One of the problems with accurately predicting technology of the future is that it doesn't exist yet. Obviously. So the tendency is to extrapolate based on existing technology. That's why sci-fi movies and TV shows in the fifties imagined home computers in the year 2000 as being massive refrigerator-sized boxes. Nobody could imagine that computers could one day be made small enough to fit into a cell phone.

Something similar happened when the SETI project was established. It seemed a simple enough project; Earth generated radio signals with powerful ground-based transmitters that reached into deep space. The theory was that every society similar or more advanced than Earth's would send out similar radio signals. All we needed to do is scan for those radio signals and we'd find proof of extraterrestrial life.

But what's happened over the past fifty years is that new technology, such as satellites that broadcast focused radio signals towards Earth, has made radio signals much fainter. In fact, it's believed that within a few years, Earth won't generate any detectable radio signals at all. If another alien race followed the same technological path, then there's no way we would be able to detect them, unless they actively broadcast those signals to us. Of course, that's assuming they haven't developed a technology that we can't even imagine that would make radio transmitters look like those refrigerator-sized computers from the fifties. Now SETI just looks kind of...quaint. Sort of like if someone in the 1800s said, "Say, I've got an idea! Let's set up a project to detect alien Morse code! Because of course, every planet would be using Morse code! I mean, what else would they be using?" Or in the caveman era, if someone said, "Hey, let's all look around for rocks with drawings on them that aliens might have thrown into space! Because what else would they be using to communicate?"

What do you make of SETI? Let us know in the comments!
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Mauricem said...

Cavemen throwing rocks. LOL Its weird to think that technology would change so drastically. Of course, the guy who got fired for running SETI@home on his job must be kicking himself.


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