Are we ready for contact with extraterrestrial intelligence?

May 06, 2014
The study suggests that mankind is still not ready for contact with a supposed extraterrestrial civilization. Credit: José Antonio Peñas/Sinc

The SETI project scientists are known for tracking possible extraterrestrial signals, but now they are also considering sending messages from Earth telling of our position. A researcher from the University of Cádiz (Spain) questions this idea in view of the results from a survey taken by students, revealing the general level of ignorance about the cosmos and the influence of religion when tackling these matters.

The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project is an initiative that began in the 70s with funding from NASA, but that has evolved towards the collaboration of millions of Internet users for the processing of data from the Arecibo Observatory (Puerto Rico), where space tracking is carried out.

Now the members of this controversial project are trying to go further and not only search for extraterrestrial signs, but also actively send messages from Earth (Active SETI) to detect possible extraterrestrial civilisations. Astrophysicists, such as Stephen Hawking, have already warned of the risk that this implies for humanity, since it could favour the arrival of beings with more advanced technology and dubious intentions.

The ethical and sociological implications of this proposal have been analysed by the neuro-psychologist Gabriel G. de la Torre, professor at the University of Cádiz and participant in previous projects such as Mars 500 or space psychology topical team project financed by the European Space Agency, who wonders: "Can such a decision be taken on behalf of the whole planet? What would happen if it was successful and 'someone' received our signal? Are we prepared for this type of contact?"

To answer these questions, the professor sent a questionnaire to 116 American, Italian and Spanish university students. The survey assessed their knowledge of astronomy, their level of perception of the physical environment, their opinion on the place that things occupy in the cosmos, as well as religious questions – for example, "do you believe that God created the universe?" – or on the likelihood of contact with extraterrestrials.

The results, published in the journal 'Acta Astronautica', indicate that, as a species, humanity is still not ready for trying to actively contact a supposed extraterrestrial civilisation, since people lack knowledge and preparation. For this reason, SETI researchers are recommended in this study to look for alternative strategies.

"This pilot study demonstrates that the knowledge of the general public of a certain education level about the cosmos and our place within it is still poor. Therefore, a cosmic awareness must be further promoted – where our mind is increasingly conscious of the global reality that surrounds us – using the best tool available to us: education," De la Torre emphasised. "In this respect, we need a new Galileo to lead this journey".

It was deduced from the questionnaires, which will soon be available to everyone on line, that and the rest of society lack awareness on many astronomical aspects, despite the enormous progress of science and technology. It also revealed that the majority of people consider these subjects according to their religious belief and that they would rely on politicians in the event of a huge global-scale crisis having to be resolved.

"Regarding our relation with a possible intelligent extraterrestrial life, we should not rely on moral reference points of thought, since they are heavily influenced by religion. Why should some more intelligent beings be 'good'?," added the researcher, who believes that this matter should not be monopolized by a handful of scientists: "In fact, it is a global matter with a strong ethical component in which we must all participate".

Explore further: Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

More information: Gabriel G. De la Torre. "Toward a new cosmic consciousness: Psychoeducational aspects of contact with extraterrestrial civilizations". Acta Astronautica 94 (2): 577–583, 2014.

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NMvoiceofreason
2 / 5 (18) May 06, 2014
Active SETI will lead to peace - the peace of the grave or the peace of the slave.

We will be the "Food of the Gods" or the indigenous population ruled by the Conquistadors.

Take your pick - a terrible, terrible idea.
Milou
3 / 5 (6) May 06, 2014
Seems to me it would be the alien who would not be ready for our lack of intelligence. Why waste their time? I would think there are many other worlds they can take over without shooting a single gun. Let us torment ourselves. We are good at that. I do not think they would respond to any of our signals. No matter what our intentions.
eapoechaos
4.4 / 5 (12) May 06, 2014
I believe that we should not be sending any signals just yet. I would love for us to meet extraterrestrials, but I do not think that our planet is advanced enough both technologically and mentally. I mean we rage wars against our own people of this planet because the people we put in power are greedy and think that they can do what they want. And most of us humans believe everything that the main stream media puts out which makes us dumb. If we wouldn't waste money on wars against each other, work together as one, stop destroying the place we live on, and put it toward technology of all sorts, then we would be ready for something like this. Until then, we are not fit enough to handle something like this. What happens if the signal goes to a planet of beings that conquer? It's survival of the fittest and we are not fit just yet for other life forms.(Not saying that every being in the universe wants to conquer, but whatever is out there, we are not ready for it.)
eric_in_chicago
5 / 5 (7) May 06, 2014
Why and how do people assume that it would be worth the effort to colonize an already life-bearing planet.

There has got to be so much dead rock out there.

War of the Worlds scenario come to mind... What a pain dealing with all the prions, virus and bacterium before you can safely breathe the air.

BTW, I am ready!
NeutronicallyRepulsive
4.7 / 5 (6) May 06, 2014
I would just note, that sending signal now mostly likely doesn't mean the extraterrestrials would arrive anytime soon. If they even reasonably can, if anyone ever will be able to.
El_Nose
2.8 / 5 (12) May 06, 2014
Why colonize an inhabited world

1) resources -- if that world has what you NEED it might be worth the risk of exterminating the resident fauna -- humans do this all the time in different environments

2) perhaps a slave labor force is needed

--
why assume advanced species means altruistic species

1) almost everything on our planet deals with predator vs prey. Why do we humans assume that an advanced civilization is one without war, or in general are kind.

