From Marina Koren at the Atlantic:
As recently as January of this year, Tarter suggested a rebranding for seti. “Seti is not the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. We can’t define intelligence, and we sure as hell don’t know how to detect it remotely,” she said. Seti “is searching for evidence of someone else’s technology. We use technology as a proxy for intelligence.” Call it sett instead, she said.
NASA does not, we are told, recognize SETI as part of astrobiology. Call that prejudice if you like, or call it an unwillingness to be seen spending tax money on a search for little green men when attested phenomena out there await exploration.
With the House bill on the table, Tarter says she will do what she can, as she has for years, to rally support among the decision-makers, especially the people who hold the purse strings. Seti needs funding from both private and government sources, she says. And, after years of starts and stops, triumphs and disappointments, seti needs consistency.
“Ten million at once for one year won’t do much,” Tarter said. “But $10 million a year, as an ongoing funding stream, could do a great deal. It could allow people to build special-purpose instrumentation, and then use it on the sky for a long time.” More.
At this point, SETI might be on to something. It is now a search, specifically, for intelligent design – evidence of technology that could only arise through the application of intelligence to nature. Unless, of course, one thinks that consciousness is just an illusion anyway.
Question: If consciousness is just an illusion, why couldn’t the products of high-tech form by themselves, Boltzmann brain-style?
See also: Suzan Mazur: NASA, tax dollars, space aliens, and religion… Of course, it’s yet to be determined that most religious people have much invested in the matter one way or the other, relative to their irreligious neighbours.
But surely we can’t conjure an entire advanced civilization?
How do we grapple with the idea that ET might not be out there?