Follow this link for instructions on how to join this virtual meeting presentation.

An Astronomy Guest Speaker Series Event – a collaboration of the Astronomy Club of Asheville and UNC-Asheville

Green Bank, National Radio Astronomy Observatory in West Virginia


The Great Filter: Obstacles to the Search for Extraterrestrial Civilizations – presented by Robin Hanson, Ph.D., George Mason University

The Great Filter, in the context of the Fermi paradox, is whatever prevents non-living matter from undergoing abiogenesis (the origin of life), in time, to expanding lasting life as measured by the Kardashev scale (a civilization’s level of technological advancement). The concept originates in Robin Hanson’s argument that the failure to find any extraterrestrial civilizations in the observable universe implies the possibility something is wrong with one or more of the arguments from various scientific disciplines that the appearance of advanced intelligent life is probable. This observation is conceptualized in terms of a “Great Filter” which acts to reduce the great number of sites where intelligent life might arise to the tiny number of intelligent species with advanced civilizations actually observed (currently just one: human). This probability threshold, which could lie behind us (in our past) or in front of us (in our future), might work as a barrier to the evolution of intelligent life, or as a high probability of self-destruction. The main counter-intuitive conclusion of this observation is that the easier it was for life to evolve to our stage, the bleaker our future chances probably are.
The idea was first proposed in an online essay titled “The Great Filter – Are We Almost Past It?”, written by economist Robin Hanson. The first version was written in August 1996 and the article was last updated on September 15, 1998. Since that time, Hanson’s formulation has received recognition in several published sources discussing the Fermi paradox and its implications.