Weekend Feature: NASA-ESA Announce Europa Mission -Search for Life on Jupiter's Water Worlds
Google Earth Reveals Ancient Archeological Bonanza in Saudi Arabia

Weekend Feature: "The METI Controversy" -Is the Effort to Send Messages to an Alien Civilization a Threat to Earth?


If we should pick up signals from alien civilizations, Stephen Hawking, our century's Einstein, warns: "we should have be wary of answering back, until we have evolved" a bit further. Meeting a more advanced civilization, at our present stage,' Hawking says "might be a bit like the original inhabitants of America meeting Columbus. I don't think they were better off for it."

Earth's attempts to contact intelligent, extraterrestrial life could be too disorganised or cryptic for non-human beings to decode, US physicists have reported. In a submission to the international journal, Space Policy, astrophysicists Dimitra Atri, Julia DeMarines and Jacob Haqq-Misra suggested that a protocol be developed to improve the likelihood that messages would be understood.

There has been some serious controversy over prior attempts to contact intelligent aliens, where instead of hiding in the corner and listening real hard some astronomers have beamed intense directional messages up up and away.  Critics decried these actions as dangerous, though their fears reveal more about us than any eventual ETs. They assume that they would be similar to humanity, so their first response to finding a more primitive culture would be to exploit it.  While such a fate might be pleasingly ironic (for anyone who isn't human, at least), others contend that any species that can make the journey here has advanced to a point where their goals are rather higher-minded than "Destroy Planet Earth".

Dr Alexander Zaitzev, of the Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics at the Russian Academy of Sciences, doesn't think much of these worries either way.  A proponent of METI (Messaging to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), in a paper he shows that the odds of one of the METI messages being detected is a millionth of that due to powerful radar pulses regularly used in astronomical investigation.  Though whether writing a paper saying "This METI thing we're doing has only a tiny chance of working" is overall a good idea remains to be seen.  An important point is that METI represents an intentional will to make contact, rather than the accidental alien interception of some random radiation from Earth - the difference between saying "Hello!" and just being a suspicious strange noise late at night.

Most of the objections to contacting aliens are weak under close examination.  We can't suddenly decide to hide after fifty years of pumping electromagnetic radiation into space without rhyme or reason - in fact, we'd better hope that an advanced civilization doesn't catch an episode of "American Idol" and just vaporize us outright. 

6a00d8341bf7f753ef0120a5f6253c970b-320wi Then there's the assumption that aliens would have the same kind of technology we do - despite the extremely obvious fact that our technology can't actually get to other exo planets.  Any attempt to mask radio emissions will likely look like cavemen closing their eyes to hide from satellite imaging.

Undaunted by prior controversy swirling around the METI effort, Atri and his team argued that Earth had been emitting electromagnetic signals for more than a century, mostly as "unintended leakage from television, aviation, and telecommunication".

"An advanced civilization within a radius of 100 light years could detect our television shows and already know we are here, so there is little hope in concealing our location in space," they wrote.

Since 1974, humans have broadcast the numbers one through ten, atomic numbers of elements in DNA, graphics of a human, the solar system, and Arecibo, musical melodies, text messages, photographs and drawings.

The researchers believe that messages had become increasingly "anthropocentric" and complex, which could make them more difficult for extraterrestrial listeners to decode and decipher.

"Modern technology allows for large amounts of data to be transmitted at moderate costs, but the broadcast of massive amounts of information assumes that the recipient extraterrestrials will be capable of comprehending a complex message," they wrote.

"Given that we know very little about the nature of extraterrestrial civilizations, if they exist, we are likely to increase the probability of us successfully communicating to them if we use a message that the recipient is likely to understand."

Once developed, a METI protocol could be used to test communication across human cultural boundaries, the researchers wrote.

They suggested the establishment of a website through which members of the public could create sample messages that conformed to the protocol, and retrieve and attempt to decrypt messages by other users.

"A METI protocol is needed in order for a unified and international effort to be made in messaging extraterrestrials," they concluded.

The simple fact is that certain people have always opposed progress while other, better people have driven it.  "Experts" decried boiled water as unhealthy compared the vital stuff straight from the river, cursed antibiotics as a temporary placebo, and confidently declared that computers were nothing but expensive toys.  As an intelligent species we must make every effort to contact anyone (or thing) we can.

Casey Kazan with Luke McKinney.

