Renaissance Versus Revelation - The Timescale of the Interpretation and Assimilation of a Message from ETI

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S. Baxter (2009), JBIS, 62, 382-385

Refcode: 2009.62.382
Keywords: SETI, search for extraterrestrial intelligence, signal processing, post-detection, culture shock.

Abstract:
The speed with which data received from an ETI (extraterrestrial intelligence) is interpreted and assimilated by humanity will probably have a significant impact on its societal and other consequences. It is often assumed that a lengthy decryption and interpretation process would cushion the consequent shock to human culture. It is argued here that slowness of decryption may not be a safe assumption. For example, a signal could be specifically designed by the ETI for rapid decryption. The lengthy analysis of a heavily encrypted message might be analogous to the normal processes of science - a Renaissance - but an easily decrypted message might have an immediate impact - akin to a religious revelation - and would thereby be more likely to be destabilising.

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