What if the search for extra terrestrial life succeeded and SETI detected radio signals from a nearby star system?
Humanity is not alone, what do we do know?
What do we know? The signal originates from a star system were no previous radio emissions have been detected. Its fare to assume that radio broadcasting technology was a new invention to these life forms aged in years by the distance in light years. Based on the search for life within our own solar system, it is again fare to assume that the creator of the radio emitter inhabits a terrestrial planet with similar properties to those of earth.
If one feels the need to transmit radio signals we must expect that one feels the need to receive them as well. Radio emission no matter the source, travel at exactly the same speed. We become aware of one another at the same moment. We know where they live, and they know where we live.
Considering the human inability to communicate with other species intelligent earth life such as whales and dolphins, I believe its fare to assume that we will have little success in communications with beings from an extraterrestrial evolutionary family, and combined with a long transmission travel time will no doubt assure little to no success in communication.
It’s likely that any technological extraterrestrial life-form will be a predator and most certainly not prey or plant. To be a predator is to be aggressive, not unlike ourselves. To allow scientific and technological advancement is to be at the pinnacle of their world’s food chain, again not unlike ourselves.
Only ten years elapsed between the human construction of interstellar radio transmitters and the first detonation of a relativistic weapon. I would expect that they would possess relativistic weaponry long before we received the first accidental transmission.
We have two options, “wait and see” – or – “exterminate”. Our extraterrestrial counterparts are no doubt at this very moment formulating the very same conclusions.
Our first option is to do nothing, it’s cheap and easy. And our second, to attempt to their destruction is a more complex decision.
It may at first appear that we have no choice but to destroy them since we can never know alien intentions until an attempt to destroy our world has been made.
I have two arguments against an immediate attack. We cannot assure the total success of our attack and will forever be in danger of a retaliatory attack. Second, if there are two convergent evolutionary life forms of very similar technological capabilities within such relatively close proximity of one another it would be foolish to think that there are only two. A third yet discovered alien society could be observing each of us, and if they are not, they will certainly detect an attack on either of us and thus perceive us as a threat and decide upon our immediate and total extermination, unknown to us until the attack.
However, I believe that a massive attack is our only option. Sighting that we have not already been destroyed it is unlikely that we have been detected by any other technological life form except for the one we have just detected. Most of all we simply can’t afford to be wrong about our distant counterpart’s intentions.
A moderately successful attack is a manageable result. We would have to plan for our weapon to be unsuccessful but still damaging. We plan for this by building many weapons and launching them as often as possible until full survey of the alien world can be made. An interstellar attack would be far more than a generational commitment. Not hundreds of years, but thousands.
Our extraterrestrial counterparts have no doubt come to this same apocalyptic conclusion.
Countermeasures are limited at best. We can assume that the weapon cannot be detected by any form of radar. The weapon will be traveling directly at us and at incredible speed. Even if we are looking, we will not know of the weapons presence until just hours or minutes before impact when it will be close enough to obscure the light from its star of origin.
Our only real countermeasure in the event of an attack would be survivability; we have two options for immediate short term survivability. Our first option is the construction of massive deep underground facilities that can fulfill all the requirements of human survival indefinitely, completely independently of one another. Our second, more expensive but potentially more effective option is to colonize as many planets and moons within our solar system and to indefinitely observe total radio silence in the direction of the alien world.
No matter if we choose “wait and see” or “exterminate”, I believe we should pursue both countermeasures. Humanity must both build deep within the ground and disperse across our solar system. The extraterrestrials will have no doubt made this same conclusion.
Our weapons will pass silently and indifferently in the vacuum of space.
We must disperse and we must attack relentlessly. Humanities long term survival depends upon the sustainability of successive attacks and the survivability of our genome and its means of attack.
This will be a war without winners. Our victory will be measured in terms of the frequency of alien attacks; this will be the only way to judge our own effectiveness or our own ineffectiveness.
The twentieth century had total war. The future will have the ultimate war.