Source: http://www.rationalvedanta.net/node/131


This, to me, is the most sensible article yet to appear on this site on this topic.

This new, proposed "METI protocol" should, I think, turn out to be a good thing. A sufficiently advanced civilization would probably have computers and AI capable of decoding our language in short order, but why make the first contact more complicated than it has to be? Make the message simple, show a couple of the basic things we understand already (like the basic structure of DNA), and let things progress from there.

(I won't bother decrying the "alien species are dangerous" position. I've done that more than enough already in my comments on this site, and most of what I have to say about it is reflected in the article.)

Great scientists like Carl Sagan have argued that if an alien civilization is advanced enough to travel to Earth, then they have most likely evolved far past primitive and simple minded instincts of killing, exploitation, and domination of other species.

Personally I agree with Sagan, but mostly just for emotional reasons -- it's more comforting to believe he is right! (And besides I like Sagan!)

But on another level, it's not too difficult to imagine how an alien civilization could evolve high technology, and still have primitive blood lust and a desire to kill us.

Just take the example of bees, here on Earth.

Bees are light years ahead of other insects, such as worms.

Bees can fly around, have great vision (they can see in the ultraviolet), have a rather complex communication system with each other, and build beautiful, large, geometric, structures, through complex social interaction and organization.

But cross their path and they will sting and even kill you, and not even feel badly about it.

So... similarly... maybe somewhere out there is an alien species that evolved from a creature, like the bees.

Maybe they've been working together to build big, beautiful, geometric advanced technology beyond our dreams.

And maybe simply due to genetics and having evolved from a "bee" like social creature, they would never contemplate hurting each other -- would never engage in civil war with each other.

And yet such creatures might not hesitate the slightest about using advanced technology against another species, simply because they don't like the idea of another species living anywhere near their expanding territory.

That's not an impossible conjecture, but unlikely enough that I wouldn't worry too much about it.

Bob, why is it unlikely? How can anyone determine the likelihood or unlikelihood of such a thing given our current state of knowledge on life outside earth(which of course, is zero).

For one thing, such a worldview as that (and I hope it's obvious that I'm referring here to your bee-people, not you personally) is highly exploitative. It really is the same mentality that has led to most of the habitat loss extinctions on Earth.

I've also heard reports (though admittedly I'm not sure how accurate they are) that certain predatory species have been hunted to extinction, or nearly so, as a measure of eliminating competition, in much the same way that coyotes in the American west were once treated as fair game. This includes several extinctions reportedly caused by newly-arrived people who have since been termed Native Americans.

This plays right in to one of the barriers to surviving long enough to achieve interstellar status: not destroying the planet's ecology and making it unlivable before the species can colonize other planets.

It's also not that far of a stretch from "never hurt one of us, but anyone else is toast" to the kind of tribalism that you say your bee-people wouldn't have. I'm not specifically aware (at least, that I can think of right offhand) of any bee species that engage in inter-hive warfare, but it's not beyond the realm of possibility.

There are so many factors that can play into separating a people early in the species' history that I doubt any would have developed a single culture. Cultural differences -- racism, religious arrogance, and similar beliefs -- have been a major motive force behind most of our wars, and I see little reason to assume that wouldn't be the norm.

So maybe these bee-people have a hive mind that reduces their sense of individuality. I have a hard time imagining much in the way of creativity and innovation coming from such a species, though. It would necessarily be very conformist by nature, with few if any individuals willing to "break the mold" as many of our free-thinking innovators have.

Those are the highlights. I probably could write an entire book chapter on the topic if I wanted to collect the books and do the research on it.

I'm not saying that your bee-people species is impossible. In fact, I do think it's possible, and as physicists are fond of pointing out, whatever is not impossible is mandatory. That means that, unless I'm missing something, what you describe probably does exist out there somewhere. But the universe is a very, very big place, and it's unlikely that they're close enough to us to be a threat in the near future.

(A galactic war between humans and those bee-people would make a fantastic sci-fi story, though!)

Anything that a human mind is capable of imagining, may become true. This is a fact, since one of the less known capabilities inherent to the human Brain device, is the capability to influence and create events surrounding it.

