“If the Perseverance rover finds evidence of microbes on Mars, our self-esteem will not suffer, as it is clear that we are more intelligent than they are,” Harvard’s Avi Loeb wrote in an email to the Daily Galaxy, which asked him what he thought of the impact of the evidence for an advanced alien civilization.
“But if the rover hits the wreckage of a spacecraft far more advanced than we’ve ever built, our egos will be challenged.”
“The illusion of superiority and unjustified arrogance is deeply rooted in human nature. This led the Nazi regime during World War II to cause the deaths of more than 70 million people, or 3% of the world’s population, an order of magnitude higher than the death toll caused by the COVID-19 virus. The minor genetic differences that motivated Nazism would seem ludicrous in the presence of a much more advanced civilization,” Loeb noted in his email.
“It is often argued,” Loeb noted, “that the general public already believes that we are not alone in the universe, and therefore the social consequences of looking for technological signs of another civilization will be negligible. However, this argument is wrong.
“Humanity’s reaction to such a discovery will largely depend on the details of the results: is the equipment autonomous or robotic, is it controlled by biological or artificial intelligence, does it represent a life form that we have never seen, and, finally, what are its intentions?”.
“Humans are currently experiencing an AI revolution that suggests something similar could be happening elsewhere in the universe,” says Susan Schneider, director of the Center for the Mind of the Future, and William F. Dietrich, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy of Mind, Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute, Atlantic University Florida, who wrote about the intersection of SETI and AI.
“Once society has developed the technology that could bring them into contact with the cosmos, she notes, they will only be a few hundred years away from changing their own paradigm from biology to artificial intelligence.”
In his email, Loeb explained: “Our historical migration out of Africa began about a hundred thousand years ago, but future migration from Earth could be triggered by a dialogue with a messenger from afar that is unlike anything we have seen before.
“Protocols for contacting extraterrestrial intelligence were largely inspired in the past by the ability to detect radio signals from planets around distant stars. Given that the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, is 4.4 light years away, it would take a decade or more for such signals to be transmitted back and forth. As a result, they have no implications for our immediate future.
“But a different type of contact can lead to quick consequences,” Loeb notes. “This refers to physical objects from another civilization that are already here and waiting to be noticed, like a package in our mailbox. Arriving equipment doesn’t have to be mindless, but may have artificial intelligence (AI) that looks for information about habitable planets around the sun.
“This type of meeting implies instant contact without significant delay in communication time. The ability to communicate immediately changes the response protocol with respect to the delayed radio signal.”
In early 2021, political news website The Hill reported that video footage of an unidentified flying object had been leaked online, raising questions that are still unanswered. The video, obtained by documentary filmmaker Jeremy Corbell, was recorded by the US Navy and shows a spherical object flying and zipping over water off the coast of San Diego for several minutes before sinking into the ocean.
“Why does science have to be boring?” Loeb asks, referring to the Navy video. “Here we are talking about a discovery that would change the history of mankind, so how dare we dismiss it.“