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Re: SETI public: To kick things off...



David wrote (of an ETI using sonar as its primary mode of perception):
>Bang goes their ability to target a radio transmission.  Not a realistic
>candidate for detection.

David, with huge respect - your expertise on microwave technology is 
unsurpassed, and your contributions ot the list have always been 
invaluable - your response on this matter is simply wrong. Why on Earth 
(or wherever) couldn't a sonar-using being develop radio. do we have 
radio because we have eyes? When did you last *see* a radio wave? We only 
'see' them on instruments designed to convert radio into a mode we can 
see - images. A sonar-using EIT would simply translate them into 
something that *it* could 'see'.

Could you discover radio without eyes? Of course. First, radio was 
deduced mathematically from basic physical principles. Second, radio's 
first developments were without exception *audible* experiments. Not a 
picture in sight. We developed radio because we had: intelligence, the 
ability to make tools (particularly electrical instruments), and ears. 
Which of these is it that you think a sonar-ETI would not posess?! Are 
blind people uanble to use radio? (If so, don't tell Kent Cullers!)

And a radio telescope / array / whatever is just a form of radio receiver 
- astronomy follows, without any need for optical observation. We had 
optical telescopes for hundreds of years before we developed radio 
telescopes. Maybe this hypothetical being would develop them the other 
way round - but there is no realistic barrier to developing instruments 
which look at aspects of the world which are not directly available to 
our own perceptions. ETI would be able to develop magnetometers, x-ray 
diffractors, radio receivers, seismographs, radar, you name it - just as 
we have. Because our possession of eyes had nothing to do with it - it is 
simply the mode in which we operate. It's just they would have to develop 
a different display technology.

Which brings me to Marcus' point, in a roundabout way. Marcus seems to be 
saying that decoding messages is simply not an issue because the only 
significant thing is knowledge of ETI's existence. But a few things bothe 
me.

Marcus wrote:
>It is not all doom and gloom and hopelessness. We are certainly capable of 
>recognizing the corporeal existence of non-terrestrial life forms, if the 
>right evidence presented itself. 

No one said it was all gloom and hopelessness. I agree with you, Marcus. 
But I worry that maybe we are only looking for beings that are 
extraordinarily like us, and that any other form of intelligence might be 
indistinguishable from noise to our limited perceptiual and cultural 
filters.

>The Seti League is not here to communicate or decode ET information. It is 
>here to detect. That is Boolean.

And  the SETI League *list* is here to discuss broader matters relating 
to SETI - such as what happens if we ever do detect a signal, confirm it, 
and construct a large anough RT to detect and record the modulation - and 
are lucky enough to find (a) it's a message, and (b) that we managed to 
get all of it on a repeat cycle.

Of course, a more realistic scenario is a one-off detection event with no 
chance of recovering further meaningful data. This should not stop us 
thinking about the way ETI might communicate, because the whole sETI 
endeavour is *based* on the premise that ETI is communicating - at least 
among themselves, and excepting the chance that we detect a radar pulse. 
So I count this speculation as useful even if it just helps us consider 
potential alternative search strategies.

While we're ont he subject, though. If the most realistic scenario is a 
one-off hit - then who is going to do the confirmation? What exactly 
*will* be taken as convincing proof of the existence of ETI? How well 
would we do these days with another 'wow' signal?

>It is fine the theorize about the future need to decode. But don't give up 
>a-priori just because we cannot have a meaningful discussion with the 
>dolphins.

No one's advocating giving up. I am describing the potential scale of the 
challenge we all hope we may one day face. The prospect excites me 
hugely. And I am not alone thinking this is a challenge. Eric Davies 
mentioned papers by Dug Vakoch (now at the SETI Institute): please, all 
of you, if you can, read them, they are thought-provoking and disturbing.

BTW, my point about dolphins is subtly different from the one you 
suggest, Marcus. It is that we don't even know if the there is any 
meaning in there worth attempting to extract. My own best guess is that 
there is dolphin-style meaning, but not human-style meaning. So I return 
to my original point: EIT-style meaning may be as rich and complex as our 
own, but so profoundly at odds with our own way of thinking and 
perceiving that mutual - or even one-way - comprehension is simply not a 
possibility. We might well end up concluding that ETI was intelligent 
(can build radios), but is not remotely sentient in the human sense. 
there may be no point of correspondence at all. We would be left only 
with the knowledge that something was there. If we were lucky, Daniel 
would be right and we would find it was possible to observe them further; 
but that might just deepen the sense of impenetrability.

For my part, I am hopeful that this will not be so. But to dismiss the 
possibility is (IMHO) proof of anthropomorphic thinking. And I worry that 
anthropomorphic thinking may be what prevents us finding ETI in the first 
place.

With best wishes to you all,

Richard