What Awaits Humans If Extraterrestrial Intelligence Is Discovered

Since the creation of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program, many scientists have been concerned with the question: what will happen if we detect an extraterrestrial signal?
Special protocols have been developed for this, but the question of how this discovery will affect people remains open.

A 2020 paper by Ken Wisian and John Traphagan suggested that there is a risk of finding previously unexplored extraterrestrial life.

Wisian and Traphagan argue that the danger of discovery does not come from the aliens themselves, but from the advantage of having access to this information that could lead to problems on Earth, such as espionage, escalating conflicts between nations, and possibly the whole problem.

The study was designed to simulate what politicians might do in such a situation. As seen in some sci-fi movies, contact with aliens should be controlled quickly by the military.

A new study by Jason Wright, Chelsea Haramia and Gabriel Sweeney argues that that approach is wrong. They said detecting a signal from space would be hard to keep secret.

Seth Szostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute who was not involved in the study, believes that many of the protocols and scenarios they studied did not really take into account how public such a discovery would be.

Shostak believes that when aliens are discovered, the media will immediately start spreading the word. Usually, within a few hours, the whole world will know about the event.

For example, in 1997, when a signal coming from outside Earth’s atmosphere and apparently extraterrestrial was detected, it took the New York Times just 15 hours to find out and call the institute. The signal turned out to be regular telemetry from the SOHO spacecraft, but it was already heavily covered by the media. Nor have major conflicts or military escalation been found.

Wisian and John Traphagan argue that radio telescopes and extraterrestrial life researchers should increase the confidence in detecting them. Many scientists have raised concerns about this proposal because, given the number of people who believe that the government and military are now hiding aliens, this practice is likely to lead to the aforementioned negative situation.

On the other hand, Wright, Haramia, and Sweeney argue that transparency and openness among researchers looking for intelligent civilizations in space is key to addressing risks that may arise on the global stage. Governments and the public need to be aware of what is likely to happen.

According to Shostak, the most important thing for individuals and politicians to keep in mind is that the detected signals do not represent a potential danger.

The closest star is almost 4 light years away. This distance is too great for a modern spacecraft. If an alien civilization with bad intentions can quickly overcome this path, why should they send a signal ahead of time?

Should we respond to an alien signal?

In 2010, the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) published a statement of principles for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

He noted that after a definitive discovery, no answer can be given without international consultation.

However, Shostak believes that concerns about the response are moot. For decades our television broadcasts and airport radars have been sending signals into space. The aliens could simply send a message, confirming that they heard us.

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