Is Earth a ‘galactic zoo’?

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Why hasn’t Earth received any messages from extraterrestrials yet? One possibility is because we’re unwitting inhabitants in a so-called ‘galactic zoo’. This was one of the scenarios a group of international researchers explored at a meeting organized by the non-profit organization Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) last month.

The gathering, which took place at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie museum in Paris, brought together around 60 scientists who’ve researched the possibility of communication with hypothetical intelligent extraterrestrials. They debated ‘The Great Silence’ – why aliens haven’t contacted us – exploring one possibility known as the ‘zoo hypothesis’. First proposed in the 1970s, it

describes Earth as a planet that is already under observation by ‘galactic zookeepers’ who are deliberately concealing themselves from human detection and have agreed to treat Earth as a ‘wilderness’ area.

If there are intelligent extraterrestrials out there, where are they, and why haven’t we found them yet? This conundrum, posed in 1950 by Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, is known as Fermi’s paradox, and still stymies experts today.

METI president Douglas Vakoch discussed the idea that aliens are aware of Earth and are observing the planet like a zoo. If this is the case, humans should increase efforts to create messages capable of reaching our ‘keepers’ to demonstrate our intelligence, Vakoch suggested.

But what if we’re not part of a vast alien zoo? What if humanity has been evaluated by alien civilizations and ‘quarantined’ from our galactic neighbors? It’s possible that extraterrestrials are actively isolating us from contact for our own good because interacting with aliens would be ‘culturally disruptive’ for Earth, said the meeting co-chair Jean-Pierre Rospars, honorary research director at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA).

Maybe if we want to hear from aliens we just need to be patient. The Earth has existed for over 4.5 billion years, but extraterrestrial research has been going on for less than 50 years, Paris Match reported the head of the planetarium of the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, Cyril Birnbaum, saying.

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