An interesting brouhaha is developing amongst space scientists in regards to the dangers of ‘advertising ourselves’ to the rest of the Universe through Active SETI (where we actually beam out messages for ‘others’ to hear, rather than the usual SETI strategy of listening). One of my favourite space scientists, Dr David Grinspoon, has written an extended piece about the controversy for Seed magazine, titled “Who Speaks for the Earth?”:
Zaitsev has already sent several powerful messages to nearby, sun-like stars—a practice called “Active SETI.” But some scientists feel that he’s not only acting out of turn, but also independently speaking for everyone on the entire planet. Moreover, they believe there are possible dangers we may unleash by announcing ourselves to the unknown darkness, and if anyone plans to transmit messages from Earth, they want the rest of the world to be involved…For Active SETI’s critics, the potential for alerting dangerous or malevolent entities to our presence is enough to justify their concern.
“We’re talking about initiating communication with other civilizations, but we know nothing of their goals, capabilities, or intent,” reasons John Billingham, a senior scientist at the private SETI Institute.
The debate has also been picked up by the mainstream media. I do find it interesting that ufologists are rebuffed because of the apparently obvious fact that interstellar distances remove any possibility of E.T. visitation…and yet serious scientists are worried that we will invite nasty aliens through active SETI. Surely they can’t get here sirs!?
On a related note, Forgetomori has a nice little look at another of our active SETI projects, the Voyager probes…which carry a few interesting stories themselves (you have to giggle at the unintentionally threatening “so we will live into yours” line – at least until the threatened aliens come and vapourise our planet).