Is Contact a Process?

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Cirkovic, Milan M.
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preprint description
Both “optimists” and “sceptics” in regard to extraterrestrial intelligence tend to hold the view that we are entitled to an epistemically clear position: either there will be a signal, in the sufficiently general sense, proving the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), or no such signal is forthcoming. The distinction, I wish to argue here, is not at all so clear-cut. On the contrary, there are arguments, intrinsic to the subject matter, to the effect that the detection of ETI will be a protracted affair characterized by uncertainty at every step. Such view of SETI discovery mandates different policies from those conventionally discussed in the literature. We should not gear our expectations and publicly promote the view that the Contact will be a clear-cut, Archimedean “Eureka!”-style discovery. In contrast, the tempo and mode of the process of discovery might significantly influence societal and political reactions to the discovery. We should be prepared for such a protracted unfolding of events.