• Home
  • American Astronomical Society

Tag: American Astronomical Society

To Find Intelligent Alien Life, Humans Need to Start Thinking Like an Extraterrestrial

 

Article by Adam Mann                            January 22, 2020                               (livescience.com)

• Claire Webb is an anthropology student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since 2017, Webb has worked with Breakthrough Listen to examine how SETI researchers think about aliens and place anthropocentric assumptions into their work. On January 8th at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Webb pointed out the potential flaw in SETI’s $100 million Breakthrough Listen Project, which scours the cosmos for intelligent alien signals, being that scientists tend to bring with them their human biases. Webb’s job is to get SETI researchers to be mindful of their human behavior in order imagine new ways to perform scientific studies.

• At the conference, Webb pointed out how Breakthrough Listen scientists use artificial intelligence (or ‘AI’) to sift through large data sets to uncover potential ‘technosignatures’ to indicate technology or tools use by alien beings. Researchers that employ AI “tend to disavow human handicraft in the machines they build,” said Webb. “I find that somewhat problematic.” AI is trained by human beings. In doing so, they predispose their algorithms to certain biases.”

• Most SETI research assumes that beings on different worlds will be able to communicate in the same way that we do, says Webb. It presumes a technological compatibility in using radio telescopes and understanding the universal language of science and math. “(But) if E.T. was looking at us, what would they see?” Webb asks.

• Biases also come from assuming that other species’ technological development would mirror our own, such as dealing with nuclear weapon proliferation and climate change. We can’t automatically assume that the history of another species will unfold in the same way, says Webb.

• Veteran SETI scientist Jill Tarter suggested that we may be looking for a better version of ourselves, hoping that a message from advanced beings will include blueprints for a free energy device that can alleviate poverty. This assumes that an advanced species will have an equal moral advancement. Says Tarter, “I think that’s something that can be contested.”

• “One thing Jill [Tarter] has said many times is, ‘We are doing what we think makes sense now, but we might one day be doing something totally different… We reserve the right to get smarter.'”

 

HONOLULU — Our hunt for aliens has a potentially fatal flaw — we’re the ones searching for them.

         Claire Webb

That’s a problem because we’re a unique species, and alien-seeking scientists are an even stranger and more specialized bunch. As a result, their all-too human assumptions may get in the way of their alien-listening endeavors. To get around this, the Breakthrough Listen project, a $100-million initiative scouring the cosmos for signals of otherworldly beings as part of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), is asking anthropologists to help unmask some of these biases.

“It’s kind of a joke at Breakthrough Listen,” Claire Webb, an anthropology and history of science student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said here on Jan. 8 at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Honolulu. “They tell me: ‘We’re studying aliens, and you’re studying us.'”

              Jill Tarter

Since 2017, Webb has worked with Breakthrough Listen to examine how SETI researchers think about aliens, produce knowledge, and perhaps inadvertently place anthropocentric assumptions into their work.

She sometimes describes her efforts as “making the familiar strange.”

For instance, your life might seem perfectly ordinary — maybe involving being hunched over at a desk and shuttling electrons around between computers — until examined through an anthropological lens, which points out that this is not exactly a universal state of affairs. At the conference, Webb presented a poster looking at how Breakthrough Listen scientists use artificial intelligence (AI) to sift through large data sets and try to uncover potential technosignatures, or indicators of technology or tool use by alien organisms.

“Researchers who use AI tend to disavow human handicraft in the machines they build,” Webb told Live Science. “They attribute a lot of agency to those machines. I find that somewhat problematic and at the worst untrue.”

READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

 

FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. ExoNews.org distributes this material for the purpose of news reporting, educational research, comment and criticism, constituting Fair Use under 17 U.S.C § 107. Please contact the Editor at ExoNews with any copyright issue.

Near-Earth Objects Could Be Used by Extraterrestrials ‘To Watch Our World,’ Stunning Study Suggests

Listen to “E122 10-11-19 Near-Earth Objects Could Be Used by Extraterrestrials ‘To Watch Our World,’ Stunning Study Suggests” on Spreaker.

Article by Chris Ciaccia                     September 30, 2019                     (foxnews.com)

• Although Earth only has one moon, it does have other miniature natural satellites locked its orbit, known as “co-orbital objects.”

• According to a new study entitled: “Looking for Lurkers: Co-orbiters as SETI Observables”, recently published in the American Astronomical Society’s The Astronomical Journal, these space rocks could be hiding grounds for an advanced extraterrestrial civilization, given their small size and close proximity to the planet. The study notes, “These near-Earth objects provide an ideal way to watch our world from a secure natural object… that provides resources an ETI [extraterrestrial intelligence] might need: materials, a firm anchor, and concealment.”

• The study’s sole author, James Benford, says that there could be hundreds, or even thousands, of stars that have been close enough to the Earth throughout its history for a potential intelligent civilization to make contact. Such a civilization may have seen on the Earth single-celled organisms or possibly dinosaurs, depending upon when they viewed them. Benford adds that there’s a chance that the technology they used to keep tabs on Earth could still be there. “This is essentially extraterrestrial archaeology I’m talking about.”

• Paul Davies, a physicist and astrobiologist at Arizona State University who was not involved in the study, said that aside from looking for extraterrestrial technology, studying co-orbitals might yield some promising finds. Says Davis, “[I]f it costs very little to go take a look, why not? Even if we don’t find E.T., we might find something of interest.”

• China has plans to explore the “constant companion of Earth” asteroid 2016 HO3.

 

Although Earth only has one moon, it does have other natural satellites, including asteroid 2016 HO3, known as a “co-orbital object.” These tiny celestial objects could be an “attractive location for extraterrestrial intelligence,” according to a new study.

                        James Benford

The research suggests that these space rocks could be hiding grounds for an advanced civilization, given their small size and close proximity to the planet.

“These near-Earth objects provide an ideal way to watch our world from a secure natural object,” the study’s abstract reads. “That provides resources an ETI [extraterrestrial intelligence] might need: materials, a firm anchor, and concealment. These have been little studied by astronomy and not at all by the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) or planetary radar observations.”

The study’s sole author, James Benford, told Live Science that it’s possible that there could be hundreds, or even thousands, of stars that have been close enough to the Earth throughout its history for a potential intelligent civilization to make contact.

READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

 

FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. ExoNews.org distributes this material for the purpose of news reporting, educational research, comment and criticism, constituting Fair Use under 17 U.S.C § 107. Please contact the Editor at ExoNews with any copyright issue.

Copyright © 2019 Exopolitics Institute News Service. All Rights Reserved.