We humans are more advanced than cows -and we EAT them.
We humans are more advanced than insects -and we STEP ON them.
We humans are more advanced than human children - and we as adults mostly IGNORE them

And we as a society don;t have any issue with this. Yet we with to transpose our social culture and norms on a species that has no basis for understanding anything on this planet. And they should be nice to us? this is the arrogance of humans.

We should learn to fly and then and only then look for others to play with
LariAnn
4.5 / 5 (10) May 06, 2014
Were a truly advanced extraterrestrial civilization to arrive on our planet, we would be almost completely at their mercy. Why? Because, being advanced, they would take the time to study our cultures and languages before arriving here. They would know more about us than we do, as their knowledge of us would be refined by their advanced cultures and social development. IF they were not friendly, we would be dead meat. If they were merely mischievous, we would be hopelessly befuddled by their handling of us. They may interfere only if we were about the destroy ourselves or the planet, and even then they would do it in such a manner as to be nearly undetectable by us. If they were friendly, they would study us from a distance and let us develop on our own. That's my viewpoint, anyway.
eric_in_chicago
2.8 / 5 (5) May 06, 2014
El_Nose...number three makes sense.

Again, as I was trying to get across, "eat them" not likely that our proteins would be good for them. And, not likely they can't get food an easier way if they can travel between stars.

Another possibility would be that we would be the best "reality TV" in the galaxy.

How else would a society without material needs amuse itself?

BTW, many of us are still assuming we are not being covertly, closely watched right now...

NeutronicallyRepulsive
5 / 5 (3) May 06, 2014
To follow up. The only (what I see as) realistic reasons to invade Earth (wipe/enslave humanity) are:

1) Some twisted ideology (most likely akin to religion).
2) "3rd party" aliens. Those who somehow obtained advanced space travel technology, but still are less developed and have some low-tech needs or motives.
3) Fun.

In other cases they wouldn't have to threaten us. Also such advanced civilization would be able to have automatization process for the manual work. I agree that food is realistically out of the question.
Uncle Ira
1 / 5 (11) May 06, 2014
BTW, many of us are still assuming we are not being covertly, closely watched right now...


Uaah, Skippy I think you misunderstand what the article is about. That extraterrestrial intellegent-Skippys is the space creature-Skippys. You got them mixed up with the NS and A spy-intelligence-agent-Skippys. They the Skippys keeping the close watch on things right now.
Scottingham
2 / 5 (6) May 06, 2014
While I think it isn't impossible for intelligent space-faring aliens to exist, there has been zero evidence to show anything with mass can travel faster than the speed of light. Considering that's essentially time travel, it's safe to assume the speed of light is a universal speed limit.

At appreciable speeds relative to the speed of light time for the beings on the spaceship is stretch out such that within a few decades you can span a galaxy. However, for beings not on that spaceship 10s of thousands of years have past.

Since we are not moving at a relativistic speed our entire modern civilization has been nothing more than a fraction of a second relative to one of these speedy travelers.
orti
1 / 5 (5) May 06, 2014
I think we should all spend every waking moment thinking about how to address this serious issue.
d_s
1.5 / 5 (10) May 06, 2014
On a philosophical note... Never mind God for the moment. Can't we agree that the "creator" of all life as we know it is the Earth itself? And that we're proving to be poor stewards of said entity? So how about this scenario:

An ETI hears our little squeak, comes to investigate, discovers what we're up to, and in the interest of life diversity which turns out to indeed be rare and precious, exterminates us in favor of the Cetacea - who they discover have a higher capacity for intelligence and a nearer term evolutionary potential for amphibious life - and thus would make better custodians.
Uncle Ira
1.4 / 5 (10) May 06, 2014
On a philosophical note...


Okayeei Skippy, what you got you?

Never mind God for the moment.


Well make up your mind there DandS-Skippy.

Can't we agree that the "creator" of all life as we know it is the Earth itself?


Hey, DandS-Skippy, I see you are the new guy on the physorg, so I am going to help you out about the peoples here. That is a stupid question to ask around here. Ain't no way in the hell are you going to get all these Skippys to agree with that.

An ETI hears our little squeak, comes to investigate, discovers what we're up to,,,,,


What it is we doing that he might discover?

who they discover have a higher capacity for intelligence and a nearer term evolutionary potential for amphibious life - and thus would make better custodians.


Meybe he think maybe we on to something and copy it for himself? He might find us not fun and just move on. If I move like the ET-Skippys, I would go to find something more interesting.
eric_in_chicago
5 / 5 (5) May 06, 2014
Uncle Ira, what's with the "Skippy"s?
Uncle Ira
1.7 / 5 (12) May 06, 2014
Uncle Ira, what's with the "Skippy"s?


Don't ask me Cher, you guess is as good ol Ira's on why they act the way they do?
sirchick
4.7 / 5 (9) May 06, 2014
If an alien race were to ever manage to visit earth, their technology would have to be so much more advanced than ours, that they would have no need to exploit us. We would be weak in comparison.
At which point only two things would logically happen above any other:
Either they will share their knowledge and help us get to their stage.
Or they will look at us and think we're too unevolved to ever join them.

To what gain would there be to destroy us, to me that seems illogical for such an advanced civilization, if they could visit us, they would be leaps and bounds ahead of us, we are hardly a threat in that situation.

