THE SETI PROJECT
Officially, the SETI Project is the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence, but it’s actually a little more tightly defined than that.
Quest for Fire (originally, in French, La guère du feu), was a French movie made in Scotland, in Kenya, and on Vancouver Island and set in the Europe of 80,000 years ago. It was about control of fire – who had it, who wanted it, and how they could get it – but it ends in a way relevant to this chapter. The love interest is provided by Ika, a young woman played by Rae Dawn Chong, and Naoh (not Noah), a young man played by Everett McGill. At the very end of the movie, the two expectant lovers (Ika is pregnant) sit on the ground in an embrace and gaze at the moon. They speak to each other in a language supposedly developed just for this film by British author Anthony Burgess, though in fact he lifted it wholesale from northern Canada’s Cree/Inuit people. (The Inuit got a special kick out of the movie because the words being spoken had nothing to do with the on-screen action – but most viewers would not know that). Their gestures and facial expressions make it clear that they are talking about the moon. What is it? Where is it – how do you get there? Are there animals that could be killed for food? Are there animals that might kill them for food? And are there people there? People like Ika and Naoh?
This is the conversation of intelligent humans. They are able to build on their experience, discuss it in terms that others can understand, pose questions and suggest possible answers. Intelligence is at work. If someone on another planet had a conversation like this, that would be regarded as extra-terrestrial intelligence. Anyone looking at Ika and Naoh from another galaxy would draw the same conclusion: this is extra-terrestrial intelligence.
But it is not the sort of extra-terrestrial intelligence that the SETI Project is ever going to find, because Ika and Naoh are not capable of sending signals into space. However intelligent they may be, they lack the technology to do that.
So the project’s name is not entirely accurate. Really, it is the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence that has reached a stage of development at which it is capable of transmitting signals into space.
And that is inevitable, because a civilisation on another planet, perhaps in another galaxy, is most likely to come to the attention of watchers on earth if it can transmit signals that can be recognised here for what they are.
The search exists in its own right, and has done for as long as humans have been looking at the sky through telescopes. In the last 30 years or so, the SETI Institute has become one of the key searchers. The common view is that the SETI Institute is a bunch of scientists examining radio waves looking for characteristics that would say, “This is not noise. This did not happen by chance. This is a signal initiated and transmitted by an intelligent being.” The reality is more complex and more diverse;
"The question of whether or not we're alone in the Universe is one of the biggest and most profound questions we can ask. This thought-provoking examination of the science and philosophy behind this question is well-researched and eminently readable."
UK Ministry of Defense (Retired)
"Where Are They?" is set to release on Sept 18th, 2018 in Both English and French.
Order information can be found by following this link here.
Mark Rodger and Steven Lazaroff live in Canada.