“It would be like the Neanderthals having a plan in case the U.S. Air Force showed up.” –SETI astronomer Seth Shostak.
Where will you be when aliens finally call? Do you have things planned out? Because the world’s governments apparently never bothered.
Hollywood taught us there’s a well-set protocol for when extraterrestrial forces make contact with Earth, but as senior SETI scientist Seth Shostak reveals, reality is much different.
In a recent interview with Live Science, the subject of discussion was the new science fiction movie Arrival, which deals with the premise of contact and human-extraterrestrial communications. When asked whether there was an established plan in the event of receiving a very long distance call, SETI scientist Seth Shostak gave a straight answer with ambiguous connotations:
There are some protocols, but I think that’s an unfortunate name, and it makes them sound more important than they are.
In the 1990s, Shostak acted as chairman for a committee of the International Academy of Aeronautics (IAA) and one of his roles was to oversee the development of a revised version of the previous decade’s “post-detection protocols.”
First drawn in the 1980s, this set of protocols acted as guidelines for Soviet and American astronomers looking for alien transmissions in signals received with radio telescopes. This field is known as SETI, an acronym for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence program. Shostak made it clear these protocols are somewhat of a formality and not an international procedure to be followed when E.T. calls.
“They say, ‘If you pick up a signal, check it out … tell everybody … and don’t broadcast any replies without international consultation,’ whatever that means,” Shostak said. “But that’s all that the protocols say, and they have no force of law. The United Nations took a copy of the early protocols and put them in a file drawer somewhere, and that’s as official as they ever got.”
As a scientist who needs to uphold his reputation, Shostak couldn’t divulge any sensitive information, so he went the safe way by claiming he was not aware of any secret government program intended to chaperon actual alien contact procedures. To his best knowledge, he said, the government does not employ the dreaded shadowy investigators known as the Men in Black.
If the government could afford the ‘Men in Black,’ then they could afford to support SETI,” he quipped.
Openly endorsing a public venture is one thing the government wouldn’t need to do. If there’s one thing most UFO investigators agree upon, it’s that all over the world, regimes have been in contact, nay, in cahoots with different species of aliens. Why pour money into an open project when their black budgets serve purposes that go much deeper? Does Hugh Hefner need to pay for lap dances in some shady, third-rate strip joint?
“It’s not a government program, so they have nothing to do with it. I would love to see some interest from them, but I never have,” the astronomer added.
If aliens one day decided to show up and park their ships for everyone to see them, you can be sure their technology wouldn’t even be in the same ballpark as ours. The consequences of such a contact would be unfathomable.
It would be like the Neanderthals having a plan in case the U.S. Air Force showed up.”
Shostak believes this analogy isn’t even necessary because the first contact would most likely manifest itself as the detection of an intelligent signal from outer space. If that’s the case, the signal could be hundreds or thousands of years old and our reply would take just as long to get there. What our reply contains wouldn’t even be relevant in that context since mankind is showing such strong signs of self-destructive tendencies. We as a species could be long gone before our signal could reach the aliens.
Not everyone agrees with this hypothesis. Some of the world’s brightest minds advise caution against broadcasting our presence. On multiple occasions, British physicist Stephen Hawking expressed his concern regarding SETI programs because there’s no guarantee the aliens that might be listening are benevolent.
With obstacles such as these, it’s hard to decide on what kind of first impression to make.
“I’ve been to several conferences where people discuss whether we should tell [aliens] all the bad things about humanity, or just the good things, and that sort of thing,” Shostak said. “But I think that is terribly overdrawn. To me, that would be like the indigenous people of Australia seeing Capt. Cook coming over the horizon in his ship, then saying, ‘We’re going to have a couple of conferences to discuss what we’re going to talk to these guys about, and what language we’ll use’ — [but] it doesn’t matter.”
A lot of effort and brainpower goes into discussions pertaining to this subject. While the well-meaning scientific community spends its time dealing with hypotheses and possible scenarios, the answer to their strain is definitely being kept secret in DUMBS and other secret facilities.
“Let them eat imaginary cake,” I picture those with the highest clearance joking among themselves.