At a recent meeting of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Astrobiology Science Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe, held here at the University of California, Irvine, Tarter explained that the phrase “search for extraterrestrial intelligence” generates an incorrect perception of what scientists in this field are actually doing. A more appropriate title for the field, she said, would be “the search for technosignatures,” or signs of technology created by intelligent alien civilizations. [13 Ways to Hunt Intelligent Aliens]
At this point, she verges on parody:
Science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke wrote that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” which would mean that alien technology could be as mysterious and unexplainable to humans as technologies that appear in science-fiction TV shows and movies. That opens up a dauntingly large range of possibilities for what technosignatures might look like. What if an alien civilization were communicating via a mechanism that Earth-based scientists haven’t discovered yet? Would humans immediately recognize these “magical” technosignatures, or would we not see them as unnatural?
Tarter said she prefers to focus on a slight alteration of Clarke’s prediction written by the futurist Karl Schroeder: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature.”
“[The system] will be so efficient that there will be no wastage, and [it] will appear to be natural,” Tarter said. If this prediction is correct, it might also be impossible for humans to identify technosignatures from very advanced civilizations. But Tarter uses it as a jumping-off point to brainstorm how scientists might identify technologies that have not yet reached that level of sophistication. More.
What is it about a “technosignature that, for any practical purpose, distinguishes it from a work of intelligence?
Creation-Evolution Headlines asks,
As reported often here since 12/03/05, SETI is de facto intelligent design science. Its practitioners are to a large degree atheistic naturalists, believing that everything, including life and intelligence, emerged from a physical big bang. They are often adamant in their denunciations of creationism and intelligent design. And yet, curiously, their mission has depended on the ability to differentiate intelligent causes from natural causes, which is the core aim of intelligent design. Can they escape the conundrum by rebranding their work?
The rebranding proposal is self-defeating. If alien technology that leaves technosignatures is not caused intentionally by intelligent minds, then our own human minds reduce to natural causes, and nothing we do has any purpose or direction. Technology just ’emerges’ magically. Stuff Happens. More.
SETI is trying to align its work with the growing conviction among naturalist atheists that consciousness and intelligence are illusions. (In their true Darwinian scheme, the only reality is the exercise of raw power.)
SETI’s role will dwindle to simply denouncing ID. It will find donors. Too bad, but the SETIs chose that. Maybe the aliens are laughing now.
See also: SETI prediction: Evidence for aliens by 2035 if they exist (October 2017)
Authors of SETI paper defend selves against charges of support for ID
But surely we can’t conjure an entire advanced civilization?
How do we grapple with the idea that ET might not be out there?