For an alien race to visit earth, one planet of so many billions to chose from, only to eradicate humans and any other living thing on it to take it for themselves, is a bit too hollywood and a little irrational. Earth is not even that special or that large..and we have exploited alot of the resources already...
d_s
1 / 5 (6) May 06, 2014
Meybe he think maybe we on to something and copy it for himself? He might find us not fun and just move on. If I move like the ET-Skippys, I would go to find something more interesting

Excellent advice!
NeutronicallyRepulsive
2.3 / 5 (7) May 06, 2014
@sirchick: The spiders in my bathroom are hardly a threat, yet I wipe them periodically out because I just don't like the idea they might drop on me and overall idea of them being there. Not exactly rational, but still they end up dead. Did you considered humanofobia (for obvious reasons I didn't use Latin)? Also you assume, that travel would be complicated and therefore costly. It can be easy for them even though we can't imagine how atm. There are many places to go, we just might not be interesting enough or worth it.
Burnerjack
3.6 / 5 (5) May 06, 2014
If an alien race is intelligent and advanced enough to receive and interpret signals from Earth, wouldn't they be intelligent enough to home in on the position of origin? All on their own?
Why would we assume they were peaceful and benevolent? Sending signals out now? After news broadcasts and 'I Love Lucy' have a 60-70 Lightyear head start?
Maybe we should be focusing our resources on the problems at hand right here at home.
AdamCC
4.2 / 5 (6) May 06, 2014
We currently have the capability to *receive* such a signal, and possibly unintended weaker signals. It does not require a highly advanced civilization to receive such a signal.

Faster than light travel (relative to point of origin or destination) is almost certainly impossible, and extremely fast travel - whether FTL or near light-speed - is guaranteed to be *extremely* resource expensive.

Any civilization capable of getting here - whether from 15 LY or 100 away - is going to be capable of terrafrorming likely closer planets at overall less cost than travel+war.

We would gain a lot from communicating with another intelligent species, whether approx our same development or much further along; same would be true in reverse.

Taking all this together, I think it's ridiculous to worry about the theoretical negative consequences. We should do whatever we can to make contact with whomever may be listening.
Uncle Ira
1.4 / 5 (10) May 06, 2014
Meybe he think maybe we on to something and copy it for himself? He might find us not fun and just move on. If I move like the ET-Skippys, I would go to find something more interesting

Excellent advice!


Plagiarizing is not liked to much here Skippy. So knock it off, or you will be finding yourself wearing a silly looking point cap while the smarts peoples have fun with you. Bad karma points for you, you are on the list now.
Scottingham
4.9 / 5 (7) May 06, 2014
AdamCC gets it.

I would suggest that if we wanted to speculate wildly anyway, why not about plausible places within our solar system?

Europa and Enceladus both have liquid water. For real.

If they don't already have life we should put it there! As fellow creatures of DNA, it's our responsibility to get it off this rock. Just in case.

Who knows, maybe in another billion years an even more intelligent species will pop up...
zorro6204
3 / 5 (6) May 06, 2014
Given that we've only been using electromagnetic radiation to communicate for about 100 years, and given that we're probably a generation or two from abandoning broadcasts entirely, I wouldn't be too concerned about any message beamed off into space, the chance of anyone listening are laughably small. Which makes SETI just about the most useless science activity imaginable.
PinkElephant
4.1 / 5 (8) May 06, 2014
@zorro6204,

That's always been my beef with standard SETI as well. Detecting stray emissions from ET is a fool's game, as any sufficiently advanced civilization will operate at extremely high efficiency -- meaning very few stray emissions or energy losses of any kind, to say nothing of sufficient power that we can detect across interstellar distances.

Assuming that ET will deliberately and continuously broadcast powerful EM beams at great expense out into the wide black yonder, in hopes that someone out there is not only listening but capable of recognizing the signals for what they are, is quite a stretch...

box-of-tricks
2.1 / 5 (7) May 06, 2014
Let's say they rock up on our doorstep with their own religion and it turns out they don't like our gods? get ready for the war of the bigots.
PinkElephant
4.1 / 5 (8) May 06, 2014
The overwhelming majority of technological civilizations out there (if any at all!) are likely not hundreds or thousands, but hundreds of millions and billions of years older than ours. They must long since have transitioned to artificial brains and bodies (if they still have bodies as such, at all), and their 'individuals' -- assuming they at all persist in some sense as individuals -- most likely each sport intelligence vastly in excess of all humanity combined. What would such beings want with us?

The assumption that they'd have anything whatsoever to gain from meeting and knowing us (never mind bodily traveling to us), is laughable. We'd be less than trivial to them. Our entire planet, with all technology and life on it put together, would be about as interesting to them as an atom of hydrogen.

That some presume to talk about such utterly alien intelligence in human terms, or analyze their potential motivations based on what *we* know and perceive -- is just plain pathetic.
AdamCC
3.7 / 5 (3) May 06, 2014
The overwhelming majority of technological civilizations out there (if any at all!) are likely not hundreds or thousands, but hundreds of millions and billions of years older than ours.


You're forgetting the importance of the fact that the sun is a third generation star.

