2017 Will Be the Year We Decide Whether to Put a Call Out to Aliens

Image: BBC Screengrab bb.
Image: BBC Screengrab bb.
The search for extraterrestrial intelligent life in the universe may sound like science fiction to some, but it’s been a legitimate and active part of astronomy research for decades. Now, some researchers want to take the next step, from looking for signs of life to sending out signals and telling any aliens out there: “Hey, we’re down here!”

By Kaleigh Rogers | MOTHERBOARD

This idea has drawn criticism from the likes of Stephen Hawking and launched a debate that will come to a head this year as a young organization rolls out its plan to craft a message to blast out to potential aliens some time in 2018. METI International, launched in 2015, is a nonprofit research group that plans to start messaging by the end of next year. Their name means “messaging extraterrestrial intelligence” (a play on SETI, the “search for extraterrestrial intelligence”).

“One of the big questions has been: is this dangerous, to be transmitting to extraterrestrials?” said Douglas Vakoch, the president of METI International. “Maybe they’re having a bad millennium and they’re feeling malevolent. But if that’s the case, they can come anyway.”

The main criticism that arises is how little we know about any potential life forms out there, and if they’re unfriendly, alerting them to our existence could be fatal. They might decide to attack our planet for resources, or eliminate our entire species just for fun. Or, if they’re like the heptapods in Arrival, just trying to help unite us.

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