Posted by: antyx | February 23, 2008

Why the S.E.T.I. project is like a monkey trying to communicate with humans

SETI Project


SETI, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Inteligence was initiated 50yrs ago in the mid 60’s. As quoted from wikipedia:

SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) is the collective name for a number of organized efforts to detect intelligent extraterrestrial life. The general approach of SETI projects is to survey the sky to detect the existence of transmissions from a civilization on a distant planet, an approach widely endorsed by the scientific community as hard science (see, e.g., claims in Skeptical Inquirer). The United States Government contributed to early SETI work, but recent work has been primarily funded from private sources. There are great challenges in searching across the sky for a first transmission that could be characterized as intelligent, since its direction, spectrum and method of communication are all unknown beforehand. SETI projects necessarily make assumptions to narrow the search, and thus no exhaustive search has so far been conducted.

Someone may at first though think that there is absolutely no point on spending the time and energy in this project, something that may have been proven correct from the results of this search. The main reason i speculate that gives us the motive to do so is clearly existential. Contrary to traditional beliefs that the universe and cosmos was built in order to support human life, SETI is an attempt to refine this world view. From one side christianic creationism supports the idea that everything was made by a deity (GOD) whose existence was presupposed and the universe was created in order to some day support human life, contrary to Darwinist’s evolutionary theory where every form of life was developed through natural selection, slowly evolving by trial and error, by mutating throughout time addopting to its surroundings, where this information was stored in each lifeform’s DNA. I personally stand by the Darwinistic theory though my point is not to rule out creationism because belief is a matter of choice and inner searching. So if SETI actually had succeeded till now there would be some more evidence that Darwinism is a more correct way of explaining how life arose. A post product of SETI was the formation of the global SETI@home computer grid in 1999, one of the biggest distributed networks worldwide, which counts over 5 million users. I used to be a member of the SETI@home grid but have stopped using it for some years now. To my view, this search as the title of this article expresses it can be compared with the attempt of a monkey trying to communicate with a human. My reason on making the above statement, is not to underestimate our present technology and civilization but to point out the timeline implications of this project. We, as a human civilization have existed on planet earth for some time know, thus only recently made the leap on developing technology apart from the spear and sharp stone which were our main tool for 99% of our timeline. Only recently in the last 100 yrs we were able to develop radio communication technology, a very small fraction of the time there was available for intelligent life to have evolved.

That concludes to the following hypothesis’s:

1. There may as well never be any intelligent lifeform before us and our search is just contributing to global warming thus proving biblical creationists right
2. There may be one or more forms of intelligent life who may have not developed any technology till now and are more primitive than us in technological terms.
3. There may be one or more lifeforms of intelligent life, they have developed radio communication this time speaking, but unluckily enough the time the signals take to arrive, may need several thousand years, so we in our present never find them out
4. There may be one or more forms of intelligent life, who have developed sophisticated technology, some time in the past used radio communication and are at this time speaking using some more advance form of communication with no time lapse at all. We are lucky enough to receive their radio signals from that early stage. This scenario would be the only way that proved the SETI project right

The last scenario though, taking in mind the vast time span of our universe is like trying to find a bottle with a message in a vast time ocean. Regarding our technological timeline we are using radio communication for the last 100 years and may be using it say for 50 or more, until we switch to non time lapse forms of communication. So 150 years contrary to the billions of years that intelligent life which led to technology is a drop in the ocean. So realistically speaking the chances of SETI succeeding even if intelligent life exists is under 1% but nevertheless it’s the only thing we can do with technology at it’s present state of development and may be better than doing no search at all whatsoever. Though in my view its more of an existential search than an extra terrestrial search, that could possibly refine our world view, leading to the redifintion of religion. Realistically speaking in 2008 non time lapse forms of communication exist in an early developing stage. To make it more simple researchers in laboratory conditions have succeeded on making two electrons interact with no time lapse at all. So the conclusion of this discovery is that information can be somehow transmitted from point A to point B faster than the speed of light. Though some may say that this brings down the law of Special Relativity it infact does not. From what i could understand of the theory explaining this strange phenomenon is, that these two electrons access the hologram that consists our observable world and interact as a unity. This theory is proven scientifically through various experiments but may take some time for society to fully adopt it. So the practical implementations of this would be interstellar forms of communication with no time lapse. Offcourse we would have to know which part of the hologram we should access in order to communicate with intelligent lifeforms if they actually excist in the first place and if they are also aware of the Holographic nature of our universe. The practical implementations of this new discovery and the theory of the holographic universe may show up on the following decades, thus making us a step closer to understanding the world around us. So concluding interstellar radio communication may shortly be proven to be unsufficient, giving way to new forms of communication technologies.

Article Update:

After publishing this article i read some wikipedia pages about the Fermi Paradox and the famous Drake equation. The Drake equation examines mathematically the chances of extra terrestrial life ever existing using some variants. The Fermi paradox is an indepth look into the possibilities of finding intelligent extra terrestrial lifeforms. It somehow says what i had speculated above, though giving an extensive examination of this possibility. The most interesting parts of that wikipedia definition, which i had not examined above, were the statements that other civilizations may: Tend to experience a technological singularity, Earth is purposely isolated, They are too alien, They are non-technological, Are here unobserved. I don’t find any reason expanding the above and i recommend that you read this wikipedia definition of the Fermi Paradox. Though i was many pages long, i read it to the end, which made me learn some thought provoking hypothesis of this paradox. The one that stood up from the above styled as bold, is the hypothesis of the technological singularity. In short words it is the hypothetic point of sometime in the future were the unavoidable consequences of Moore’s law about the increase in computing power leads our civilization to a Technological Singularity. The first part of this technological singularity transformation started happening when the first tools were invented, which was the starting point of our slowly but steadily increasing our scientific and technological achievements. Though through time the 20th century was noted by the biggest technological advancements of all time from space exploration, expanding of global transportation, increase in energy consumption and the overall increase on the standards of living, the achievement which will lead to everlasting acceleration of the growth in complexity of human civilization was the invention and spreading of use in personal computers combined with the commercialization of the internet in the mid 90’s. Though the internet did not show on having any major impact in society in the end of the 90’s, in the first years of the 21st century, the mechanisms of peer 2 peer information, money, file sharing and special interest community formations, which in common terms are labeled as Web 2.0 have shown an explosion of user generated content, which in long terms through through the steadily increase of this content and internet use will start to show some major impact on everyday society, boosting our society’s complexity growth. This hypothesis demands an indepth search in order to expand it in another article, which i will be possibly publishing some time in the future.

As always i’ve embeded a video of Carl Sagan, explaining what the SETI project is all about:


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