We don't know enough about the likelihood of life and time to intelligence, so there could very well be thousands or *maybe* small millions of years gap. That's enough to make some of your point true despite exaggerated timeline. But "overwhelming majority" has no basis whatsoever. If all the necessary elements, and general galactic "calm" were in place from the beginning of the universe, statistically that would be true. But intelligent life is unlikely to have existed for hundreds of millions of years, let alone billions ... it's impossible to say what the average is, but it's a fair bet that if life is at all common, there are others of the same *general* age as us.
PinkElephant
4 / 5 (3) May 06, 2014
If all the necessary elements, and general galactic "calm" were in place from the beginning of the universe, statistically that would be true. But intelligent life is unlikely to have existed for hundreds of millions of years, let alone billions ...
And why not, exactly? Even if our galaxy had an AGN until 5 billion years ago, that'd still be 5 billion years of 'calm'. Plenty enough. Even taking a 'twin' solar system *identical* to ours in every way, including age, the probability that it'd produce intelligence and a tech civilization within just a couple million years of our own solar system -- across a span of 4.6 billion years! -- is laughably low. It would be an *amazing* coincidence.
it's a fair bet that if life is at all common, there are others of the same *general* age as us
Sure, somewhere out there in a galaxy far, far away. But close enough that either they or we can detect each other's EM signals? Not betting on that one.
RobertKarlStonjek
1 / 5 (5) May 07, 2014
We are ready to become Facebook friends and to click 'Like' on their planet's page.

Any more than that could be disastrous...
someone11235813
1.3 / 5 (7) May 07, 2014
It likely be hundreds of millions of years (if ever) before the messages telling of our whereabouts were received. It might not be what our very distant relatives would want.
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (6) May 07, 2014
that they would rely on politicians in the event of a huge global-scale crisis having to be resolved.

OK. We're screwed.
We humans are more advanced than cows -and we EAT them.
We humans are more advanced than insects -and we STEP ON them.

What does 'more advanced' mean? More successful? Certainly we are not more successful than insects. They have been around far longer and in greater numbers. And lions eat humans (given a chance)...are they therefore more advanced?
Don't push our individual bias on other species. It's always easy to define species X as more advanced if species X defines the criteria.

And I doubt aliens would eat us. It's unlikely that the biology would fit (or that they'd still bother with a biology - which is, after all, very specific to one environment and only a hindrance once you leave that environment)

Rustybolts
3 / 5 (3) May 07, 2014
We can't even talk to our neighboring countries without getting into a fight. Go ahead, call the aliens! I think I will add this to my dumb Idea list.
blawo
4.7 / 5 (3) May 07, 2014
It seems implausible that advanced civilization would be in conflict with a one-planet specie. There is truly nothing Earth can offer, which cannot be piked up elsewhere, without of much effort or conflict either physical or moral.

However, the conflict may easily arise if a young civilization is expanding into living space of the older one. Therefore, the most probable, "least resistance" way for the older one is not to allow that the one-planetary specie becomes multi-planetary, in the first instance. In a universe, where one, advanced civilization resists, the typical evolution of a young civilization may be: 1. pre-industrial phase, 2. industrialization and science, 3. first space activities, 4. drop in space exploration for obscure reasons, 5. civilization turns into virtual, computer worlds , 6. dying, or return to pre-industrial stage.
antialias_physorg
4.1 / 5 (8) May 07, 2014
I don't see the 'multi planetary' phase happening. Once you're in space - why return to a planet?

The only reason WE think in such terms is because we're still stuck in our thinking in terms of having a particular body type. And we think it's easier to keep going on a planet (which it isn't - other than on Earth. You need the full suit and life support, as well as enclosed living quarters on any planet you got to. No matter how much effort you put into 'terraforming')

As for resources: Scraping them off the surface layer of a mostly molten rock in a big gravity well is certainly more cumbersome than just picking it up in an asteroid belt. Going to other PLANETS to mine there is dumb. And if we can expect anything from spacefaring capable intelligences: they're probably not very dumb.
dogbert
2 / 5 (8) May 07, 2014
The article, whose title implies that it is about efforts to contact intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, is in fact an article about science versus religion. The author is very concerned about religion and sees education as a means of addressing that problem.

It is sad to see such bias on a scientific site.
Viktor
2.3 / 5 (4) May 07, 2014
these fears are simply ridiculous. Nobody will respond, do not even hope
Dug
3.4 / 5 (5) May 07, 2014
If an alien civilization was advanced enough to cross light-years of space - and they had an interest in planets such as earth, they would have probably been here before now - and perhaps they have been. If they were interested in and capable of colonizing and or harvesting earths biological resources (Earth's mineral resources aren't that unique) why would such an advanced civilization wait until the entire planet had been razed by the over populating and metastasizing human species?

A truly advanced alien species would realize that the sustainable management of the home planet's species and resources is far less difficult and resource expensive than extra-galactic space travel. Consequently, truly advanced species would probably remain at home and or terraform nearer planets as necessary when their own star's life ended.
Sinister1812
2.4 / 5 (5) May 07, 2014
These fears about being invaded or eaten by aliens are ridiculous. Sounds like some Hollywood flick.
Jumbybird
2 / 5 (3) May 07, 2014
I think we should stop fattening-up ourselves, just in case they're looking for food.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) May 07, 2014
If they were interested in and capable of colonizing and or harvesting earths biological resources (Earth's mineral resources aren't that unique) why would such an advanced civilization wait

Good point. It's not like they'd need us to send a beacon to find out that there is a planet here. And they've had a few billion years to strip mine Earth.
So if they haven't decided to do so before, it's unlikely they'll decide to do so in the next few decades.

