Monday, November 03, 2008

Centauri Dreams returns to the prospect of detecting interstellar beacons. Have we already intercepted ET transmissions without realizing it?

4 comments:

spooky intense at a distance said...

Here’s a thought: perhaps ETI beacons might be designed intentionally with such a sophisticated level of complexity and subtleness in their emissions that only comparatively sophisticated SETI receiving technologies of relatively equal sensitivity and machine/sensor intelligence would be able to recognize such “stealthy” beacons. After all, you wouldn’t want to unduly alert the lower-level sentients in the galactic neighborhood for two reasons: one, violation of a possible “prime imperative,” or deleterious impact on a less sophisticated culture (you know, like ours), and, two, so that the “berserker” or malignant Bracewell probes and species with FTL capabilities aren’t attracted to the locale of such beacons. (Unless that’s an element of detection strategy, sort of like a moth to a flame, which presumes your beacon is nowhere near your locale, perhaps just to see what other or who else might show up.)

If Deardorff’s “leaky embargo hypothesis” has any basis, however, at least some advanced non-human sentients may already be here and/or aware of our presence. Say, could one motivation for METI be to arbitrarily increase the “signal within the noise” of our planet, in order to bluff/threaten our own exposure to malign sentients so that those benign or neutral sentients who may already be here or nearby would perhaps be thus “forced” to intervene to protect us from ourselves and our foolish, blind attempts to “shout in the dark night of the intragalactic jungle”?

In other words, perhaps one motive by frustrated SETI scientists, tired on not being able to detect any confirmable ETI signal in their searches for the past 50 years would be to roll the METI dice in order to gamble that such unthinking puerile actions might force the hand, or compel the revelation of any other ETI’s who may be covert, but benign, to intervene to stop such untoward exposure of our own presence and locale? That’s a METI gamble that should not be risked, IMHO.

Last thought: what if some potential beacons are intended to attract other sentients’ attention, but not for benign purposes of pointing to or allowing such others to vector or travel to “your” locale, but are the cosmological equivalent of enticing “roach motels”–you can “walk in,” but you don’t walk out. Sort of electromagnetic spectrum “rabbit snares.” That’s a rather chilly idea. Brrrr! OK, now I’m starting to scare myself, so I better shut up… 8^}

Anonymous said...

Who will speak for us? Who will determine the response should we detect a beacon? Is there a coordinated response already prepared that we, the citizens of earth remain unaware of?

I find myself once again in agreement with "spooky" intense. We should listen, yes. I have always been a supporter of listening, but broadcasting is something we need to carefully consider. Is it not a a planetary issue and not a single country or organizations decision to make. So I ask again, who will speak for us if and when the time comes? Is it too much to ask that we consider and prepare for the eventuality? Will we even know if contact is made, or will the information be gobbled up by "security agencies" as too dangerous for us to know? I'm afraid I already know the answer to that question, and so do you!

Michael

Chris Wren said...

The beacon-hunting approach makes more sense to me. Radio waves, even in the hydrogen frequencies are so rapidly diffused in the interstellar noise that in order for any joe sixpack planetary civilization to transmit, you'd need an array so large it might as well be a beacon anyway.

As for responding, who knows. We have absolutely no way of determining the motivations of E.T.I.s. To assume that wisdom comes with technology is obviously naieve, although I expect total indifferenceis probably more likely. At worst, we attract the attention of a species that feels strongly motivated to cleanse the galaxy of competing genetic information. Or religious wingnuts. But I really feel that any sufficiently advanced civilization will be indistinguishable from Dorothy Parker: aloof and dismissive.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is why are we not sending our own beacons out?
The nearest stars are a few light years away. We could hear back from them in our life time using conventional speed of light reasoning, or we might get an immediate response if we contact an advanced culture that can warp space time.
Even if we do not get a response, maybe we can wow a seti project on a distant planet 10,000 years from now.

Stan