The probability that there is intelligent life somewhere other than earth increases as we discover more and more solar systems that seem capable of sustaining life. The thought that there might be extraterrestrial intelligences (ETI) somewhere out there excites us and has led to organized efforts to contact any such beings. We have sent space probes with data about us, and we transmit signals with a structured content (like symbols expressing mathematical formulae) to what we hope will be an intergalactic audience. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence project (SETI) is obviously based on the assumption that the possible benefits of contact with ETI outweigh the possible harms. But do they?
A recent study by researchers at Penn State and NASA provides a useful outline of the various ways that encounters with ETI could be beneficial, neutral or harmful to us. The study faces up to the most chilling possibilities: ETI might “eat us, enslave us, attack us,” inadvertently infect us with horrible diseases or just decide to eliminate us for the greater good of the universe. (Regarding this last point, the report is especially concerned that ETI might be at least metaphorically green and see us a threat to the universe’s ecology.) Read more
Friday, October 7, 2011
Will the Aliens Be Nice? Don’t Bet On It
Many people look forward to the day that earth first contacts intelligent extraterrestrial life. A recent study by Penn State and NASA suggests that we should be careful what we wish for.