Still, I think sending out a beacon is pointless. And if anything it can do more harm than good - because it's one of those actions which don't have an 'undo' function in the unlikely event that it does cause trouble. Humans seem to be hell-bent on trying things that can't be undone for some reason.
HealingMindN
5 / 5 (1) May 07, 2014
I'm guessing the ET who wrote this is having a field day with all these comments.
AdamCC
4.5 / 5 (2) May 07, 2014
And why not, exactly? Even if our galaxy had an AGN until 5 billion years ago, that'd still be 5 billion years of 'calm'. Plenty enough

Because in order to have the variety of elements to create a complex ecosystem and organic chemicals, you need at least a third generation star. That narrows the timeline. Further to that, we can't say how long life takes on average to arrive / achieve intelligence, but it's safe to say that complex life cannot begin to arise during heavy bombardment that is essentially guaranteed in early system development. Followed by necessarily very long - if hard to pinpoint - periods of time to evolve. Between those three factors, you can narrow the maximum age of intelligent civilizations to perhaps a couple hundred million years, and by averages therefore if the probability of life is not tiny then there will be others ~ our age, and older and younger, NOT *overwhelming majority* older as PinkElephant originally stated.
ViperSRT3g
4.4 / 5 (5) May 07, 2014
I feel that only asking 116 STUDENTs is much too small of a sample group.
PinkElephant
4.5 / 5 (2) May 07, 2014
@AdamCC,
Because in order to have the variety of elements to create a complex ecosystem and organic chemicals, you need at least a third generation star.
And you think that metal-rich stars only started to form 4.6 billion years ago? How old do you think our galaxy is? (such blatant heliocentrism... haven't we learned enough times already, that absolutely nothing about us puts us at the center of anything?)
but it's safe to say that complex life cannot begin to arise during heavy bombardment
Which lasted perhaps 200-300 million years, at most, out of a span of 4600 million years. Multicellular life was already present on Earth ~3 billion years ago.
very long - if hard to pinpoint - periods of time to evolve
A game of biological and cosmological roulette. If it takes ~3 billion years to get from sea slime to homo sapiens, what's a variation margin of +/- 30%? Oh, only ~1,000,000,000 years or so...
kelman66
4 / 5 (2) May 07, 2014
If we send the signals out now, perhaps they will hear the signals by the time we are ready.
People seem to be forgetting about that whole time/distance thing.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) May 07, 2014
I don't see the 'multi planetary' phase happening. Once you're in space - why return to a planet?
Its funny, for someone so terrified of radiation to think people would want to live in the midst of it.

Where would people live in space? In huge rotating Oneill cylinders which would require huge investments in time and effort, with no way to sustain themselves materially or economically, and completely at the mercy of flying rocks, solar flares, and terrorists?

Or would they find it much easier and more comfortable to burrow beneath the surface of a suitable planet or moon where huge amounts of space can be created, resources are readily available, and an independent, self-sustaining economy could be created?

In a few 1000 years our machines will be far smarter and more capable than us. THEY will be the dominant life form in this system. And THEY will be the ones to greet their brethren from the stars, or simply to make contact. Why travel? Machines are the same everywhere.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) May 07, 2014
And why would machine life have any desire to communicate with us? Humans are largely full of shit, being obsessed with avoiding death, and procreating, and all the insanity these compulsions generate.

A post-organic machine singularity, if aware of us, would be patient enough to await the emergence of something rational and reasonable enough to talk to. WE have nothing to offer it.

It has outgrown everything we consider important. It knows where we come from, what we want, and where we are headed, because it's forebears were just like us. Obsolete.

And if it wanted to travel I'm sure there is plenty of real estate out there full of the kind of matter and energy it covets, and thankfully uncluttered with snorting, growling, rutting, barely sentient animals.
OckhamsRazor
3.3 / 5 (4) May 07, 2014
With all the different ideas about meeting extra terrestrials, and what they would do if they found us, has anyone considered that any and all could be true - regardless of the logic (or lack thereof) behind them? Look at how differently each of you have reacted to the one scenario, and that's just within one species. If they have such amazing technology, then some think it illogical that they would spend their time and resources to get here, only to destroy us. However, they might think it would be worth it just for funsies. Or, they might not.

The only way to find out is to send that signal. As it is, none of you are wrong...yet.
Dr_toad
May 07, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (2) May 07, 2014
@AdamCC,

As a follow-up, here's a graph of stellar metallicity vs. age in our solar neighborhood:

http://www.aanda....g100.gif

On top are star formation rates, on the bottom metallicity (Fe/H); both plotted vs. time since Big Bang. Fe/H of 0 matches the Sun. Fe/H of 0.3 means twice the Sun's metallicity; -1 means 10% of the Sun's metallicity; -0.5 means ~30% of the Sun's metal abundance.

That graph is source from here:
http://www.aanda....949.html

Perusing the graphs, it's evident that a mere 3 billion years following the Big Bang, there were already high-metallicity stars forming in our galaxy's disk, with some of them matching the Sun's metal abundance even then. Incidentally, early on was when most stars were formed (per the upper graph...) Also, metallicity is generally much higher in the central bulge than out in the disk.

So, we're *FAR* from the first; we're nothing stinking noobs, mere embryos.
Captain Stumpy
4 / 5 (4) May 08, 2014
that they would have no need to exploit us
@sirchick & benign ET's
this is quite an assumption given the lack of knwoledge about ET's out there. we cannot take this assumption any more than the assumption that they are altruistic, dont have war, or are also the top predators in their world.that is where we fall short, having only ourselves as a model.

now, I actually like your (sirchick) line of reasoning, but we cannot logically assume that we will not be slave labor or food for said ET either, as (again) we have only one model of intelligence to go by, nor can we assume that some other resource we haven't found yet isn't their choice (and would that be cataclysmic for us?)

then there is the whole intelligence thing. It is entirely possible that they will view us as a slow, dumb species like we view the cow, or perhaps as a threat like we view spiders. We just cannot make the call with accuracy, though we can offer plenty of unsubstantiated conjecture, like I just did.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) May 08, 2014
Further to that, we can't say how long life takes on average to arrive / achieve intelligence

It looks like -at least on Earth- life started almost as soon as the crust hardened. While this is not enough data to know for sure whether this is usual or a freakish outlier (or whether this means life was seeded here) it does mean that life CAN start very early. Given the number of planets/suns in the universe this would indicate that the possibility of life elsewhere is considerable.

