Thursday, December 23, 2004

Invitation to ETI

"Issuing an invitation to ETI on the World Wide Web is a long shot, as is every SETI project. Our chances of detecting ETI are at least as good as those of any other project. If successful, though, our project could provide humanity with particularly high benefits because we aim to achieve a scientific, educational, and philosophical dialogue between humankind and ETI--not simply find evidence that ETI exists. Humanity could gain an extraordinary wealth of new insights from such a dialogue."

This isn't the first attempt to send a Web-based "open letter" to ETI that I've seen. I doubt it will be the last. Oddly enough, I find myself in basic agreement that the chances of this method succeeding are comparable to radio-based SETI. Even the SETI Institute's Seth Shostak seemed to be pondering a similar scenario when he recommended terrestrials transmit the contents of the Web to a candidate extrasolar civilization -- and few would argue that sharing our planet's collective digital unconscious is more portentous than firing off a string of anonymous prime numbers.

The truth is probably closer to Rudy Rucker's vision of encrypted alien intelligences passing us by in the form of background radiation, completely unacknowledged as anything other than stellar noise.

In the meantime, I'm giving "Internet SETI" a shot.

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