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Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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SETI Wants to Invite Aliens to Visit the Earth

Our most horrifying nightmare

Alien conquerors of Earth

It might be the stroke of genius that ushers in a golden age of knowledge or it might be the beginning of the end of the world, but SETI appears dead set on asking intelligent aliens to come visit our planet.

Instead of listening for signals coming from intelligent alien life in the universe, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence project or SETI proposes Earthlings send messages into space telling these aliens all about us, including our location. This reach out and touch an alien project is called Active SETI.

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Advocates of Active SETI, mainly belonging to the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, said we should use our most powerful radio telescopes to send messages in the direction of the nearest stars such as Alpha Centauri where scientists believe some Earth-like exoplanets might exist. Whether these exoplanets have intelligent life, nobody knows, but Active SETI wants to try.

Seth Shostak, director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute, said we need to transmit the content of the internet into outer space. This data will include massive amounts of text, videos, sounds and pictures. He believes in this way, aliens can learn more about the Earth.

Shostak also said we have little to lose and a lot to gain by reaching out to advanced alien races. He said these aliens probably already know we're here since our radio and TV broadcasts have been leaking into space for 70 years.

"Any society that's at least 100 or 200 years more advanced than we are will be able to pick up our leakage," said Shostak. "Unless they've stopped developing technology, which is of course possible, but then they're of no threat to us."

Douglas Vakoch of the SETI Institute said there may be civilizations out there that refuse to reveal their existence unless we make it clear that we want to make contact.

"The signaling of our intention to make contact is what it should take to trigger a response. The most critical reason to add Active SETI to our search strategy is that this may be the right strategy that lets us make contact", he said.

Some scientists, however, are horrified this idea of giving a superior alien race a roadmap leading to Earth will lead to these aliens conquering our planet and wiping out the human race.

The famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is absolutely aghast at the idea. He recently warned an advanced alien civilization might be "looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach" after depleting the resources of its home planet.

He also cited the analogy of Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas, "which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans."

The editorial board of the prestigious journal Nature cautioned that "the risk posed by Active SETI is real. ... It is not obvious that all extraterrestrial civilizations will be benign -- or that contact with even a benign one would not have serious repercussions for people here on Earth."

Science fiction writer David Brin who holds a Ph.D. in planetary science is a vocal critic of Active SETI. He noted the history of the Earth in which encounters between cultures of greatly differing technological sophistication didn't go well for the less technologically advanced peoples.

"We have many examples where a technologically advanced civilization contacted a technologically less advanced civilization," he says. (European colonizing efforts in Africa and the Americas are prime examples.)

"And in every one of those cases, there was pain. Even when both sides had the best of intentions."

There are many more others with Brin's mindset. Over two dozen scientists signed a position statement calling for a moratorium on Active SETI until "a worldwide scientific, political and humanitarian discussion" has taken place. Among those that signed this manifesto is Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX.

The manifesto notes that "it is impossible to predict whether (extraterrestrial intelligence) will be benign or hostile." 

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