Aestivating Extraterrestrials and Self-Limiting Thoughts

I read a theory the other day that one answer to the Fermi ParadoxIf the math suggests so convincingly that there are other sentient being out there in the universe, where are they? – might be that other civilizations are so advanced that they’ve uploaded their consciousness to digital formats and powered down, so to speak, while they wait for the universe to cool, which it’s doing. Why, you might ask? Because digital mediums run more efficiently the cooler it gets and so the closer to absolute zero the universe is, the more efficiently these digitized beings will run. Like, a lot more efficiently, like, to the power of numbers I can’t begin to wrap my head around.

It is, by far, one of the most elaborate and creative answers to the Fermi Paradox. Others include things like:

  • There isn’t other life out there.
  • Other life is in a form we haven’t yet recognized.
  • They have stopped by Earth but it was before humans or before recorded human history.
  • We’re listening for signals on the wrong channels.
  • All civilizations advanced enough to try long-distance space travel inevitably self-destruct or get cut off by a Great Filter before the mission can be accomplished.

Here’s what I love about this new digital upload theory: The scientists who posed it don’t think it’s particularly plausible.

Instead, one says he thinks it’s more likely that “they do not exist or are very far away.”

The other says, “I much prefer hypotheses that do not rely on assuming intentional decisions made by extraterrestrial societies.”

Despite their staunch disbelief of their own hypothesis, they stand by the value of having created and entertained the idea for a few reasons:

  • Science works by having a whole bunch of hypotheses that can then be tested and either supported or disproved; either way, something has been learned.
  • Something as complex as the Fermi Paradox isn’t likely to have one pat solution but, rather, a “patchwork-quilt kind of solution.”
  • These kinds of intellectual exercises can illuminate far beyond the original intention of solving the Fermi Paradox, for example, trials we Earthlings might face in the future.

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a space geek so I love this in and of itself.

But I’m way more of a personal development geek and I read in this something that’s not only not done but often full-on taboo in the average American life: Theorizing creatively and unabashedly. Dreaming up – and sharing! – implausible ideas for whatever value they might carry.

Instead, we tend to self-edit as we go, squelching the creative fun of of daydreaming and brainstorming. I’ve taken to asking new clients to set their goals for our coaching collaboration as though they have a magic wand because, otherwise, people most often undersell the possibilities of this alchemical space, assuming far more stringent limitations of the process – and themselves – than exist.

So, friend: What the aestivating digital extraterrestrial theory you’ve been self-editing out of existence? Go tell someone. Now. Go on.


Coaching is often about blowing the doors off of limiting assumptions. The Bigger Badder Crew is the community for sharing what you found on the other side of that threshold.