We’re looking in the wrong places (because all aliens are robots).
Humans invented the radio around 1900, built the first computer in 1945 and are now in the business of mass-producing handheld devices capable of making billions of calculations per second. Full-blown artificial intelligence may be right around the corner, and futurist Seth Shostak said that’s reason enough to reframe our search for intelligent aliens. Simply put, we should be looking for machines, not little green men.
“Any [alien] society that invents radio, so we can hear them, within a few centuries, they’ve invented their successors,” Shostak said at the Dent:Space conference in San Francisco in 2016. “And I think that’s important, because the successors are machines.”
A truly advanced alien society may be completely populated by super-intelligent robots, Shostak said, and that should inform our search for aliens. Instead of focusing all our resources on finding other habitable planets, perhaps we should also look to places that would be more attractive to machines — say, places with lots of energy, like the centers of galaxies. “We’re looking for analogues of ourselves,” Shostak said, “but I don’t know that that’s the majority of the intelligence in the universe.”
We’ve already found aliens (but are too distracted to realize it).
Thanks to pop culture, the word “alien” probably makes you envision a spooky humanoid with a big, bald head. That’s fine for Hollywood — but these preconceived images of E.T. could sabotage our search for alien life, a team of psychologists from Spain wrote earlier this year.
In a small study, the researchers asked 137 people to look at pictures of other planets and scan the images for signs of alien structures. Hidden among several of these images was a tiny man in a gorilla suit. As the participants hunted for what they imagined alien life to look like, only about 30 percent noticed the gorilla man.
In reality, aliens probably won’t look anything like apes; they may not even be detectable by light and sound waves, the researchers wrote. So, what does this study show us? Basically, our own imagination and attention span limit our search for extraterrestrialsy. If we don’t learn to broaden our frames of reference, we could miss the gorilla staring us in the face.