So, I'm sitting at the public computer at the Tustin Library as usual, and there is the typical encounter of the hostile kind - gang-banger with girl with noisy baby. Which primed me for a discovery.
Sometime later, after the security guard once again intervened between me and the gang banger, I was watching the Fermi paradox video on the Kurzweilai.net site, trying to screen out all the noise from yet another kid who can't be bothered to shut up, more precisely a mother who matches the criteria set out in "Assholes, A Theory," claiming special privileges to violate everyone else's space at whim. "What, that child?!" "Oh, yes, he's mine." "No, I'm not responsible for what he does." "Why don't you go somewhere else?" "Yes, I know that there is a kid-friendly computer area, but I'm not going there; it's too loud."
The bottom line is of course that nobody wants to deal with the problem. It's much easier to give in to the mom/terrorist than to try to enforce a library sound code that used to be the expected norm everywhere, even for toddlers. The costs are largely invisible, consisting of all the lost life-minutes of the other users of the library. Other libraries have reportedly had mini-civil wars over noise. The City of Orange library, for example, is very quiet - now - but only after a huge contest between the moms who wanted to carry babies or bring toddlers into the computer area without regard for anyone else.
Or have we simply devolved to the point that being treated nicely or respectfully is proof of our standing? This seems to be an ingrained attitude in the local Hispanic culture. If someone treats you well, then they must be afraid of you. Disrupting the lives of others with impunity demonstrates your power.
(Just had another encounter which resulted in the security guard calling in the library personnel who declared that if I approached another patron with my complaints about their noise, I would be asked to leave.)
So, what about the Fermi Paradox, anyway?
Are WE - humanity - an analog to the screaming baby? Only without any recourse to adults that I know of. We just casually blast our neighbors with whatever commercial or military electromagnetic waves we happen to choose, with no question as to how that impacts anyone else. Even regarding our local neighbors on earth, there is very little enforcement of electronic pollution. Often, foreign stations, mainly from Mexico, just blast right over U.S. stations, and do it for years, as no U.S. station has standing or would consider paying the standard bribe to get a favorable decision in a Mexican court - which could easily result in the U.S. station facing criminal penalties as well if the bribery was exposed.
And, how many XT civilizations who have achieved Type 1 or Type 2 and have effectively total control of their own star system will just casually let in noise from barbarian neighbors who clearly have never even thought of the issue.
At best, there may be some kind of contract, an agreement to bottle it up, between various Type 2 civilizations, setting forth standards and remedies. Regardless of agreements, do we have a right to interfere with other civilizations' communications? That total silence that Fermi wondered about? It's like that old adage: "Good walls make good neighbors." Maybe we should expect a bill. Hopefully nothing worse. Maybe we should plan on being quarantined via a Dysen sphere until we start acting like adults.
Meanwhile, our myriad quiet neighbors would likely view any signal that could make it all the way here as an outrageous intrusion of the kind one expects from babies.
There are those who speculate about exchanging information, but the most efficient way to do that appears to be that depicted in Brin's "EXISTENCE." I.e., sending hardened solid capsules crammed with data, not electromagnetic waves. Even then, would it be worth the diversion of resources? Perhaps the best, most cost effective substrate is something like a neutron star, compared to which, the hardened nodules of ordinary matter are like a diffuse gas. Easier just to party at home than to try to network over links that update on spans of thousands of years. That speed of light thing is a real problem. Of course, without it we probably would never have evolved, as our real estate would have been parceled up and put to good use - probably 3 billion years ago.
But if we can project stellar engineering into our plausible future, then it should be an option regardless of what bio-species you are. And it appears likely that something like a multitude of space habitats such as depicted in Babylon V, or a ringworld perhaps, would be more conducive to whatever other tasks a truly advanced civilization would be engaged in than a seemingly random accretion of rocks, such as seen in our and apparently most other stellar systems. So, fairly quickly, we might expect any technosavy species to use that wasted mass for more efficient purposes. So, again, "Why are we here?" Not, "Why are humans allowed to exist, in spite of being lousy neighbors to date." Rather, "Why does our whole solar system even exist as such?"