ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Should we be Messaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence?

Updated on February 12, 2017

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a fascinating lecture at Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn by author and microwave sciences expert, Dr. James Benford. During the lecture, in which I remained still, quiet and enthralled, Dr. Benford discussed the argument for Messaging Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (METI). Dr. Benford explained that the scientific community was divided on the subject as to whether we should or shouldn’t be actively advertising Earth to ETs as having intelligent life.

As someone who has only in the last few years discovered a passion for science, I did not have the courage to put my hand up to speak, however the lecture certainly invited a lot of discussion between my husband and I on the car drive home, particularly on the whole for and against arguments of METI.

Unfortunately, even if I did have the courage to address the subject, the lecture was not the right forum to wage discussions on either argument – and Dr. Benford himself was quite articulate in that he was only interested in questions, not opinions.

Still, I wish I had been quicker to process the details of his presentation so that I might have been able to put the question to him: “What is it that makes you believe inter-stellar travel is possible?”

Is inter-stellar travel possible?

Personally, I don’t believe it is, or ever will be. If nothing travels faster than the speed of light – and our closest star system, Alpha Centauri, is 4.3 light years away - how would any intelligent civilisation survive the length of the journey? Even the concept of Fusion or Solar Sail powered starships could not reach the desired speed (or provide a habitable environment for that length of time) to make the journey possible. If everything within the universe is bound by the same universal laws, no matter how advanced that extra-terrestrial civilisation might be or how they might be utilising energy, they would still not have the means to survive the length of inter-stellar travel.

I realised, talking about his lecture on the way home, that his entire argument against METI was held together by the idea that inter-stellar travel was possible. For argument’s sake, let’s say that this factor was removed from his argument – what sort of threat would contacting another intelligent civilisation then pose on humanity?


How would humanity react to the discovery of alien intelligence in the universe?

The only real risk then, as Dr. Benford mentioned in his presentation, would be the potential culture shock to the human race to discover that we were not the only intelligent civilisation. He suggested that we would feel insignificant and would not be able to cope with the knowledge that there was a more-advanced intelligent species out there. As someone who sits on the cusp of Generation Y/Z, I believe this is an old-fashioned way of thinking and, if I had to guess, partly based on the way people interpret themselves through religious beliefs. I think Dr. Benford might be selling the human race a little short in our ability to process such a grand discovery. We are an adaptable race, an intelligent race and each new generation is not only open to the discovery of alien life, but expecting it.

So, why hold back with METI? Assuming our closest star system harboured alien intelligence and we decided to target that star system, it would take 4.3 light years before they received our communication. If 1 light year equals 10,018 human years - any response they might send would take at least 86,154 years before it was received here, back at Earth.

You might think, based on my disagreements with the opposing argument, that I’m totally pro-METI and yes, I’m certainly open to the possibility – but I do agree that money could be better spent searching as opposed to messaging and that there should be a globally recognised set of guidelines before we go ahead and wave to the rest of the galaxy.

Of course, this is only an opinion and I’m certainly not suggesting I know any better than our wonderful presenter that evening… I just wish I had the chance to ask him, “What is it that makes you believe inter-stellar travel is possible?”

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)