Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Universe Today, a blog I've always enjoyed, does a piece on my recent SETI post:

If ET Calls, Would We Be Told?

If a verified message from aliens is ever received, would the public be told about it? SETI -- the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence -- does have an international protocol that if an alien signal is ever received, it would be disseminated among the astronomical community and made public. And of course, says Mac Tonnies at the SETI Blog, "international cooperation might be necessary in order to distinguish a legitimate alien signal from any number of phenomena capable of generating false alarms." But what if the signal is more than just extra-terrestrials saying hello? Tonnies believes SETI's plans for full disclosure only makes sense if the message is fairly benign. If the signal was a notice of impending doom from a black hole, supernova, or alien invasion -- something we on Earth had little power to do anything about -- Tonnies questions whether governments would choose to make such information public. But could something of this magnitude really be kept under wraps?


Chris Wren said...

I'm not sure if it's one of the "official" Clarke's laws, but it goes to the effect of "People are notoriously incompetent at keeping secrets". I don't doubt the powers that be would try to keep even a benign signal under wraps, but I don't think they could really manage it for more than a few years. A decade tops.

By the way Mac, it's offical: I'm a complete blithering idiot. I just found a couple of emails you sent, thanks to Ken who pointed out that I've been using the wrong mail server since we moved. Will respond shortly!

rorschach said...

You know, it's actually quite a popular meme, of sorts, that nothing really big and deeply significant, on the level of a national security secret can be kept secret. I would argue that is quite misbegotten an assumption.

Do you know what you don't know? How would you know if there were "great secrets" still withheld, if the programs and provisions for keeping certain things secret, such as compartmentalization, psyops, disinformation programs, etc., had been successful?

I don't think we can really make assumptions in general, either way. I suspect it depends on what definition of secrecy one inherently operates under--for example, what do we really know about ufos and the intent or motive aspects behind them? Not really a whole lot, I would suggest, and what may be known, within certain elements of the USG may be rather successful in keeping the specifics of certain "forbidden knowledge" still most secret.

And that's just one typical example--I'm sure there are things kept secret we don't even have such superficial knowledge of.

The idea that anything truly, paradigm-shakingly secret will eventually get out and become known is not necessarily true. Not when some subjects are surrounded by, as Winston Churchill one said, a "bodyguard of lies." That was over 60 years ago.

Elements of US and other governments, and their respective military and intelligence operational tradecraft and operator saavy have had decades since Churchill said that to refine and make ever more byzantine and elaborate their classification and denial process to such a sophisticated degree that I don't think some things will ever be known, at least to the degree that the secret-keepers have or may be able to keep them quiet and suppressed.

Again, how would we know if we don't?

Null said...

Congrats on being dugg, in a round about way.

dad2059 said...

The government web of lies and disinformation is quite extensive, things aren't quite what they seem.

And no, I don't think they're the doofus' they play to be.

Pretty dystopian view I know, but I calls 'em as I sees 'em.

Researchers could've already had confirmable ET radio signals and we the public would be none the wiser.

Anonymous said...

I find it terribly naive to think that the established governing body doesn't have the ability to restrict information from public view. One need only look back at the last 100 years to pick out examples of secrets kept under tight lock and key (later to be revealed).

Rorchach said it best when pushing this into the realm of popular meme. Our own inherent ability to "self censor" does all the work for them. No conspiracies or even disinfo campaigns need apply.

And you should all be very angry about that. There are things we should know as a species which we are both willingly and forcibly being denied.


mr. intense said...

I think, also, in concurring with Denny here, that in a way (or perhaps thousands), we _have_ already received the most obvious signal of all--repeated, documented, world-wide ufo cases that would, even when thoroughly vetted, suggest someone or something other than ourselves is or has been here on earth, and has made so many "displays" of such "obvious" nature that a truly rational examination of the facts, as best as we can discern, should point to "others", regardless of origin, being here at times.

And yet, while US and other nation's polls would suggest that a majority believe there is not only something hidden or true about the ufo phenomenon, and that aspects of it have and are being suppressed and covered up by government, when you take the next step and ask or poll John or Jane Doe as to whether they believe or think UFOs represent "alien spacecraft" or "alien visitation", while many will agree, it always seems to be at one or more steps removed from thoughtful consideration of the penultimate question of whether "they" are here now or have been in the recent past, let alone whether they are either indirectly or directly interacting or having some influence on human consciousness, social culture, and/or evolution.

Because, I suppose, we can't prove it in ways required by science and for societal acceptance. Which _is_ sort of reasonable. But it will be a very long time before, if ever, our species can acknowledge "the others" existence in any concrete way, due to the deniability within and external to the phenomena itself. Weird, eh?

Anonymous said...

---But it will be a very long time before, if ever, our species can acknowledge "the others" existence in any concrete way, due to the deniability within and external to the phenomena itself. Weird, eh?---

Very well said Intense. But doesn't that also suggest that those who do "know" have a responsibility to step forward? Until they do, we are forever stuck in that foggy void of ignorance, unable to move forward. Maybe that's the point.


Mac said...


Congrats on being dugg, in a round about way.

Thanks. This piece got a surprising bit of attention.

kcotae said...

If you had the winning lottery numbers would you share them with anyone else...

Anonymous said...

---If you had the winning lottery numbers would you share them with anyone else...---

If the long term benefits grossly outweighed the short term fallout, you bet I would. Looking at it any other way is irresponsible and ultimately selfish.

And that's exactly what those "in the know" should be asking themselves right now. There is no time of greater urgency than the present maelstrom we find ourselves. Profound, Earth shaking change is desperately needed.


kcotae said...

Well I wouldn't share the lottery numbers or details of ET visits. Its a question of survival. The rest of humanity can go take a running jump, as most of them aren't worth saving...