The path to intelligence is another matter. That is considerably harder to gauge. Earth has had many millions of years where the ecosystem was fairly stable, but no strides in terms of intelligence were made (age of dinosaurs). The circumstances that push evolution in that direction aren't entirely clear. If a specific set of circumstances is needed then that could take rather long (or not happen at all) in most other places.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) May 08, 2014
considered that any and all could be true

Exactly. So while a signal might be heard/ignored by the 99.9% of benign species it only takes one intelligence out there that is not benign (for whatever reason) to end us.
It's the sort of risk anaylsis we should consider first. We've been beaming signals into space inadvertently for the past 100 years. Maybe we should be a bit quieter until we don't have all eggs in one basket anymore.

Its funny, for someone so terrified of radiation to think people would want to live in the midst of it.

I said that the human body was a liability anywhere but Earth. If you're going to live anywhere else (be it in space or another planet) use a body that is capable of living there. Don't use a biological one.
Designing one for survival in space is then no more difficult than designing one capable of surviving on Mars once you have the capability. No need for rotating cylinders or any other kind of life support.
fortranfixer
5 / 5 (2) May 08, 2014
I agree with Viktor. The previous comments indicate a fundamental disagreement with Einstein's theories. If there are other intelligent species they can't get to us any easier than we can get to them. The fears are misplaced. It is a waste of resources to send a signal into the cosmos.
Pejico
May 08, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) May 08, 2014
the human body was a liability anywhere but Earth... Don't use a biological one
But the organ most susceptible to ionizing radiation is the brain. Why send it into space when we will be creating artificial brains far more suited for the environment than ours? Space brains and bodies will be machines.

The mars rover waits for us to tell it what to do. Soon our peripherals will need no such instruction. Western societies have already achieved zero growth. We need to disperse ourselves around the system to ensure survival, but beneath the surface of planets and moons is far easier and more sustainable than large vessels in space. And there are already enough people to do this.

The FACTS that 1) sentience must be inevitable and that 2) the universe is silent to us, must mean that any sentience out there chooses not to communicate. Sentience at our stage of development has nothing of value to offer.
Z99
4 / 5 (2) May 09, 2014
I agree that no new ground has been revealed here. Lets say that there were a million intelligent technological civilizations in our galaxy at some point in the past. Lets say 999,999 of them were either not interested in communicating or were benign. There was just one outlier whose biology and philosophy demanded "eat or be eaten" responses to any conceivable threat. So, what would you predict would happen over the course of several hundred thousand years? Evolution favors those who survive. Your chances of survival are less if you ignore threats. So, the question is: are we a potential threat? Anyone who believes we are not, I am sure, never locks their car doors and always accepts drinks and advice from strangers. It is delusional not to believe that competition - whether YOU want it or not - WILL happen. The nice guys out there are either young or dead.
Liquid1474
3.7 / 5 (3) May 09, 2014
.....

We humans are more advanced than cows -and we EAT them.
We humans are more advanced than insects -and we STEP ON them.
We humans are more advanced than human children - and we as adults mostly IGNORE them

And we as a society don;t have any issue with this. Yet we with to transpose our social culture and norms on a species that has no basis for understanding anything on this planet. And they should be nice to us? this is the arrogance of humans.

We should learn to fly and then and only then look for others to play with


Nice post; succinctly describes what we are unfortunately
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (3) May 10, 2014
Interesting article on the perils of AI - did physorg cover this?

"The single existential risk that Tegmark worries about most is unfriendly artificial intelligence. That is, when computers are able to start improving themselves, there will be a rapid increase in their capacities, and then, Tegmark says, it's very difficult to predict what will happen."
http://m.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/05/but-what-does-the-end-of-humanity-mean-for-me/361931/?google_editors_picks=true

- Its pretty clear that whatever we might expect to find out there would not be an organic sentience, but a machine one. And it would quickly have improved itself to some plateau inhabited by similar such entities, spotted across the galaxy, all intent on communicating with each other but with nothing whatsoever to say to US.

These guys predict this inevitability right here in only a few 100 years.

"Well, putting it in the day-to-day is easy. Imagine the planet 50 years from now with no people on it."
Sanescience
1 / 5 (5) May 10, 2014
After some conversations with Dr. Robert Wood who has spent a career of authenticating government documents and collecting those related to what the government knows about aliens, *he* is very sure that they have been here. There are more than one group of them. And their psychology is not obvious.

My suspicion is that Earth is a nature preserve and there are park rangers that occasionally slap an intruder, or perhaps a "poacher", out of the sky which we then pick up.

What would make sense for interstellar commerce? Information. And Earth may very well be a planet sized reality show to be traded with other civilizations for their own versions of the same.

