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SETI and TED, Sitting in a Tree…

Each year the TED conference hands out three ‘TED Prizes’ – a $100,000 cash award to three individuals, and the “granting of ‘One Wish to Change the World’.” One of this year’s winners was SETI pioneer Jill Tarter. Her wish? To “empower Earthlings everywhere to become active participants in the ultimate search for cosmic company.”

Embedded below is Tarter’s TED speech in which she details her dreams of searching for, and finding, intelligent extraterrestrial civilisations. I’ve previously had my gripes with Tarter’s skeptical pronouncements on ufology (she is a CSICOP fellow), but this speech has plenty of great moments:

Tarter’s detailed plan and requirements to fulfill her TED wish can be found on this page. Purveyors of woo probably need not apply…

Previously on TDG:

  1. SETI & Slumdog Millionaire
    From what Jill Tarter explains in her speech, most if not all of SETI’s scientists view themselves more as archeologists than actual ambassadors of humanity to other Alien civilizations out there.

    For them, the most direct & important outcome from finding an alien radio signal, would be not to have the ability to actually interact with these civilizations—that would be almost impossible according to them— but to give us proof that the technological adolescence we now suffer can be overcome.

    The idea is to give us hope.

    But… couldn’t it also lead us to despair?

    Recently Kat linked this story about the children actors that appeared in the multi-awarded film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. It told about how the children, having witnessed the wonders and luxury of Hollywood, were having a very difficult time re-adjusting to their somber reality.

    Azhar, cuddling his new pet guinea pig, said: “I am very sad. I feel sleepy, hot and sick all the time. I can’t get to sleep here – there are too many mosquitoes and it is so hot. I just wish I was in America still.”

    So finding a signal from a highly technological advanced civilization might not be the magic key to a brave new world these scientists are hoping for. For that, we will also have to find the will to solve our many problems and clean up our own home.

    And we will have to find a way not to fail into despair.

    PS: Her wish of “empower(ing) Earthlings everywhere to become active participants in the ultimate search for cosmic company” is very peculiar. That would fall into the area of what is called ‘Active SETI’, which is heavily criticized by some highly respected scientists.

    And, if what one reads from the many cases of close encounters is seen as proof of extraterrestrial visitation, then it would seem that Earthlings everywhere are already active participants in a very difficult and mysterious dialogue with non-human intelligences; and that those intelligences care not one bit about the social status quo and the institutions that oversee human affairs, but prefer instead to interact directly with average people—much to the disappointment (or is that jealousy?) of Stephen Hawkins 😉

    It’s not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me…
    It’s all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

    Red Pill Junkie

    1. Another Possibility
      One of the issues I have had with SETI is the assumption that other civilizations use the same method of communication we do. Is it not possible that just around that next technological bend, there is a communication mode that naturally replaces radio signals?

      It may be that all the “noise” our planet makes, in ET terms, is the equivalent of smoke signals in the dark. Nobody may be looking. We may even be “beneath” noticing at our current state of advancement. “Earthlings use, get this, radios! Ha,ha,ha!”

      1. Certainly
        Yes, I have also the same problem with SETI, and their anthropogenic way of tackling the problem of interstellar chatting.

        Not that I feel offended by the support Paul Allen gives to them. Much on the contrary; they should keep doing that.

        But maybe, just as the Military has DARPA, to allow really ‘out-there’ ideas to be explored, and NASA also supported unconventional WARP-drive ideas on a few occasions—which did pay off, since ion drive is now a reality, whereas 50 years ago it belonged to pulp fiction novels— then may I suggest that SETI could also explore some other radical ideas to establish links with faraway civilizations.

        Or maybe Peter Diamandis, with the X-Prize MO could also come up with a DIY SETI competition! 🙂

        It’s not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me…
        It’s all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

        Red Pill Junkie

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