Outer Space

METI is Planning to Contact Aliens in 2018, and Not Everyone is Excited About That

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who think humanity should try to talk to aliens, and those who want to avoid that scenario like the plague. The Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) group exists to serve the former camp. Why not, right? Well, there are plenty of reasons why not. Just ask Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk why METI's 2018 plan is not a good one.

Anybody Out There?

Humans are social animals. We're so social, in fact, that some of us are looking to the sky for more ways to fulfill our conversational cravings. Enter METI. The San Francisco-based organization is preparing to send continuous messages to potentially habitable nearby planets in 2018. We're talking about shooting out coded signals to the planets orbiting Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to our sun.

Douglas Vakoch, president of METI and former director of Interstellar Message Composition at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), believes we should be proactive in communicating with alien intelligence to get our message out there ASAP. "It's too late to conceal ourselves in the universe, so we should decide how we want to represent ourselves," Vakoch tells Forbes. "Extraterrestrials may be waiting for a clear indication from us that we're ready to start talking."

Okay, New Plan

Attempting to contact aliens isn't a new mission. We've been trying to reach out to E.T. in some capacity since Carl Sagan helped pen the Arecibo Message in the '70s. Need we remind you of Voyager's golden records?

Though we've sent messages out into the ether before, METI is taking a new approach. Because previous attempts at communication assumed aliens are vision-based like humans are, we need a plan B if they're not. Vakoch believes a more universal-type messaging is needed. Based on Hans Freudenthal's ''Lincos: Design of a Language for Cosmic Intercourse,'' Vakoch believes a series of pulses sent out into the cosmic could be used to build up a sort of language. So, six pulses could be followed by the "word" for six. Instead of showing a picture of a cow and saying "cow," Lincos is sort of a way to point at something without having the thing right in front of you.

Another, more anxiety-inducing option METI is considering includes sending the entire content of the internet out towards planets we think might contain life. And as we all know, the internet is such a life-affirming place filled with nothing but double rainbows and love.

I Wouldn't Do That If I Were You...

Sounds fun, right? Making some alien friends? Having a quick convo with Marvin the Martian? Pen pals on Pluto? You're looking at the universe through rose-colored glasses, but plenty of people are not. Stephen Hawking, for one, thinks communicating with aliens could endanger humanity. According to the New York Times, Elon Musk also warns that "an assumption of interstellar friendship" isn't the best way to approach extraterrestrial life. Which side are you on?

Want to learn more about our search for life beyond Earth? Check out "All These Worlds Are Yours: The Scientific Search for Alien Life" by astronomer Jon Willis. The audiobook is free with a trial of Audible, and your click helps to support Curiosity.

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Written By Curiosity Staff October 30, 2017