Universal Doomsday: Analyzing Our Prospects for Survival

Research paper by Austin Gerig, Ken D. Olum, Alexander Vilenkin

Indexed on: 19 Mar '13Published on: 19 Mar '13Published in: arXiv - Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics


Given a sufficiently large universe, numerous civilizations almost surely exist. Some of these civilizations will be short-lived and die out relatively early in their development, i.e., before having the chance to spread to other planets. Others will be long-lived, potentially colonizing their galaxy and becoming enormous in size. What fraction of civilizations in the universe are long-lived? The "universal doomsday" argument states that long-lived civilizations must be rare because if they were not, we should find ourselves living in one. Furthermore, because long-lived civilizations are rare, our civilization's prospects for long-term survival are poor. Here, we develop the formalism required for universal doomsday calculations and show that while the argument has some force, our future is not as gloomy as the traditional doomsday argument would suggest, at least when the number of early existential threats is small.