The search for aliens is something that we cannot stop ourselves from doing. We can’t figure out why, with the Universe(s) as mind bendingly enormous as they are, we shouldn’t be able to say hello to someone.
A theory called ‘Contact Inequality’ says it is relatively unlikely that we will meet aliens of the same level of technology as us. Advanced civilisations, of course, can just appear and say hello, but the point is that if you were an alien searching for us, there wouldn’t be that much of a signature to look for. How would we see all the space junk in orbit around Earth or the light signatures of cities if you were 32 light-years away and had our technology? All you would possibly get would be TV programs from 1989.
This is about to change.
The James Webb Telescope is about to go into orbit. And the James Webb Telescope makes the Hubble Telescope look like a toy. With it, the search for aliens takes a big step forward as it will be able to identify those light signatures and crashed probes on circling planets.
Of course, one problem is that if we found evidence of aliens with our own level or slightly more advanced level of technology, how do we go about meeting? It will take many, many years.
The famous theoretical physics professor Michio Kaku believes three things.
First, that we have basically nailed the Theory of Everything (42, obviously).
Second, that we will meet aliens within the next century.
Third, he thinks meeting aliens is a ‘terrible idea’.
In Kaku’s mind, it is a terrible idea because when Montezuma met Cortes, things did not go well for Montezuma and an entire population of people.
The other point, of course, is how do we communicate. It is entirely likely that ‘conversation’ will not be what our aliens do. They might be more like dolphins or birds, chirping and beeping sounds that mean ‘this is my patch, get off’ and ‘there’s a killer whale behind you’. Whatever happens, it will probably go as wrong as some of the disastrous encounters ‘advanced’ civilisations have had on less advanced ones on our own planets.
While we can hope that our search for aliens is about to get a big boost from the new telescope, we should be putting as much thought into what we say when we meet them. And how.
Maybe we should ask the advanced civilisation that has already been here to say ‘hi’.