Extraterrestrials now live among us in China and in U.S.A., newspapers report - t Sun Shili, a retired foreign ministry official, states Extraterrestrials are living among us... Egyptian Archaeologist Admits That Pyramids Contain UFO Technology:

Have made this observation a while back. How about if we listen to the extraterrestial signals passively (we listen to the static that comes from outer space) instead of actively (we send the signals directly to them)? Maybe a SETI enthusiast could come up with a software program that would differentiate between static that comes from our planet and those that originates from outer space. It would be like what those extraterrestials would be doing to our signal. Listening to them..

So what about this observation? Doable or not?

I think one shouldn't involve themselves in any strange ventures before knowing about the possible consequences. METI if provide positive results well & good, other wise it could be dangerous.

I like the questions this proposes. To look at our history is a far narrow view of the cosmos and possibilities of what may be, exist, and intend. Yet to look at our history as our only point of reference suggests great caution. We have not been a peaceful species. The crapshoot of contact is a big one, and should our call be answered, who, what, and with what intention may answer the call? Would it not be prudent to wait until our own technology permits us with greater exploration capabilities before we send out the "here we are" notice? Are we at all ready for such a global awareness? We human beings seem far to self absorbed in our differences and ideas on how we should all live, and how others we share this small rock with should live, to een consider the impact and reprocussions should a strange show up on our doorstep and flip out collective ideas of existence on it's head.

Nothing sparks my imagination and wish to reach the knowledge of the stars like the current influx of new discoveries, ever changing and evolving theories on reality, and the endless possibilities of what our universe is and our place in it. Yet at the same time I can't help but feel a cautionary tale is needed.

What an age to be alive and discover.

(pls excuse the odd typo. I'm posting via iPhone and can't seem to go back to correct. )

What would an extra terrestrial civilization want from us? What would they want with our planet? Why would they bother coming here? I don't think they would want or need resources from us. There are likely more than enough resources closer to their home. I think their only interest in us would be curiosity about some life that has developed communication skills. They would have to consider spending the energy and time to come and check us out. If they did they would see we are so very far away from being any kind of a threat to them. Why bother with those primitives on that little rock.

@ .Q. I can think of two reasons an advanced civilization might be interested in contacting us.

One is pretty obvious: the same reason we're interested in contacting them -- cultural interchange. Our own society is just coming to the realization that "indigenous peoples" with less technological advancement (African, Filipino, First Nations, Inuit, Aborigine, and so forth) have just as much to offer the world as any other culture. I don't think it's too much to think that at least some of the other societies out there would have a similar social outlook. Even if we don't have technology or other physical resources to give them, we'll at least have our own art and philosophy that they can enjoy and learn from, just as we'll be able to enjoy and learn from theirs.

The other reason that comes to mind is suggested by Velocity Wave's bee-people: they want all of the galaxy's resources to themselves, and so will wipe out any civilization that might develop into a competitor and thus take their resources away in future generations. As unlikely a scenario as that seems to me, the universe is a very big place and there's probably at least a few such interstellar cultures like that out there.

Hi everyone... It's been awhile since I've been on here to post anything but decided to see what the daily galaxy topics were today.

Of course this article caught my eye and I wanted to share with you, some articles posted on our site that may be beneficial to any of you that are open to new information and are on a journey in search of truth about these things. Therefore, I am posting the title of 3 articles that address the subject matter herein. This is information that we all need to learn and know; otherwise, mankind will repeat the same mistakes of past.

I would further add, to those of you who choose to think or believe you know that nobody else on earth could have these answers (based and derived from your own belief system), "I would highly recommend you not read it... because following a path of logic, it would be a waste of your time!"

Advanced Being/Alien… Genetics (Part I)

Advanced Being/Alien… Genetics (Part II)

Who are Advanced Beings… These we call Aliens?

I sincerely hope for any who read the information, you will take it in and let it set and process... thus, to begin asking your own internal questions and follow a path of logic, not a path of pre-programmed beliefs which lead to illogical responses.

Have a great Sunday everyone!

