Although unnoticeable to those who pay attention to “the news"….we’re living in a pretty spectacular era of human history.
Seth Shostak - Senior Astronomer at SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) - posed a submission that we, the human race, will detect an extraterrestrial civilization amidst the cosmos within the next 24 years. He’s so confident of this, he’s bet everyone (all 7+ billion of us) a cup of coffee on it.
“It’s very easy to make fun of this, just like it also would have been funny to make fun of Magellan before he sailed around the world," Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer with SETI, told Congress. "We looked in particular directions at a few thousand star systems—the fact we haven’t found anything means nothing. This is like asking Christopher Columbus two weeks out of Cadiz if he’d found any new continents yet. We have to look at a few million star systems to have a reasonable chance." [Motherboard]
The reality is, we’re on an unprecedented exponential growth curve fueled by Moore’s Law, whereby advancements across multiple fields of science and technology are yielding new and transformative achievements, propelling us into a future of faster data processing at the helm of many disruptive technologies. A universal Rosetta Stone may not be attainable regarding our ability to generally decode transmissions from everywhere (and in any form) amid the past/present universe, but we certainly do have the tools for deciphering messages as we have from our ancestors’ hieroglyphics and artifacts.
With this in mind, read the referenced Motherboard article, and be sure to browse NASA’s newly published ebook by Douglas A. Vokoch, Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communications.
The question I continue to submit when this topic is brought up, however: if we detect it, what will we do, and will we care?
We no longer live in a world where today’s news is tomorrow’s headline. News now is relative to weather…always fluctuating…when the storm is over, we go back outside. If it’s bitterly cold, we complain until it warms up. When we’re warm, the complaints pour in that it’s too hot. And similarly, when “breaking news” becomes breaking news, it ends up at the bottom of our news feeds and online dashboard threads.
Our society is plagued with alarmist tendencies. As X Prize Co-Founder Peter Diamandis reminds us, “the news media preferentially feeds us negative stories because that’s what our minds pay attention to. And there’s a good reason for that. Every second of every day, our senses bring in way too much data that we can possibly process in our brains. And because nothing is more important to us than survival, the first stop for all that data is an ancient sliver of the temporal lobe called the amygdala….our early warning detector, our danger detector. So given a dozen news stories, we will preferentially look at the negative news." This has more to do with how little attention we pay to how fast the technologically driven world is moving and how tremendous of a time we’re living, but it’s a worthy comparison to how we process that information to our advantage as a species which belongs to the cosmos…and to with whom we share this cosmic neighborhood.
Some may rush to say that we would plan some kind of hostile takeover. However, it’s unlikely we will detect a neighbor close enough to visit, let alone “shout across the street.”
So again, I wonder: what will humanity’s response be to the detection of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe?