Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Michael Bissell's Blog

Intelligent life is out there (but it's bugger all down here on earth)

2008-08-13 23:04:30

I was skimming through the headlines on Google News and came across Paul Allen's latest spending exercise: the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) designed to look for signals from other stars.

Now, I'm a big sci-fi fan. I've run the SETI desktop application to help see if there are signals coming in from other stars, and I truly believe that life is not unique to our rock. What I'm beginning to believe, however, is that our definition of Intelligent Life is not out there.

Hell, I'm not sure we have even defined what Intelligence is down here.

I've found that so many of our assumptions and motivations are hardwired to our evolution, and that most of the things we strive for are based on keeping the species moving forward. Not just the species, but our little genetic niche of the species.

We're amazingly xenophobic, despite the desire to swim with dolphins, we're more likely to squish a spider or shoot a cougar. Anthropomorphism is a way to cope with our disdain for things that are different, and as soon as Sparky pulls his lips back and menaces our children, it's time to put him down; he's not the cuddly creature we thought he was.

Oh, and then there's that whole Catholic/Protestant/Moslem/Jew thing. If you've got the wrong skin or wrong belief system, you aren't even really human. We can justify indiscriminate killing for variations on the same foundation of faith.

I think one of the phrases I hear most often is, "I just don't understand..." If you don't understand your neighbor (and I can argue both sides of "can't" and "won't" on that topic), then how the hell are you going to understand the signals from a planet around another star with something that doesn't have anything in common with us?

Oh, and I'm not trying to say I'm somehow exempt from this understanding thing. There are plenty of people who, for the life of me, make NO SENSE whatsoever. I have to assume, on some logical plane, that they have a semblance of intelligence, but it doesn't reflect what I consider to be intelligence...

Then again, I'd rather see Paul Allen spending money on radio telescopes than the Blazers...

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