Disclaimer: I'm not an economist. And my goal here isn't to push my blog, which typically covers a very narrow range of highly technical topics of interest to only a very few. You don't need to read any of the articles I link to here to get the gist of my idea.

I've written several times about the Fermi Paradox



which is a topic I can't seem to get out of my head. I've also written about how and why large complex systems fail



which is a topic in which I have a lot of professional interest.

Both of these topics have encroached on my dilettante interest in economics, both game theory and more general economic topics. Now I'm beginning to wonder more seriously if my assertion that the Fermi Paradox may be explainable by an economic scalability argument actually holds water.


In the last article I cited above I write about a book by safety researcher Sidney Dekker who himself cites Danish safety researcher Jens Rasmussen who has written at length about how market forces tend to drive large complex systems outside of their normal zone of safe operation.

Here's my idea: what if [1] the only way to develop the technology to become a star faring civilization is to exploit market forces (i.e. capitalism) because that's the only way you can allocate resources with sufficient efficiency to avoid the "Easter Island" effect, but [2] the technological systems that you have to develop to become star faring are ultimately and inevitably driven into failure mode by those same market forces?


My own argument against this is the same one I have for most all of the explanations for the Fermi Paradox: "Really? Every single civilization fell prey to this? Seriously? Every single one?"