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Worlds Without End Blog

69 Reasons not to Send a Message to Space Posted at 3:28 PM by Rico Simpkins


The Jamesburg Earth Station, a communications dish just outside Carmel, California, is currently pointing into space.  Unlike most such dishes, it isn’t passive:

Instead of listening for ET, like SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), or waiting for ET, like the wonderfully humorous WETI (Wait For Extraterrestrial Intelligence – success to-date is 100%, they note) the METI movement is proactively messaging the universe.

David Brin isn’t so sure this is a good idea:

Let there be no mistake. METI is a very different thing than passively sifting for signals from the outer space. Carl Sagan, one of the greatest SETI supporters and a deep believer in the notion of altruistic alien civilizations, called such a move deeply unwise and immature. (Even Frank Drake, who famously sent the “Arecibo Message” toward the Andromeda Galaxy in 1974, considered “Active Seti to be, at best, a stunt and generally a waste of time.) Sagan — along with early SETI pioneer Philip Morrison — recommended that the newest children in a strange and uncertain cosmos should listen quietly for a long time, patiently learning about the universe and comparing notes, before shouting into an unknown jungle that we do not understand.

The body of science fiction works seems to support Mr. Brin’s view.  A blank search of the WWEnd database’s “alien invasion” subgenre tag (through Booktrackr) netted 69 books.  Here’s just a few:

The Alien Years Good News from Outer Space Starship Troopers Camouflage The Star Fox The Ophiuchi Hotline Bill the Galactic Hero The Day of the Triffids The Humanoids The War of the Worlds The Persistence of Vision The Silent Invaders

1 Comment

David Brin   |   25 Jun 2013 @ 13:01

Well well. it is less as a sci fi author and more as an astronomer, with 30 years in SETI, that I have opposed these silly “shouting yoohoo at ET” stunts. Folks who want to learn more might start at:

In fact, you can’t blame sci fi for going after the more dangerous possible outcomes of first contact. After all, your job as an author is to deliver adventure! Well, adventure packed with ideas, of course. Have a look at this:

But seriously. does sci fi do a disservice by harping on possible gloom-doom scenarios?
Are there tradeoffs?

Worth sober thought and discussion.

best to all.
david brin

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