Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Finding intelligent life like us elsewhere as a main goal

  1. Sep 1, 2014 #1
    I honestly think that this should be one of our main goals as a human race.

    Why should we do this?

    Because, we can gain so much by finding another intelligent race. Here is what we can gain:

    - Just look at all of the bodies of knowledge we have; philosophy, math, physics, science, biology, chemistry, government, literature and so on. Just think if we could gain all of the bodies of knowledge from another intelligent civilization? It would be like a renaissance. There would be new discoveries made and just think, what if they have already solved all of our physics problems for us and already combined general relativity with quantum theory?

    - Potential buyers. Yes, you could sell them things! If they are anything like us some of them will want to read our science papers and gain our knowledge too, but probably many of them would just be looking for entertainment. We could sell them our movies, books, music or anything that can be sent by light or radio waves though space. Of course this would only work practically is there were less than 10 or so light years away. If they are too far then it really isn't feasible.

    - Not only would it be a big discovery to find another intelligent civilization, but just think if that civilization actually knew another civilization as well. Then its a double bonus! You find just one, but that one knows others, so you discover all of them. It's like an explosion of discoveries!

    So basically why I think finding other intelligent civilizations is important is because we can gain lots of knowledge from them and we can advance ourselves from them. Just think if some civilization were 50,000 years ahead of us science wise. Well, by contacting them and gaining their knowledge we can super jump and advance ourselves. What if we could catch up to them in less time than 50,000 years? If it took them 50,000 years to get where they are today and we then do it in less that time then we will be advancing even faster then they were. Almost like a piggy back ride.

    I also say that if you really could sell things to them then that should get lots of investors and business people involved to raise up funds an order to seek out the potential alien buyers. I mean seriously our civilization is pretty much about one thing and that's making money and selling goods. So finding aliens on another planet is like a jackpot to them. Now you have billions of aliens to sell to. Billions of buyers. You could make tons of money!

    So I think that this should be somewhat a convincing strategy to get companies and investors to put up funds an order to find intelligent life on other planets. It's not just a discovery to them its a business investment and a way to find a whole new market to sell to.

    So maybe that's how the next hunt for extra solar life should be presented.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 1, 2014 #2
    I believe having a goal to find extraterrestrial intelligence today is very similar to a Neanderthal having the goal of soaring like a bird. Unless an extraterrestrial intelligence just happens to be directing a powerful signal at us and we happen to be listening (which does not seem likely), first contact is pretty far beyond us at the moment.

    The most fruitful thing to do right now is to continue to push for investment in exploring our own solar system and in exoplanet research, especially into developing the next generation of telescopes (and they probably would have to be space telescopes) to directly image the atmosphere of exoplanets.

    It is important not to get ahead of ourselves.
  4. Sep 1, 2014 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    You're an investor. You've mortgaged everything you've got, and want to invest smart.

    Would you pledge all your precious money to a scheme that has got less chance of success than winning the lottery, only with the first set of winning numbers being announced no sooner than in 10 years' time(╬▒Cen), the next fourteen or so numbers between 10 and 30 years later(http://www.solstation.com/stars/s20ly.htm)?

    And it's not even that "good", as SETI has had all the nearest targets covered already, so you can't really expect any result in your lifetime.

    This is completely skipping the subject of technological compatibility(imagine aliens sending radio signals to humanity 100-odd years ago), or ability to understand each other(perhaps you've read Carl Sagan's "Contact" and got all hyped and optimistic. I'd recommend S.Lem's "His master's voice" as a more grounded in reality counterpart).
  5. Sep 1, 2014 #4
    History has proved that we as a race are ambitious and curious. Also we are territorial and prone to fighting one another. Before we look for other alien life, it may be preferable for us to learn how to live together on one world. Also instead of using our technology to probe the limits of our reach - we should be learning how to make our own world accommodating and productive through innovative use of technology. We should render the abolition of self imposed slavery due to artificially imposed poverty in a world of plenty and uphold equality and respect for all citizens of earth. We are ahead of ourselves - sending devices to Mars before we have made our own deserts green.
  6. Sep 1, 2014 #5


    User Avatar
    2017 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    Apart from a purely historical view, would you be interested in products or scientific results from the stone age? Or anything produced by cats or dogs?

    Life on earth is about 4 billion years old, our radio telescopes exist for just a few decades. Even if we can communicate with another civilization (let's put that probability aside here), the chance that they are on a comparable technological level is tiny. The most likely result: from their perspective, we look as primitive as the people of the stone age (just 10000 years ago!), or even at the level of cats or dogs.

    Yes, we could learn a lot from those civilizations - if they are interested in having us as pets.
  7. Sep 1, 2014 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

  8. Sep 1, 2014 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Last edited: Sep 1, 2014
  9. Sep 1, 2014 #8
    If they are 50,000 years ahead of us scientifically I don't think that we would have anything that they would want. If they did want anything we have they could just take it.

    And if they are intelligent life like us the taking would involve violence and enslavement.
  10. Sep 2, 2014 #9
    People still read the Epic of Gilgamesh and go on vacation to visit 30,000 year old cave paintings and 5000 year old Ziggurats.
  11. Sep 2, 2014 #10


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Yeah, but it's of interest because it's our personal history. What would we have that an advanced alien race reaching our planet would want to PURCHASE? I mean, if they want to research our history, we have museums. We certainly wouldn't have technology they would need.

