As autumn brings with it cooler temperatures and clearer night skies, Douglas Vakoch, president of Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), wants you to take the opportunity to survey the glory of our galaxy — and to contemplate the existence of alien life.
“You look at the night sky — virtually all of those stars have planets,” Rosenberg said in an exclusive interview with Futurism. “Maybe one out of five has it at just the right zone where there’s liquid water. And so we know there are a lot of places that there could be life. Now the big question is, are they actually trying to make contact, or do they want us to try?”
METI’s stance is that we should assume the latter, and the collection of scientists have taken it upon themselves to reach out to any potential alien civilizations. In fact, the next transmission planned for next year. However, there have long been voices opposed to this strategy — perhaps the most prominent of which being Stephen Hawking.
Hawking, a noted physicist and author, supports the search for aliens, but regularly cautions against attempting contact. Hawking argued in “Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places,” a video on the platform CuriosityStream, that aliens could be “vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”
These are not warnings that Vakoch takes lightly. “Well, when Stephen Hawking, a brilliant cosmologist, has said, ‘whatever you do, don’t transmit, we don’t want the aliens to come to Earth,’ You’ve got to take it seriously,” Vakoch told Futurism.
But there’s one key point that Hawking really doesn’t seem to take into consideration in this assessment, Vakoch said.
It’s the fact that every civilization that does have the ability to travel to Earth could already pick up I Love Lucy. So we have been sending our existence into space with radio signals for 78 years. Even before that, two and a half billion years, we have been telling the Universe that there is life on here because of the oxygen in our atmosphere. So if there’s any alien out there paranoid about competition, it could have already come and wipe us out. If they’re on their way, it’s a lot better strategy to say we’re interested in being conversational partners. Let’s strike up a new conversation.
It’s Vakoch’s belief that humanity’s first contact with alien life will occur within our lifetimes. But even if it does not, he believes the METI project will be foundational to any relationship our world builds with others.
“Sometimes people talk about this interstellar communication as an effort to join the galactic club. What I find so strange is no one ever talks about paying our dues or even submitting an application. And that’s what METI does,” Vakoch said. “It’s actually contributing something to the galaxy instead of saying gimme gimme gimme me. What can we do for someone else.”