Astronomers are re-assessing the likelihood of advanced civilizations in space. They believe that the creation of such civilizations is more common than we think, but that we may find only empty ruins:
As Frank puts it “We don’t even know if it’s possible to have a high-tech civilization that lasts more than a few centuries.” With Frank and Sullivan’s new result, scientists can begin using everything they know about planets and climate to begin modeling the interactions of an energy-intensive species with their home world knowing that a large sample of such cases has already existed in the cosmos.
“Our results imply that our biological, and cultural evolution has not been unique and has probably happened many times before. The other cases are likely to include many energy intensive civilizations dealing with crises on their planets as their civilizations grow. That means we can begin exploring the problem using simulations to get a sense of what leads to long lived civilizations and what doesn’t.”
The second paragraph could have come straight from Plato. Civilizations may be plentiful, but their survival might be rare. This mirrors the pattern we see on Earth, where the more advanced civilizations die out.
One answer for their dying out is that they make life miserable. In an attempt to make everyone safe, and to eliminate caste distinctions, societies standardize to a utilitarian norm that is ugly, tedious and miserable. As a result, the smarter people drop out and have fewer children, and then the path to Idiocracy takes care of the rest.
A society designed to survive might be deliberately imperfect and avoid management and administrative tropes. It might instead be more anarchic but also more homogeneous, in that it would allow any behavior but eject those who failed to do anything worthwhile, causing constant internal risk and improvements through its hierarchy.
This would prevent the tendency of advanced societies which is to become big enough to lose sight of their original purpose, then to implement control as a means of keeping the herd together, and then perishing as the herd runs amok and the smart people die out. Perhaps, as with seeds in a forest, one in a thousand civilizations lives past a few centuries, and the rest revert to undeveloped states.