Is Anybody Out There? The Search for Intelligence in the Universe

Jill Tarter who has long worked with SETI.

Jill Tarter who has long worked with SETI.

The title assumes that humans are intelligent and we are in the sense that we've been pretty good at developing advanced civilization, culture, and technology. We are exploring the solar system and the universe and so far as we know, we're the only species of intelligent life in the universe. Unfortunately, humanity might not have the cultural intelligence to control our technological development for much longer. Within all of our advancements, there are threats, the threat of war, nuclear war, environmental catastrophe, climate change, the diminishment of biodiversity and species extinction to name a few. 

Which brings me to why I'm posting today. I just listened to a conversation on Point of Inquiry podcast that covered areas of interest that characterize my world view almost completely. It covered what I have been thinking about for decades. 

Subjects covered include:

  • The search for extraterrestrial intelligence in the universe.
  • Developing a culture that thinks long term, instead of the usual what can I get tomorrow.
  • Human consciousness and artificial intelligence.
  • How we listen for extraterrestrial technology.
  • Cultural evolution.

I have often been frustrated when observing that issues we fought over one hundred years ago or fifty years ago are still with us today. It seems we are not learning from history. Our struggles stay with us generation after generation and only our tools change. 

I feel that if we could find a more efficient way for human culture to evolve - and let me use a metaphor here rather than spell out what I mean by human cultural evolution in several long winded paragraphs - we would eventually figure nature and ourselves out to such a degree that something like a Star Trek utopian, ever expanding and learning human culture could exist. 

And I wouldn't mind it at all if science became our new religion. Metaphorically speaking of course. Learning about how nature works is awesome. Learning about people, human culture, society, human thought processes and emotion - now that's a really complex puzzle and one worthy of solving through our innate curiosity and sense of adventure. 

Unfortunately, I'm sad that our incentives are so misaligned and twisted; that powerful business lobbies can be so destructive that we are forced to bear witness in our lifetime to things like the sixth extinction and rapid climate change. Realities that threaten the very existence of human civilization. 

It seems more urgent than ever for human cultures to put their many petty differences aside and come together to address these existential issues once and for all. 

Our global institutions have failed to achieve a truly global and peaceful world culture. They must be reengineered and made more effective as soon as possible. The people will have to make this happen. Many of our global governments are simply too short sighted to get the job done. And I hate to say this, but we take for granted the progress we've made at our peril.

I'm comfortable with my own mortality. I've lost a lot of friends and family over the years. But I would love it if I could feel before I die that the future of humanity seemed bright. 

We need to start living like we are members of the human species, an intelligent and loving species in this universe and not just members of cliques or nation states that are ready and willing to kill each other and everything on earth for a fleeting unit more of money and power. I don't want to die as pessimistic as George Orwell.

I hope you will listen to the full podcast. It's inspiring. 

April 24, 2017

Host: Josh Zepps last episode as host on Point of Inquiry.

Is Anybody Listening? Jill Tarter on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence



Steven Cleghorn

Steven is an autodidact, skeptic, raconteur and film producer from America who has been traveling since he was a zygote. He's a producer at The Muse Films Ltd. in Hong Kong and a constantly improving (hopefully) Globe Hacker. He's seeks the company of interesting minds.