(ORDO NEWS) — Oxford scientists are concerned that the US agency’s efforts to communicate with aliens could be dangerous.
Scientists at the University of Oxford in the UK are sounding the alarm about NASA’s plans to send location data and other information into space, warning that the effort could have dangerous unintended consequences, including provoking an alien invasion.
This is the planned “Beacon in the Galaxy” (BITG), a data transmission by a NASA-led research team to welcome “extraterrestrial intelligences”.
The US space agency wants to transmit a signal from the Allen Telescope of the SETI Institute in California and China’s 500m Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST).
It will include information such as the biochemical composition of life on Earth, the position of the solar system in the Milky Way with reference to time, digitized images of humans, and an invitation to aliens to respond.
Anders Sandberg, a senior fellow at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute (FHI), argues that such a broadcast could be risky. In the unlikely event that an alien civilization receives the message, he says, the response may not be just a friendly greeting.
The search for alien life has a “giggle factor,” Sandberg told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper in an article published Sunday. “A lot of people refuse to take anything about it seriously, which is a shame because it’s so important.”
Another Oxford FHI scientist, Toby Ord, has suggested that a public comment be held before signals are sent to aliens. Even listening to incoming messages can be dangerous, he added, as they can be used to lure earthlings into a trap. “These hazards are small, but poorly understood and not yet manageable,” he said.
Ord insists that there is no scientific consensus on the balance between peaceful and hostile civilizations in the galaxy. “Given that the negative side can be much larger than the positive, it seems to me that this is not a good situation for active steps to establish contact,” he said.
In the past, weaker signals were transmitted to space using earlier technologies, such as the Arecibo message sent in 1974. Russian scientists conducted a series of such broadcasts called “Space Challenges” in 1999 and 2003. Sandberg suggested that “the poor aliens may already be receiving various messages sent for all sorts of reasons.”
Scientists from the BITG group suggested that an alien species that is advanced enough to provide communication through space “most likely has achieved a high level of cooperation among themselves and therefore knows the importance of peace and cooperation.”
Canadian futurist George Dworsky dismissed this theory, saying he could come up with “many scenarios” in which aliens with malevolent tendencies continue to exist.
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