Future Space Exploration

Should we communicate with aliens, or leave them alone?
Answered by Jill Tarter
  • Jill Tarter

    Jill Tarter

  1. Jill Tarter Director, Center for SETI Research, SETI Institute


    Stephen Hawking said, "Don't transmit. Don't let 'em know you're here. It's not going to turn out very nice if they show up on our doorstep." No one knows, because this hasn't happened, and so there are no experts. But I would give you a counter argument which is that to have successful communication and contact, technologies have to survive for a long time. If a technology is going to survive and is already old, it's done something about controlling its population. It's done something to outgrow the aggressiveness. Hopefully it hasn't outgrown its curiosity so it's still eager to know what other instances of intelligent life have arisen in the galaxy. It's hard for me to conceive how you can get really old and stay aggressive.

    So I don't know whether they're a threat or not, but I will say it's already too late. That particular horse is already out of the barn. We have been transmitting and leaking radiation from our broadcast capabilities for almost 100 years. So there's a bubble around the Earth and it's getting bigger and weaker every year, but for an advanced technology it will be detectable.

    And so I think it's a really good thing about which to have a conversation, about whether we should transmit deliberately or not. This is the global consensus idea again. And you know, this has been something we've been saying for all the years I've worked on SETI. We really ought to discuss whether we should broadcast because these different ideas of different traditions and different individuals, some fear it, some think it's not in fact a threat, let's have a discussion. But how do you have a discussion with the world, right?

    We've held conferences. So we're talking about First World populations. It's really hard to get the Third World involved. And very unsatisfactory. But maybe just now with all the social media. I mean the first technology adopted in an emerging nation is a mobile platform. It's a cell phone. That actually might be able to allow us to begin a global conversation, to get points of view, and I think it's an interesting experiment to think about trying. So we've been talking to some people about how you might do this, how you moderate it and how you make any sense out of what transpires.

    More answers from Jill Tarter »

Still Curious?
  • What was the Gemini Agena Target Vehicle (GATV)?

    Answered by Discovery Channel

  • How was a lunar mission completed?

    Answered by Discovery Channel

  • Which Apollo missions came after the moon landing?

    Answered by Discovery Channel


What are you curious about?

Image Gallery