Reworking the SETI Paradox: METI's place on the Continuum of Astrobiological Signaling

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T. Cortellesi (2020), JBIS, 73, pp.260-267

Refcode: 2020.73.260
Keywords: METI, SETI, Astrobiology, Technosignatures, Biosignatures

Abstract:
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has heretofore been a largely passive exercise, reliant on the pursuit of technosignatures. Still, there are those that advocate a more active approach. Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) has had a controversial history within the larger SETI project; it is claimed that the risks involved outweigh any potential benefits. These arguments are ultimately not compelling, result in absurd policy recommendations, and rest on a faulty appreciation of the nature of technosignatures, whose detectability implies intent to signal. Present technology is advancing quickly such that we will soon have great observational reach, to the point of reliably detecting such technosignatures and biosignatures: a capability that can be matched or exceeded elsewhere. To escape the SETI Paradox properly defined, at least one technological civilization must choose not to suppress its own continuum of astrobiological signals, of which METI is merely the most effective endmember. Passive SETI’s low likelihood of success in the short-term is a serious obstacle to sustainable funding, alongside a ‘giggle factor’ enhanced by a pernicious fear of contact. The scientific community must integrate an active approach to better ensure both the continuity and eventual success of the SETI project.

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