Could The Search For E̳x̳t̳r̳a̳t̳e̳r̳r̳e̳s̳t̳r̳i̳a̳l̳ Life Attract Hostile A̳l̳i̳e̳n̳s?


If there are good ex̳t̳r̳a̳t̳e̳r̳r̳e̳s̳t̳r̳i̳a̳l̳s, we must assume that they also have “malos”. Now, a new book examines the beautiful –and terribles– possibilities of a̳l̳i̳e̳n̳ contact.

As we transport our existence to the universe, we are making a bold assumption that any ex̳t̳r̳a̳t̳e̳r̳r̳e̳s̳t̳r̳i̳a̳l̳ that recognizes it will not use its superior technology to kill us all.

This is a point of caution in “La paradoja del contacto”, a new collection of essays on the search for ex̳t̳r̳a̳t̳e̳r̳r̳e̳s̳t̳r̳i̳a̳l̳ intelligence, better known as SETI, by the editor of Astronomía Ahora, Keith Cooper.

There is the feeling that the SETI is viejo. Empezó, a trompicones, shortly after the invention of radio technology in the early 1900s, with more concentrated efforts that revolved around 1980 with the help of visionaries, including Carl Sagan.

But the investment in SETI projects continues around the world, with more and more cosmic listening devices posted online, together with new computer tools to search for the data they collect.

But despite the construction of increasingly powerful radio telescopes, according to Cooper’s expanded review of literature and experts in the field, there are mind-boggling assumptions that underlie many SETI projects, and that complicate their potential for success.

Surely, according to an optimistic line of thought, it would be beneficial for humanity to find benevolent a̳l̳i̳e̳n̳ species among the stars.

They could share a great deal of knowledge with us, and more fundamentally we would know that we are not alone in a cold universe – ideas that tend to assume, in one way or another, that advanced c̳i̳v̳i̳l̳i̳z̳a̳t̳i̳o̳n̳s become morally pure.

But, on the other hand, the belligerent or interested ex̳t̳r̳a̳t̳e̳r̳r̳e̳s̳t̳r̳i̳a̳l̳s could end up with us.

“Even if it were possible to detect an increasingly greater pattern of moral enlightenment in the history of humanity, it would still be dangerous to extrapolate to the future”, Nick Bostrom, director of the Institute for the Future of Humanity at the University of Oxford, told Cooper. .

“Of course, I believe that this argument is extremely weak, but I imagine that it is what sustains the optimism of some people about technologically advanced c̳i̳v̳i̳l̳i̳z̳a̳t̳i̳o̳n̳s”.

Cooper also details some of the many other reasons why finding intelligent life could be difficult.

Aside from the fact that the space is simply massive – even at the speed of light, our radio waves alone have traveled about 100 light years out of the Earth – we also assume that we will recognize the intelligence when we see it.

A̳l̳i̳e̳n̳ life could be so tan, good, «a̳l̳i̳e̳n̳», that we could be unable to perceive it at all..

Indeed, some have even speculated that the ex̳t̳r̳a̳t̳e̳r̳r̳e̳s̳t̳r̳i̳a̳l̳s could be in the Earth, unless we separate them.

“The contact paradoja” challenges us to rethink these assumptions and many more, and ultimately there is the case that an interpretation of SETI is to probe our own relationship with the universe.

“The stars are a mirror, and when we look at them, if we stick to it enough, we see our reflection looking back,” wrote Cooper.

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