Former SETI director explains what will happen when extraterrestrials contact us

Just over 30 years ago this month, E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial hit the big screen and made everyone feel warm and fuzzy about aliens with E.T.’s sweetly urgent message about wanting to “phone home.” This summer, Hollywood alien fare paints a far gloomier picture with a deadly alien monster in After Earth, a zombie invasion in… READ THE REST

anyone with a transmitter can get on the horn and shout back out whatever they want.”

Wouldn’t that be a good reason to not tell the public?

I would put point 1 before point 4. It helps to be not drunk when you verify the result.

I’m confident we won’t have to worry about aliens attacking. There is no conceivable benefit anyone could obtain with interstellar war over distances of light years; territory becomes meaningless, and resources can be had easier in deep space, rather than having to land and lift things back out of orbit. Nobody is coming to steal our water, collect us for food animals, or take over our planet. If anyone wanted us dead, we’d never know it until a relativistic rock falls from somewhere past Neptune.

Despite our continual efforts to wreck it, our planet is still very nice real estate. Once scientists decide there’s more than enough nice real estate in the neighborhood, I’d feel better about responding to ‘friendly’ visitors. (Consider how Columbus was treated, at first.) Until then, I’ve seen and read enough science fiction to feel that Hawking’s “paranoia” is somewhat warranted.

Where were you during the Cold War? The USSR couldn’t run itself, let alone try to take over the US.

What if we’re delicious?

Or if resources can be moved easily and cheaply through a stargate (or similar device), but are still a pain to extract without a cheap labour force (us).

I feel like the champagne should be opened after the findings are verified.

Also, I read a while ago that as civilizations advance, they send fewer signals away from their planet (like radio waves) because transmissions are more focused and directed back at the planet (such as satellites pointing towards the ground sending TV signals).

In a sense, as technology progresses, planets become quieter to those who may be listening light years away.

[quote=“Artor, post:4, topic:1957, full:true”]
I’m confident we won’t have to worry about aliens attacking. There is no conceivable benefit …[/quote]

Lot of unproven assumptions here. How much do you want to bet on things that are just guesses?

It’s difficult to imagine we’d be edible to something that evolved in a different environment, with a different set of amino acids, even assuming it’s carbon-based in the first place. Delicious seems even less likely. And if you could build a stargate, I suspect robots would be cheaper and more reliable than alien slaves.

My question is: Who would own the alien signal? Would the aliens maintain copyright, SETI or the person who detects it? If SETI couldn’t claim a copyright on the alien utterance, could they claim copyright on the recording of the utterance and demand a fee for each retransmission in the same way museums demand a fee for using their photos of a work of art whose copyright has long been in the public domain?


We ARE delicious!

To Serve Man

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I don’t get your argument. Is the analogy that the aliens might like to saber-rattle at the Earth to win support at home the way that the Soviets did (and North Koreans do today) at the US even if they have no real chance of winning in an actual conflict?

I don’t think that the Soviets even wanted to invade the US. It was just political posturing from both sides, and neither side would want a conflict in home territory when they could use the Third World as a chessboard.

Im kind of glad that the plan allows for the consumption of alcohol before verification of the results - keeps moral up and takes the sting out of false positives.

“Just over 30 years ago this month…”

No, it was 1982, apparently in May in Cannes and a June release in the US. So how about “Thirty-one years ago last month, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial hit the big screen in the U.S. …”

I think point 1 is deliberately before even point 2 because otherwise they’d never get any drinking done.

That the bottle of bubbly they’re saving for the momentous occasion is only worth $10 seems to indicate they get quite a few false alarms…

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I read step 1 to mean they don’t mind a tipple.

Yeah, whatever the opportunity cost of choosing not to communicate with aliens, could it ever be worth even the remotest possibility of global subjugation?

Hang on a sec… come to think of it, might as well. The aliens might save us from ourselves. Being dominated by aliens would be more interesting than being dominated by humans, at least.

Given how massively ignorant we are about anything that may be going on out there, how about if we lurk before we post?