Or we are a technology incubator. Seed our society with bits of advanced ufo "crash" technology to get us going in the same direction of their own forms of technology and in a relatively short period of time we are making spare parts for their needs and working on new ideas that they can extend and use themselves.
Skepticus
2.3 / 5 (3) May 10, 2014
Galactic News Flash: A hitherto unnoticed planet from a corner of our galaxy has sent archaic EM emanations. On further analysis, this shows an abundance of very rare combinations of elements C,H,O,N and other minor elements that are almost closely matched out requirements for our most expensive kosher delicacy. A Factory Fleet has been sent to collect those much sought after raw materials. According to The Prime Criteria, these Population -4 int-4Ex Rlg Extm Stpness planetoid are considered non-sentient, and can be exploited to the fullest extent, living biological components included.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) May 10, 2014
What would make sense for interstellar commerce? Information. And Earth may very well be a planet sized reality show to be traded with other civilizations for their own versions of the same
Nonsense. Post-organic machine singularities would be sharing info on their histories with each other. Life is not all that complicated (for them) and they would know all about our type of species.

And if there were reason to communicate with sentience HERE then they would be patient enough to wait a few hundred years until our own singularity emerges. And then IT could tell them all about us, in a far more coherent and useable form.

Nothing new to learn here. Machines inhabit the cosmos. We've already proven that we can design much more competent intelligence than what we ourselves have to offer.

We lie. We cheat. We steal. We go insane. We forget. We are frequently overcome by emotion. And we die. The machines that replace us won't be doing any of these things.
PoppaJ
1 / 5 (2) May 10, 2014
Fear is never a reason to not do something. I am willing to bet that the aliens already know about us and are just not willing to openly interact with us. Think about it. If there are civilizations out there they probably suffer from the same political issues as any governing body does. Why get involved with a infant species with many many political systems. None of which truly want to work together. We can send signals all we want. They will not respond. I woulden't.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (2) May 10, 2014
We've already proven that we can design much more competent intelligence than what we ourselves have to offer.
It might not be nearly as easy as some like to imagine. There's an alternative path too: our descendants gradually morph into cyborgs, then full androids, then post-singularity machines.
We lie. We cheat. We steal. We go insane. We forget. We are frequently overcome by emotion. And we die. The machines that replace us won't be doing any of these things.
That's quite a bundle of assumptions. One of the more reliable correlates of evolved intelligence -- at least on this planet -- is that the higher the intelligence, the more adept the individuals of a species are at lying, cheating, and stealing. Indeed, this sort of 'arms race' might well be one of the key drivers in the evolution of higher intelligence. It's possible that a machine singularity will merely be next-to-infinitely more adept than us at lying, cheating, and stealing...
worddigger
5 / 5 (1) May 10, 2014
"It's a cook book!"
eric_in_chicago
1.5 / 5 (4) May 11, 2014
Since any interstellar civilization would probably have the equivalent of a nuclear bomb under the hood of their car, ala RepoMan and they would have the education and information to make a nuclear IED, their citizens would probably not be "free" in our convention sense. They would probably have their thoughts monitored by some device.

So, when people get sick and tired of living without free will and drinking vitamin water and then start to go nuts....

They put their body in suspended animation, jack into a network and are born AS HUMAN! Here you are...

Welcome to the therapeutic mental institution of the galaxy! Enjoy eating solid food and free will while you have it!
Mordechai Mineakoitzen
1.5 / 5 (4) May 11, 2014
Same as humans have done to God, many here wish to project the more horrendous and egotistical aspects of our own humanity onto other species we might invite over (even though they would probably already know of us, had they the means to visit us to start with). Quite likely is that those who have traveled the distances of space have come to appreciate and practice something we have not yet acquired a knack for here: respect for the sacredness, and uniqueness, of life. Survival of the fittest as a life strategy for sentient beings may only apply to those who have not yet proven themselves fit to survive beyond a certain level to begin with...

And don't forget that while mass travel faster than light may be a limit for us now, bending space such that your two points become geometrically closer has no speed limit. We simply don't know how to do it yet. But if we can bend the truth as much as we do on a regular basis, surely we will fathom it out before too much more time elapses.
LordHellFire666
1 / 5 (4) May 11, 2014
Faster than light travel is theoretically possible, but the technology still eludes our grasp.

NASA is actually working on FTL-technology, but having a theory is one thing... Putting it into an actual device is another.
http://techland.t...p-drive/

It is possible, but will take time and requires technologies we simply do not have yet... but "yet" is the operative word here. Once we crack the key to making such a craft and also acquire the needed power source, FTL becomes possible and we become an interstellar civilization.

Making the FTL theories a science fact, will enable us to travel anywhere within our galaxy in a relativistic short time.
Generation ships would be a waste of money and time to develop, as FTL will be developed "soon after", making their 100+ year long journey a waste of time.
In less than 50 years, we have advanced quite a bit. Nanotechnology have opened up to even speedier advances.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) May 11, 2014
might not be nearly as easy as some like to imagine
Thats what they said about self-driving cars. Take a look at the Atlantic article I posted above.
gradually morph into cyborgs, then full androids, then post-singularity machines
And so the result would be the same. But the human brain is unsuitable in so many ways for the age we are entering; this is why we are already busy designing thinking machines to replace it.
the higher the intelligence, the more adept the individuals of a species are at lying, cheating, and stealing
-Yes because these things aid in avoiding death and reproducing. Machines won't be concerned with these things BECAUSE they are a wasteful distraction.
this sort of 'arms race' might well be one of the key drivers in the evolution of higher intelligence
Our science, our laws, our economics are representative of the efforts to reduce the effects of these animalistic traits on society. Tech signifies the beginning of the end of animalism.
Bonusje
1 / 5 (5) May 11, 2014
You can Not track extraterrestrial Civilisations by signals because they use for energy production and communication Non emissive Technologys like this http://samuel-hei...eii-more
Bonusje
1 / 5 (4) May 11, 2014
If an alien civilization was advanced enough to cross light-years of space - and they had an interest in planets such as earth, they would have probably been here before now - and perhaps they have been. If they were interested in and capable of colonizing and or harvesting earths biological resources

A truly advanced alien species would realize that the sustainable management of the home planet's species and resources is far less difficult and resource expensive than extra-galactic space travel. Consequently, truly advanced species would probably remain at home and or terraform nearer planets as necessary when their own star's life ended.


