Doing the Experiment
Consequently, it seems
reasonable and proper to adopt the nuts and bolts approach to SETI: lets do
the experiment. We should do this with
no illusions. SETI is not falsifiable -
a negative result does not disprove the premise of cosmic companionship, and
consequently such searches are obviously more exploration than
experimentation. That means that a
failure to find the aliens will not settle this debate. Indeed, the only way the argument over
intelligence can be settled is if we do find something. In other words, this debate is asymmetric:
my position alone can be proven right.
I may not win, but its certain my opponent cannot win.
I will end by guessing (and it
is only a guess) that a positive SETI detection may be no more than a decade or
two away. The motivation for this suggestion
(other than self-serving optimism) lies in the rapid improvement in SETI search
power made possible by improved microelectronics. Every decade, these experiments become faster by a factor of a
hundred. So there is at least some
reason to expect that success might come soon.
If so, we will get a signal, and we will know that intelligence is not
restricted to Earth. But what we will
not know - at least not at first, and maybe never - is who or what is running
the transmitter. Personally, I do not
think they will be squishy.
Contributed by: Dr. <!g>Seth Shostak