Some of the good folks over at SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) are getting a bit impatient looking for signals, and would like to take a more proactive approach to the problem. That would be METI (messaging extra terrestrial intelligences.
A lot of scientists (Stephen Hawking, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, some of the people at SETI) think this would be a boneheaded, potentially suicidal thing to do. I understand their reasoning. Any species advanced enough to be able to get here from another star system, is so much more advanced than us they could do whatever they wanted -pods in the basement, hypergalactic bypass – and there wouldn’t be a damned thing we could do about it, so maybe we should just keep our heads down.
Nonetheless, I vote yes. Here are my reasons: First, that barn door has been open for awhile and closing it now doesn’t guarantee they won’t find us. I’m not talking about Voyager, which has now cleared the Solar System and is carrying a message from mankind to whoever may find it – sort of a message in a bottle. I’m talking about television. If SETI doesn’t send a rational, coherent message, the aliens might base their view of our society on watching Honey Boo Boo, in which case they’d be justified in any horrible thing they wanted to do.
Secondly, even though they might be thousands of years more advanced than us, by the time the message gets there and back, we will also be thousands of years more advanced than we are now, and what a millenium or two of change it’s going to be. We are accelerating at an astounding pace now, and that’s only going to increase.
Third, if they come here and discover us without our having made the first overture, they are likely to view us as hopeless primitives, unworthy of their consideration. They may see us as food, a source of cheap labor, a curious little animal to be dissected and studied, or a curiosity, to be brought back to their native planet and kept in zoos. If we contact them first, we might get a bit more respect.
The most important reason, though, is just that it’s in our nature, it’s the nature of all life one Earth and perhaps life everywhere. Life either continues to grow and change and evolve or it withers and dies. We can no more not try to contact them than we can crawl back into the womb.
It is going to happen. I feel it should.