If there are developed extraterrestrial civilizations, is it worth to advertise our location, hoping that they are friendly?
Humanity is amazing. We build huge, complex mechanisms. We have deep philosophical thoughts about the structure of the universe. Our scientific thinking is so perfect that we can manage life at the genetic level and create substances that did not exist from the very beginning of the emergence of the cosmos. Moreover, we are one of a kind. Evolution went beyond when humankind invented the wheel. Of course, there are other intelligent animals, such as dolphins and monkeys, but they cannot build a radio telescope. And we are the only ones in the galaxy ... in the part that we know.
One of the essence of the start of an amazing race of intellectual and technological savvy is our ability to think things over. This is usually beneficial: we can foresee problems and dangers to our existence and adapt to the upcoming changes. We can also learn from our own mistakes and recognize our weaknesses, as a rule. However, when considering the apparent spaciousness of our Universe, our imagination explodes. Humanity can be a complex, advanced and amazing race, but if there is an extraterrestrial civilization, it is even more amazing.
And, if these creatures have the worst traits of human nature, we ask ourselves, what if “they” are our worst nightmare?
This “what if” has been a major driving force of extraterrestrial debate in recent years. Since the existence of life is known only on our planet, we can use life, such as we know it, to guess what it will be elsewhere. Our story is a mixture of development and bloody conquest; our most progressive eras are usually created by competition and violence, rather than peaceful and relaxed cooperation. Thus, if we expand this logic into outer space, our natural conclusion about a developed alien civilization with which we intersect, then they are more likely to be an invading force than a benevolent and peaceful form of life. In the end, why should aliens overcome interstellar spaces, if not rob the valuable resources of the Earth?
The latest twist to the alien invasion view comes from an article published in the arXiv service by John Gertz from the Investment Fund for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Research, Science and Technology. In a thought-provoking discussion, Hertz describes the rationality of actively seeking an extraterrestrial mind, known as Sending Messages to an Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
Messages to extraterrestrial intelligence differ from the search for extraterrestrial intelligence in that the search for extraterrestrial intelligence involves the technological development of aliens, they must be able to transmit radio waves or some other form of artificial electromagnetic signal that we could detect. Perhaps there are lighthouses scattered throughout our galaxy, waiting to be found, the only question is where to look for them. Since Frank Drake made his famous attempts to search for these signals in 1960, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence has been carried out in various forms. The Institute for Extraterrestrial Intelligence - a nonprofit research organization in Mountain View in California, was created to develop technologies in this niche, but the organization participates in many astronomical and astrobiological research programs, not only in the search for alien signals.
Other methods of passive search for “aliens” include searches for traces of developed civilizations, but not necessarily those that are transmitted by signals. We can detect a random stream of radio signals from other civilizations, as well as from Earth, emitting a random radio signal for more than a hundred years. Perhaps these civilizations are so developed that they could build huge structures around their stars, which we can discover from afar — an area known as the Search for Alien Technologies or the Search for Extraterrestrial Artifacts. It is possible that a strange transit signal was detected by the Kepler Space Telescope from the star Tabbi (KIC 8462852) - a huge solar collector known as the “megastructure” built by super-developed aliens! (Although the signal is probably caused by comets, I prefer to think that they are aliens). We can also assume that these hypothetical aliens face the same problems as we do, and perhaps we will discover the presence of industrialized alien planets, finding a polluted atmosphere, for example, with an excess of carbon dioxide or other chemicals that may be caused industrial processes like chlorofluorocarbons.
As our technologies become more and more complex, we may look for signals from distant star systems, but passive searches will always be limited by chance. There are billions of stars in our galaxy, and we cannot check each for an artificial signal. And even if they could, there is no certainty that the hypothetical aliens will transmit a signal at the time in which we will watch them. There are some brilliant ideas that narrow our searches and increase chances, such as the “selective search”, by which we identify the “inhabited” exoplanets and target them with radio antennas. But in a passive search, more observatories are needed for success, more time (hundreds or even thousands of years) and more funding to get a small chance.
Those who promote active search and sending of signals to extraterrestrial intelligence, consider passive looking at the stars to be a bad thing, we must mark our presence in space! We have to send signals to space right now, so that we have a chance to make “first contact” and prove, once and for all, that there is life (reasonable and no less) within interstellar space.
There are various attempts to send a signal, as Gertz noted, they were made mostly without settlement and discussion with the international community and can be considered “unreasonable, unscientific, potentially catastrophic and unethical”. He even talked about the fact that the modern method of sending a signal to an extraterrestrial mind is very similar to believing in fate while playing Russian roulette. “Sending messages without a practical plan for receiving a response message leads to the conclusion that signal transmission to extraterrestrial intelligence, like prayer, is more based on faith than is related to science.”
In fact, there are many opponents of the idea of warning the Universe about an inhabited planet inhabited by sentient beings. British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking openly criticizes sending messages to extraterrestrial intelligence, supporting Hertz’s fears and pointing out that meeting aliens would be more like Roman conquests than meeting with a peaceful creature like in S. Spielberg’s Alien.
“Advanced aliens may have become nomads, conquering and colonizing planets that can reach,” Hawking suggested in 2015.
The fears of violence from the superior power of the aliens are not unfounded. When the existence of our planet is under threat (even if danger is unlikely) is it worth marking our presence? Wouldn't it look like a fish falling into shark-infested water? Do we want to find out?
These arguments should be enough to make us want to turn off the radios. But advocates of sending a signal, like Seth Shostak - a senior astronomer at the Institute for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, point to potential benefits for humanity, if you create a collective effort to send messages to the stars. Basically, Shostak points out that fears are based on our history. Just because humanity has a violent past does not mean that other forms of life developed in a similar way.
“The universe beckons, and because of us, future generations should not tremble with fear at the sight of stars,” he summed up in a 2015 New York Times article.
Shostak argues that signal transmission may limit technological development, although I do not share this concern. This is just like arguing that the lack of development in the field of signal transmission can be compensated by passive search. In the process of increasing our sensitivity to artificial signals, we could make great strides in radio astronomy, which would be very useful for science. There is also an argument that a highly developed extraterrestrial life form has already brought us into the Galactic Card Index. We send radio signals into space for decades; anything within 100 light years should be aware of our presence. Perhaps there is something similar to the Star Trek Directive, which prevents the contact of developed aliens with underdeveloped civilizations. If we are truly part of the interstellar ecosystem, I believe we can safely assume “they” are aware of our existence. So the question is not “are we alone”? and “why don't they make contact”?
We can argue endlessly about the existence of extraterrestrial life, and if it exists, what it is like. But it is necessary to be careful in denoting our presence in the Universe (and we certainly need some kind of international agreement outlining the rules of interstellar communication), we also should not be afraid of the unknown. Most of the problems associated with alien invasion are based on our point of view and our experience. We cannot say that extraterrestrial life will develop by force. The universe is full of amazing and endless possibilities that should not be obscured by the fear of “monsters in the dark”.
I share the optimism of supporters of sending messages to extraterrestrial intelligence. If we can connect with a peaceful alien civilization, the benefits will be revolutionary. But I do not share their relevance. Before transmitting signals, we must make them a global solution, not short-term projects.
Thus, while we are considering the possibility of living in space, remember that the fear of alien life is based on our nature and history. Although, evolution has shown that conflicts and competition have made us intelligent beings, for today we have no confirmation beyond the limits of our planet of the development of life according to the same scenario. Also remember where these alien invasion ideas came from. Who would like to watch a film about alien vegetarians who landed on Earth to find friends, make peace in the world and cure cancer? I can not argue a lot.