Space is vast. They could be are out there, scanning the skies and listening. Do we want them to hear us?
Several years ago, we picked up a mysterious signal from outer space that has never been explained. The signal was heard on three different occasions and originated in a region of space between the constellations Pisces and Aries.
We can assume that advanced extraterrestrial civilizations can appreciate the benefits of transmitting into space, as a good means of establishing communication with other intelligent alien life-form.
We, humans are also eager to learn about other alien civilizations and one way to contact other alien cultures is through interstellar signals. However, we should ask ourselves if transmitting radio messages into space pose a risk to human civilization?
According to scientists from the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, University of California Los Angeles, and Pennsylvania State University, there are several factors we should consider when beaming signals into space.
Jacob Haqq-Misra, Michael Busch,Sanjoy Som, and Seth Baum, write in their science paper “The Benefits and Harms of Transmitting Into Space” that messaging to extraterrestrial intelligence (METI) could be harmful to us, if we are unlucky.
“The benefits of radio communication on Earth likely outweigh the potential harms of detection by extraterrestrial watchers; however, the uncertainty regarding the outcome of contact with extraterrestrial beings creates difficulty in assessing whether or not to engage in long-term and large-scale METI.”
“Efforts to send messages to potential extraterrestrial watchers have raised concerns that such actions may provoke unwanted attention.
Similar transmissions into space, though unintentional, occur as a result of radio communication on Earth, and pose similar risks.”
“Electromagnetic waves have been used to communicate for over one hundred years.
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Television broadcasts, mobile phone conversations, satellite transmissions, and military, civil, and astronomical radars all use some part of the electromagnetic spectrum-particularly radio and microwave wavelengths-to transmit encoded information from a sender to a watcher.
These technologies have transformed communication across the globe and have enabled human space flight and robotic exploration of the solar system. Nearly all terrestrial electromagnetic transmissions used for communication also radiate into space. Although such signals decrease in intensity as they move away from Earth, this leakage radiation can be detected over interstellar distances with a sufficiently sensitive telescope.”
“Both deliberate METI signals and unintentional leakage radiation contribute to the overall radio emission from Earth. There has been concern that this signature of our technological civilization could constitute a risk because it reveals our location in the galaxy to any potentially hostile extraterrestrial civilizations.”
There has been a lot of debate whether we should attempt to contact other intelligent alien species or not. Obviously the opinions are divided.
Some have argued that “METI broadcasts do not pose a significant risk because any extraterrestrial watchers would be able to establish the presence of life on Earth by the spectrum of reflected ultraviolet, optical, and near-infrared sunlight into space from the surface and the atmosphere. An extraterrestrial watcher could also potentially learn of our technological civilization by detecting artificial nighttime lighting of large urban areas.
Optimists suggest that contact with extraterrestrials could bring about great benefits for humanity, while others note that contact with technological civilizations has often resulted in the collapse of stone-age societies on Earth. Contact with extraterrestrials could result in a number of consequences, so if the risk from transmission into space is non-zero, then should transmissions into space be permitted, regulated, or banned?
If human activities can be detected across astronomical distances, then should humanity cease or attempt to disguise such actions?
Does METI significantly increase risks to Earth and human civilization?”
Since our knowledge of advanced intelligent alien civilizations is nonexistent, there is no way for us to answer these questions. We do not know how extraterrestrial watchers would react if they intercepted a message originating from the Earth.
Perhaps they are hostile, but they could equally be compassionate and tolerant towards other species. We can only speculate because we lack the means to get inside the minds of the aliens.
However, we do know our own race and we d know that without scientific curiosity there is no progress. Humans have always been curios and we do take risks. If we never meet or contact any other alien intelligent species, regardless of the outcome, we will never get an answer to one of the most important questions that has been haunting us for a very long time: “Are we alone in the Universe?”
The day we have ultimate proof that we are not alone, everything will change. The moment of first contact will most likely mean the end of the world as we know it.