Why SETI is a waste of time – take 1

Remember SETI – the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence?

Here is reason #1 that it is a waste of time (based on logical and reasoning):

Time, Evolution and Development

Our current state of civilisation is such that we have only learned how to use and exploit radio waves (which is what SETI looks for) in the last 150 years.

150 years in cosmological terms is a drop in the ocean.

The assumption is that there is some other civilisation who has reached a similar level of technological development to us. This may be reasonable seeing as the universe is postulated as starting from a very small point in space and has been expanding ever since.

The problem is that given the vast distances involved (many light years), it does not take much to figure out that radio transmissions from any similarly advanced civilisation in some other galaxy are going to take a damn long time to get here.

So, its all based on 2 big assumptions:

1. This other civilisation has reached at about the same time as us, or before, a similar level of technology.

2. The time taken for their version of Neighbours or Happy Days to reach us is immaterial, or small compared to the rate of technological development.

This means there needs to be a very small overlap in time periods (theirs & ours), allowing for time to travel the distance, during which technology is developed, deployed and in use.

For all we know there might be many planets teeming with ants, or gorillas, or iguana, but which have never taken the next step on to develop radio and TV. Maybe that just means they are smarter than us and don’t like shock jocks and soap operas.

In cosmological time, the period in which technology is available to us is infinitesimally small, and the same will apply to any other intelligent life forms. The chance of an overlap is improbably small.

One Comment

I am always amused that the old episodes of Dr Who and other sci-fi programs show that all ‘civilizations’ are mirror images of ours frequently with suits of armour and values like Earth had at some time in the past. They always speak English and all planets have oxygen and a carbon based system. There seems to be no reason at all why any civilization should have values similar to ours let alone radio any other ‘civilization’ is just as likely [more likely?] to be malevolent than benign. I suppose it does no harm to search but to make contact is another question again.

Comment by DG Q | August 29th, 2005 8:12 pm | Permalink

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