Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler 186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler 186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth orbiting in the “habitable zone,” the distance from a star in which we might expect liquid water—and perhaps life.
What did not make the news, however, is that this discovery also slightly increases how much credence we give to the possibility of our own near-term extinction. This is because of a concept known as the Great Filter.
The Great Filter is an argument that attempts to resolve the Fermi Paradox: why have we not found aliens (or why have they not found us), despite the existence of hundreds of billions of exosolar systems in our galactic neighborhood in which life might evolve? As the namesake physicist Enrico Fermi noted, it seems rather extraordinary that not a single extraterrestrial signal or engineering project has been detected (UFO conspiracy theorists notwithstanding).
One reason why we do not see other civilizations has been the possibility that there simply are not many habitable planets. If there are, as seems to be, then there may be another reason.
Some have proposed it is getting over the nuclear bomb problem. I think it is something that we are going through right now.
Can a civilization overcome living in its own waste? The carbon dioxide waste we produce is altering the climate in ways that can hinder our future.
If we make it through, we get to be a level 1 civilization. If not, do we become another in a long line of civilizations that die out?