SETI and the possibility of an unwanted contact. @SethShostak @SETI

Aug 02, 03:30 AM
Photo:The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC).

Image of the Large Magellanic Cloud and Supernova 1987A taken by the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (NASA 714) during its New Zealand deployment in 1987.

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  • Created: 23 June 1987
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SETI and the possibility of an unwanted contact. @SethShostak @SETI

"Should We Keep a Low Profile in Space?" By Seth Shostak, SETI.
Seth Shostak is the director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute, and a host of the radio program “Big Picture Science.”

"Consequently, recent conferences on the merits of active SETI have sought the advice of social scientists. Among their worries is whether to be up front about humanity’s seamy side: Should we tell the extraterrestrials about war and injustice?

Personally, I think this concern is overwrought. Any society that can pick up our radio messages will be at a level of development at least centuries beyond our own. They would be no more incensed by our bad behavior than historians who learned that Babylonians attacked one another with spears. It seems naïve to imagine that, by shielding aliens from the less flattering aspects of humanity, we would somehow lessen any incentive to do us harm. If there’s a danger, mincing words is unlikely to eliminate it.

A better approach is to note that the nearest intelligent extraterrestrials are likely to be at least dozens of light-years away. Even assuming that active SETI provokes a reply, it won’t be breezy conversation. Simple back-and-forth exchanges would take decades. This suggests that we should abandon the “greeting card” format of previous signaling schemes, and offer the aliens Big Data.

For example, we could transmit the contents of the Internet. Such a large corpus — with its text, pictures, videos and sounds — would allow clever extraterrestrials to decipher much about our society, and even formulate questions that could be answered with the material in hand. Sending the web on its way would take months if a radio transmitter were used. A powerful laser, conveying bits much like an optical fiber, could launch these data in a few days...."