    Most likely, if an advanced alien race came here one of the following would be likely :tongue:

    1) to enslave us

    2) to wipe us out and colonize

    3) they're peddlers, they came to sell not buy

    4) they're pirates, they'll just take what they want

    5) we're food
  12. Sep 2, 2014 #11

    Filip Larsen

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Allow me to add

    6) They are altruistic or benevolent, see the state we are in, or the future we are heading towards, feel sorry for us and tries to help (much like a team of human scientists would be tempted to do if they arrived at civilization that lacked technology that we know). Extrapolating from our own history that would probably mean that over time some humans would have an improved life while others would end up worse, at least culturally speaking. I would guess that if such an alien culture was also wise they would just observe us and only interfere in case of an emergency (perhaps, say, a cataclysmic natural disaster).
  13. Sep 2, 2014 #12

    7) They're scientists and are just interested in studying us. Meaning they would not interfere and perhaps try not to show themselves. Much like we study animals today.
  14. Sep 2, 2014 #13
    I'm not going to pretend to know what the motivations of an ETI might be. That is far too speculative. I was just pointing out that the one thing we might actually offer that an ETI (which is presumably more advanced than us technologically) might want is 5,000 years of culture.


    Send more Chuck Berry
  15. Sep 3, 2014 #14
    That's possible. I've heard the argument before by Tyson that if they're way more advanced than us, it may be comparable to us having interest in a bug. But if we found even a bacterium on another planet, we'd be interested in it. I don't know, but I doubt any other civilization out there is so advanced that contact with aliens has become a banality.
  16. Sep 3, 2014 #15


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    It's incredible how much we have advanced technologically since we sent that embarrassing golden disc of whale songs in 1977.
  17. Sep 3, 2014 #16


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Yeah. They are already beginning to look like the technological equivalent of teen poetry. Might be a good idea to intercept and destroy the Voyagers some time in the future.
  18. Sep 3, 2014 #17


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    A few decades ago I saw a documentary that showed what was on the disc and I remember covering my face with my hands and wishing I could get off the planet. It was a hippie fest. Maybe if aliens do find it, they will decide to avoid us, thinking us too weird. Seriously, they might as well have put on that horrible old coke commercial with everyone holding hands and singing about buying the world a coke. That's what it reminded me of.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2014
  19. Sep 3, 2014 #18


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I agree, it was pretty bad. But I bet whenever stuff is sent to space as "representative" of human culture, it would look just as awkward and dated 37 years later! Maybe sooner!
  20. Sep 4, 2014 #19
    I wanted to add a few things to my original post.

    Some people, even big named physicists say that we are simply just not that interesting and are pretty much just compared to as ants or bugs.

    Now, while I understand that the universe doesn't revolve around us I do think however that finding intelligent life else where in the universe is an important and significant event for both parties involved!

    Even if we find aliens that are thousands of times more advanced than us I believe that they would still find value in contacting us and sharing information. They would probably love to learn all of the great things we have to offer.

    What if their biology is not based on DNA, but something else. Since we have a good understanding of our own biological makeup we could share this information with them and they would probably go nuts over it. Aliens learning and "discovering" DNA would probably be HEADLINE news on their planet.

    And this is just one case. What about our art, poetry, music, movies, plays, photography, video games?

    Heck if they got a chance to play The Sims, Solitaire, Poker, Grand Theft Auto and Flappy Birds then they would probably be addicts.

    Look at all of the wonderful things on this planet and just tell me that they wouldn't be amazed at what we have to show.

    For example, what if the aliens saw a frog for the first time? We have frogs and maybe they don't have anything like frogs on their planet. So seeing a frog to them is a BIG DEAL because its new and its something that they've never seen before.

    I would also like to state that just because they may have more advanced technology than us doesn't really necessarily mean that they are smarter than us. They might be more advanced simply because they have been around longer. We ourselves have advanced exponentially over the last 50 years.

    And like our civilization I don't think that all aliens will necessarily be intelligent. If you look at our world, you do have top scientists and smart people, but if you look at the general population usually people are just about average.

    So I would predict the same for an alien civilization as well. Of course there will be some very smart aliens, but what about your average alien? I'm willing to bet that an average alien on another planet would be pretty much like an average Joe living here on the planet Earth.

    All of the aliens of a particular planet will not all be super smart. There has to be a variety and a distribution of intelligences.

    There really is a lot of offer on both parties and I believe that it really is a smart choice to make contact with other technological races, for us and for them..... its a good move to make.
  21. Sep 5, 2014 #20
    If we do find intelligent life outside of Earth, I do not think there is much we can predict about it a priori. They could be interested in us (which could be good or bad) or completely apathetic.

    Also, there is a reasonable chance that they might not have "biology" at all. The way our society is going, it is not unreasonable to believe that we may reach the point where we become biologically extinct but intelligent machines continue to exist.

    At this point, I would say you are putting the cart a bit ahead of the horse. Just detecting signs of technology in the atmosphere of an exoplanet would be a major discovery for us. We can worry about whether they like Beethoven later.
  22. Sep 5, 2014 #21


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper


    8) They're missionaries.

    They'll demand we convert to their religion (while also enslaving us).

    Which, in their minds at least, would be equivalent to 6)
  23. Sep 5, 2014 #22


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    What sort of currency would you use to sell and buy things from a race at least 10 light years away?
  24. Sep 5, 2014 #23


    User Avatar
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    Tachyon dollars? :tongue2:
  25. Sep 5, 2014 #24
    Does there?
  26. Sep 5, 2014 #25


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'd settle for finding intelligent life on our own planet first.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook