Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ready, SETI, Go!

"Maybe I should get a cat..."
-Humans, going down a dark path
Tired of spending yet another Valentine's Day sitting by the radio telescope waiting for aliens to call? Well, so is the human race. This week at the AAAS conference (which stands for Big Science Thing), in San Jose, Dr. Seth Shostak, the director of the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence Institute (or SETI if you're sassy) announced that his group will now be will now be actively trying to communicate with alien civilizations. That's right, the people of Earth are getting back in the game.

But wait, isn't that what SETI has been doing all along? Weeeell...not so much. Up until now, they've just been listening to space and hoping that some alien radio signal from a distant star will happen to pass by Earth, which now that I think about it, sounds like a colossal waste of time.
"What do you mean 'waste of time?' How many stars
can there possibly be? A hundred? Two hundred?"

-SETI's logic
"Greetings Earth-being, did you know you
could save 15% or more on your car insurance?"

-First contact
I mean, what are we paying these people for-huh? What's that? Oh, we're not paying them? It turns out that SETI has been privately funded for awhile. Which I guess means that if they ever do discover aliens, we'll probably have to call them the Doritons or the Galactic Federation of Geico or something. But whatever, how is just listening to space a search for extra terrestrial intelligence? That's like looking for your keys by sitting on the couch and waiting for them to come back to you.

Anyway, I say it's about time we, as a species, put ourselves out there a little. You know, get on the interstellar equivalent of OKCupid and get proactive. After all, we're never going to meet anybody just hanging out at home, watching Netflix and accumulating more cats.
Look, I'm not trying to rag on cat owners, it's just
that I don't want the human race to end up like this guy...
Above: The bleak, post-apocalyptic future
predicted by Brin in which Kevin Costner
delivers hope...and also the mail.
But not everyone's on board with this plan. Super-genius Stephen Hawking has been warning us years that if aliens ever stumbled across our primitive little backwater it would mean for our total annihilation, and at the conference, sci-fi author David Brin made a similar argument: "Historians will tell you that first contact between industrial civilizations and indigenous people does not go well." And if anyone has their finger on the pulse of the future it's Brin, after all, he wrote The Postman.

Ok, so to sum up Brin's and Hawking's point, contact between aliens and humans will result in our extinction in much the same way that the musket-toting European explorers of the 15th century nearly wiped out the indigenous peoples of North America. When high-tech meets low-tech, high-tech wins. Ipso barada facto, right?
Or in nerd terms, it's sort of like what would happen if Starfleet and the Empire ever went at it.
Phaser, wide-beam: so long Stormtroopers. There, I said it. Star Trek wins. Don't agree? Bring it!
I say gold and converts, but really,
it was all about the doubloons... 
I'm not so sure. I get that Stephen Hawking has an IQ of like a million, and David Brin has, um...Kevin Costner, but I think there're a couple of problems with their theory. True, a bunch of European explorers with more communicable diseases than sense and a penchant for gold and religious converts did have a catastrophic impact on the indigenous peoples of America, but alien contact is a totally different thing all together. First of all, the technological gap between the Americans and Europeans is nowhere near as massive as that between us and whatever visitors might drop by.

Sure, the Spanish had fancy boats capable of crossing the ocean, but it's not like the Native Americans were dumbfounded by how they worked, I mean, they knew what a boat was. Aliens on the other hand would need warp drive or Stargates or something to actually come here and that's like way beyond our science.
"Your ships float? On water? My goodness, you pasty,
fowl-smelling religious zealots must surely be wizards."
-The Chief of the Lucayan, demonstrating his people's 
advanced knowledge of sarcasm to the Europeans
Why waste the photon torpedoes when they
can open one of those creepy kiosks at the mall?
In fact, anyone advanced enough to cross the brain-exploding distance between stars would have to be so far ahead of us that the idea that they would need anything from us is absurd. I mean, do we really think they're going to be after our precious, precious shinies? They probably have replicators or something and even if they don't, there're no natural resources here that can't be found floating around in space without going to all the trouble of subjugating a bunch of information-age barbarians who haven't even cracked hoverboard technology yet.

So that leaves us with religious conversion, and while I suppose it's possible that aliens might one day beam down, knock on our doors and try to shove an Interlac edition of The Watchtower into our hands, that's no reason to just sit here on a Saturday night, petting our many cats while the universe passes us by. Besides, we're not getting any younger...
"Puny hew-mons! Prepare to welcome
Space Jesus into your hearts!"

No comments:

Post a Comment