Wednesday, January 02, 2008

San Marino: Assessing Active SETI's Risk

The San Marino Scale has been widely suggested as a method for assessing the risks we incur with deliberate transmissions from the Earth to other stars. Introduced by Iván Almár in 2005, the Scale is a work in progress that draws on the model of the Richter Scale, which quantifies the severity of earthquakes.

I find efforts like this interesting in an abstract sense. But my gut tells me that if there are inquisitive ETs out there then they'll almost certainly know about us already -- maybe not a lot, but enough to draw a useful composite portrait.

If there are any "berserkers" lurking in the depths, we're fucked.


mr. intense said...

"If there are any "berserkers" lurking in the depths, we're fucked."

Not necessarily. It depends on whether we make ourselves self-evident.

I think that's one of the central points to the recent controversy about Active SETI, and also why the San Merino scale is "interesting" in more than just an abstract sense.

If one presumes there has already been and may be some ongoing "alien presence" on Earth, then there's not much we can do about that.

But if there are others out there, with unknowable intent or motivations, which might be either destructive or manipulative of us as a species, isn't it the height of anthropocentric hubris, irrationality, and just plainly stupid to send specific, content-laden messages to other star systems when, even at the "slow" speed of light, we might arouse the curiousity or interest of some possibly malevolent non-human species to come over and check us out as a result?

Obviously, as far as we _know_, which is next to nothing, we can argue that the odds of any such scenario unfolding is extremely remote, but is that the kind of huge mistake we want to allow others, without discussion or consensus, to make _for_ us?

I think not. And what if the possible "alien presence" here may also have some valid reasons to fear or avoid others who may be out there and that by our engaging in Active SETI, we set the stage for conflict between those who may already be here, periodically, and those who would use such notice from us as a beacon, and a precursor to conflict not just with us, but those who may already be present here "with" us?

Talk about a great way to piss off or scare off those who may already be here, further reducing our possible eventual formal or overt contact with, hopefully, those that do not see us as either worthy of pre-emptive eradication or, shall we suggest, a really tasty lunch?

Even though some would say the cat's already out of the bag, in the sense that while there's an expanding, 100+ light year "shell" or sphere of radio waves, etc., already given off by humanity's activities, or that, in the same way we are learning to "observe" planets around other stars by the wobbling gravitational effect on their suns, or by the newer ability to spectrographically or via other analytical tools parse the atmospheric composition of remote, "earth-like" planets, which may eventually lead to being able to detect artifacts or signs of intelligent life, wouldn't it be just crazy in the "cave" of our arm of the galaxy to start shining the equivalent of bright lights out into the void, just to eventually rouse a "bear" to get up and see what the commotion is about?

"Berserkers" or _worse_ could be "out there" but would not necessarily be looking clearly enough in our particular direction, given the vastness of the galaxy and overall cosmos, unless we said the equivalent of, "Here we are! Come get us!"

To do so is more than immense folly. As Pauli once said, it wouldn't even be wrong. It would be truly insane. Active SETI should be stopped, imho. It just skews the odds that someday, somehow, our "invitation to the universe" might just be received and taken up by the wrong kind of "guests".

FodderButWiser said...

Quite right. As in other life areas, we should not leave doors open at night with an "Everyone Welcome" sign out front.
Beserkers might be the least of the probable pests out there (or, maybe already here).

W.M. Bear said...

We're fucked anyway. As I see it, there are basically only TWO possibilities. Either we are the first intelligent beings EVER to evolve in the known universe or previous intelligences evolved to tbe point of becoming godlike beings far above us in intelligence and sentience.

It's interesting, though. SOMEBODY had to be first, why not us? Whoever was first would themselves have thought it highly unlikely, and yet it would still be the case....

But who knows what godlike beings are up to? Probably the best guides are our own mythologies of the gods and goddesses who often (therein) seem to act with great arbitrariness. At any rate, aliens-as-godlike-beings definitely know about us -- probably even more than we do. When we're "ready" (whatever THAT means but, at the very least, beyond electing people like George Bush to high office at the very least, I would think) we will, as they say, be contacted.

My money is on something like an "Encyclopedia Galactica" -- a true storehouse of all the knowledge and wisdom that it is possible for sentient beings at our level to absorb. We will detect this resource when we are ready -- which may possibly mean just grasping the technology to detect it with and nothing political or social at all. (I suspect the GBs are way beyond caring about any of this kind of shit.)

Mac said...

I suspect the GBs are way beyond caring about any of this kind of shit.

Not a bad guess.

Hey, did you notice that "GB" stands for "godlike beings" *and* "George Bush"? Creepy! :-)