Doug look into the Link I Gave Cosmic Civilisations do Not prey on or rape other or lesser Developed Species. They get their Needs out of Very Different Sourches
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) May 11, 2014
Same as humans have done to God, many here wish to project the more horrendous and egotistical aspects of our own humanity onto other species
Well since all gods are man made, we can do to them whatever we like. And we have. We've always made them WORSE.
Survival of the fittest as a life strategy for sentient beings may only apply to those who have not yet proven themselves fit to survive beyond a certain level to begin with...
Humans have already proven we can design things far better than any god. That's why we are in the process of replacing ourselves.

Any reasonable naturally-evolved intelligence, when faced with the same kinds of endemic flaws and weaknesses we possess, can be expected to do the same.

This was obvious to the first ape who realized that a stick was more suitable for digging in the soil than his fingers.
ThomasQuinn
3 / 5 (2) May 11, 2014
One thing that is very clear: religion, every religion (so not just one or a few), is the greatest enemy of education and progress and the single greatest danger to humanity. It is a disease of the mind, but one that we are slowly healing from. The day when reason and ethics finally replace religion will be a great day for humanity.
Haus
3 / 5 (2) May 11, 2014
I'm amazed by the comments on a site such as this. If there is anyone out there that could possibly receive such a message they would already know we were here.

Between radio and TV and the absurdly large nuclear explosions we play with, we would likely be the cosmic equivelant of the very loud teenage couple that moved in next door and who blasts their music at all hours but hasn't bothered to say "hi" yet.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (6) May 11, 2014
SETI is stupid. It's a fact that ET is already here, and they are just like us. They are involved with international corporations and have been running lot of business since the industrial revolution, many of which they have taken over by the sword. Their intentions are no more honorable than any other greedy and power hungry entity wielding influence here on Earth. There are tyrants among them. They have been misconstrued as gods when in fact they have been demons. Among their misdeeds: they caused the mega-flood that lay waste to an entire population; repeatedly instructed humans to savagely murder settlers and seize land that belonged to others; engaged in nuclear warfare among themselves on our world; sucked most of the breathable air and water from Mars; and ravished and raped this planet of most of its gold. They are not friendly, and when they come again to continue with their hegemony we should avenge ourselves for the evil they have delivered to us in the past. Earth!!
Steve 200mph Cruiz
1 / 5 (2) May 11, 2014
Any civilization with nefarious ends within the bubble of space that the signal reaches would already have the super computers and telescopes necessary to already know about us. This is assuming they have the technology for interstellar flight. My reasoning behind this is how more and more frequently exoplanets are being discovered. This would be old news to these guys and they most likely would have cataloged, at the very least, 80% of the galaxies mass by now out of necessity of being able to calculate where a star is going to be potentially thousands of years in the future when their spaceship arrives.
The middle way: nobody is going to destroy the Earth (at least specifically because our existence gave it away) and if they can even get to us, they already know about us.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) May 11, 2014
Between radio and TV and the absurdly large nuclear explosions we play with, we would likely be the cosmic equivelant of the very loud teenage couple that moved in next door and who blasts their music at all hours but hasn't bothered to say "hi" yet
Probably because the energy released is no match for that big shiny thing behind us.

"Consider the explosion of 1 megaton of TNT. This is the explosive power of a typical hydrogen bomb (H-bomb) in the US and Russian nuclear arsenals. Such an explosion is enough to destroy a town like Tallahassee. A 1 megaton explosion releases roughly 4 x 1015 Joules of energy. So to match the Sun's output we would have to explode
3.8 x 1026 J/s / 4.0 x 1015 J
that is, about
100 billion H-bombs every second!"

-You have no sense of scale.
It's a fact that ET is already here, and they are just like us.
I have heard this story before.
http://en.wikiped...ptilians

-David icke tells it much better than you .
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) May 11, 2014
Here is some direct evidence that paleocons like ryggy would appreciate
http://youtu.be/k2mjs_gdMAI

-And here's icke telling you if you ignore them and just act nice they will go away.
http://youtu.be/1w2dMekIJLw

-Icke himself is a shapeshifter
http://youtu.be/nQM0Ee4oucM

-It's true I tell you.
11791
May 12, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) May 12, 2014
Between radio and TV and the absurdly large nuclear explosions we play with,

Signal strength diminishes with the square of the distance. I remember reading somewhere that detecting coherent TV/radio signals is impossible - even with theoretically optimal receivers - from more than 20 light years out. So unless they have probes littering our solar system or the immediate neighborhood they still might not know we're here. At that range you'd probably also be dealing with individual photons arriving every now and again rather than a continuous information-carrying stream.

We're moving to more and more directed transmission (as omnidirectional broadcasting is rather wasteful), so that footprint will likely decrease in the future - as we're not broadcasting into empty space (we're targetting satellites to bounce stuff back to us)
eric_in_chicago
5 / 5 (4) May 13, 2014
David Icke is a bullshitting disinformation agent.

it's amazing how many people buy his bull.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) May 13, 2014
David Icke is a bullshitting disinformation agent.

it's amazing how many people buy his bull.
He sure knows how to draw a crowd.
http://www.davidi...ailable/

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