The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute has spent decades researching and exploring the mysterious, and often unexplained, phenomena of our universe. The enduring hope being that the search will help us confirm that there is, in fact, life out there. In an interview with Futurism at the Worlds Fair Nano NY, Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, discussed where we currently are in the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life. He began by boldy stating that he “bet everybody a cup of coffee that we’ll find intelligent life within 20 years.”
When asked what science has to say currently about the existence of aliens, Shostak said, “Very little — because we haven’t found any.” Shostak went on to say that while we may not have found evidence confirming extraterrestrial life yet, what we have discovered about our universe, say, over the last 20 years, has not been insignificant. In fact, those findings might mean a lot to our search. One thing we know now that we didn’t know decades ago is that there’s a lot of unexplored cosmic real estate out there.
Shostak went on to discuss the likelihood and nature of discovering alien life somewhere out there in the as yet uncharted parts of our universe: “We may find microbial life — the kind you’d find in the corners of your bathtub. We may find that a lot sooner, but that remains to be seen. But it’s gonna happen, I think, in your lifetime.”
While Shostak is confident that, not just eventually but relatively soon, we will discover the existence of extraterrestrial intelligent life, making “contact” may not go quite according to what we would imagine. What decades of science fiction would have us believe it would be like. “I don’t know about contact,” Shostak said. “I mean if they’re 500 light years away. . .you’ll hear a signal that’ll be 500 years old, and if you broadcast back ‘Hi we’re the Earthlings, how’re you doing?’ — it’ll be 1,000 years before you hear back from them. If you ever hear back from them. So, it’s not exactly contact, but at least you know they’re there.”