You cannot be a "seeker of truth" and also a “believer of truth” at the same time. ~J.S. Thompson~

Before we can understand truth, we must stop “believing” what truth is! Belief is another word for I don’t “know”. ~J.S. Thompson~

You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself. ~Galileo Galilei~

A seeker of truth is always open to learn, but a believer has already arrived, ~J.S. Thompson~

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident

My goal is simple: the complete understanding of the Universe. ~Steven Hawkings~

@Bob Greenwade
Those two reasons you gave for possible contact will most likely not apply to a super intelligent civilization.
In the case of "cultural exchange" this is a human concept and would require the aliens to have mores. Assuming that they have mores, it may be so drastically different that it could cause loads of issues. For example, what if we encounter an alien civilization whose norm is to eat their dead ? Also remember love. compassion, anger, happiness etc are all human traits and may not exist to aliens.
A civilization that is smart enough to have technology to overcome the vast distances of space will most likely have sense enough to know that almost every resource you need is available all over space, what does Earth have that is so valuable and unique? Why assume that they will come here to harvest anything ? Remember just because you can wipe out the little guy doesn't mean you have to do it.

It seems to me we have been making our attempts at communication with other worlds too complex. Lets shoot several nuclear weapons into a useless part of space and detonate them in a mathematical order and send a light signal across the cosmos, true not everyone would see it depending on vantage point and obstruction but it seems to be to be the most direct route to declare we are here, if we ever wished to blatantly do so.

having seen the destruction, cruelty and racism of mankind fisthand i would expect that we would be the problem - maybe we achieve the method of interstellar space travel, pick up a signal and colonise that planet. Spreading like a virus across the universe, devouring resources. We are unable to accept small variations in our own genetics (black/white ect), how will we act towards something radically different. I believe that the human race is destined to become what we fear most.If we come into contact, the first thing we would find out is how vunerable they are and exploit that. This is the nature of humans and in my line of work i can't immagine this happening any other way.

@Observer: "Mores" will be important for cooperation within a species. Love, compassion, anger, and other emotions are not just human experience; other animals have them as well, and it's our emotional makeup that has brought us to have a civilization, and "mores" that have allowed it to flourish.

As for our resources, it's those resources elsewhere that VW and I are saying those bee-people would destroy other sapient species over -- one day we'll be able to go out there and harvest it, making us future competition and thus a threat.

@stephan: What is your line of work, that you're so cynical as to see the entire human species as racist and exploitative?

For the record, I know there are plenty of individuals who are that way. I've encountered more than my share of racial, religious, and neurological bigotry firsthand, and in fact plenty of religious bigotry has been expressed by people who post to this site (though not in a while now). And there's no denying that there have been plenty of people and societies who have exploited resources to exhaustion.

But those things are quickly fading from the Earth, as we realize that if we don't learn to get along together, rely on renewable resources, and generally be responsible, we're not going to survive much longer as a species.

we'd better hope that an advanced civilization doesn't catch an episode of "American Idol" and just vaporize us outright. - this is sooo true

Shouldn't it be "The SETI Controversy"? like the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence? I've never heard of METI, lol

@Bob - google how many rhinos were killed in Africa for their horns, 614 just in my country last year. Why? to use as a medicine for fever, aids related illness and erictile disfunction. Are we learning? Maby from where you are sitting having discussions about renewable energy, things look all optimistic. However the search for resources have only moved out of your line of sight.My childhood playground wasted by mining. Do you have a wife? is she wearing a ring? do you know how much earth was moved to get that one diamond? Remember why Columbus went on that voyage in the first place, not for discovery but to seek fortune.

I totally dig the Daily Galaxy - except please stop with the Hawking love affair!

I'd hardly put him in the same league as Einstein - especially in moral concerns, where i find him predictably narrow minded and homo-centric. Consider only referring to Hawking when it comes to hard science.

If you still feel the need to publish Hawking's philosophies why not argue with his claims instead of cowtowing just because he is Steven Hawking. I look forward to reading more mind-expanding scientific viewpoints like you consistently do in other articles.

I personally feel that if we did receive any signals from a distant civilization, we should be very concerned. We have no clue what their intentions will be.

Seth Shostak has pointed out that any civilisation that can send a telescope 550 astronomical units (an advancement of about a century over us) could use their own star as a gravitational lens that would be capable of viewing Earth from across the Galaxy, thus making any debate about sending messages completely irrelevant.

Seth Shostak has pointed out that any civilisation that can send a telescope 550 astronomical units (an advancement of about a century over us) could use their own star as a gravitational lens that would be capable of viewing Earth from across the Galaxy, thus making any debate about sending messages completely irrelevant.

Seth Shostak has pointed out that any civilisation that can send a telescope 550 astronomical units (an advancement of about a century over us) could use their own star as a gravitational lens that would be capable of viewing Earth from across the Galaxy, thus making any debate about sending messages completely irrelevant.

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