The man who is leading the search for alien life, the Director at SETI, Seth Shostak likens his hunt to that in the movie “Contact.” He answered questions on Tuesday as part of an AMA yesterday on Reddit. Here are the highlights:

  • Hyper-predatory civilization that hunts and destroys other civilizations around the universe?
    Not likely. He says he "doubt[s] it. Space is big, and it's hard for one entity to control much of it.”
  • He agrees on “AI being the dominant form of intelligence in the cosmos.” The most advanced aliens would likely be superintelligent AI.
  • If SETI does find life, no matter what it looks like, they will tell us.
    “Nothing classified here. The only protocol is to check out the signal, and make sure everyone knows about it.”
  • Have we actually heard other life already? What about the Wow! signal?
    “There were hundreds of such signals in the early days of SETI ... I suspect they were all terrestrial interference.”
  • Concerning China's Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) coming in 2016: "The Chinese telescope is going to be bigger than the biggest single-dish antenna in the world: Arecibo. So yes, it will be more sensitive. And yes, I hope we can do something together with these guys."
  • One user questioned, “How do I know you're not an alien trying to thwart our attempts at finding alien life?”
    To which Shostak exclaimed, “You don’t!”
  • To people who think listening to radio waves to try and maybe or maybe not hear aliens is worthless:
    “Ah, all exploration seems kind of frivolous to some folks. And that's what SETI is: exploration. But in the end, this kind of work, motivated by nothing more than curiosity, has the power to change the course of humanity. I obviously don't consider that ‘worthless.’”
  • How much of the Universe have SETI efforts covered so far?
    “Very little. A few thousand star systems.”

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