When I was a kid growing up in the Midwest I’d go out look in the night sky and you know I would see all of these stars and I thought maybe there are other intelligent beings out there there are places everywhere that life could exist but now the big question is life originated hasn’t gone on to become intelligent and then have those intelligent beams decided to send us an intentional signal My name is Doug Vakoch and I am president of SETI international. Since the 1960s astronomers have been using radio telescopes to look for signals from other worlds and the assumption has always been that the benevolent aliens are out there sending these missives for our benefit. For over 50 years SETI scientists have been searching for extraterrestrials but METI International was founded to take the next step. I worked for the SETI Institute for 16 years and I was the director of interstellar message composition there but about a year ago I finally made the shift away from the SETI Institute and devoted my full attention to our new organization METI International. Our goal is by the end of 2018 to craft messages that could be understandable by another civilization and begin beaming them out to nearby stars either using powerful radio transmitters or it could be creating a new laser facility that would send out these brief laser pulses that would be detectable as something that is not just our own communication with one another we assume that the aliens will pick up our radio and TV signals but it’s something that stands out more powerful. If we send a radio signal it would be just a stream of pulses of two slightly different frequencies. There’s a baseline frequency that each transmitter uses and then some oscillation around that. So to have any chance of communicating to an extraterrestrial we need to figure out what is it that is most basic. Each week we get together to discuss very concretely what kind of messages will we be sending. Hey Carl it’s Doug I see you there okay okay can you hear us op sorry yeah yeah okay good we’ve made contact. You know a lot of the past messages have been great but you have to get that they’re this two-dimentional representation and here’s how we picture objects but in some ways this gets around it. The question about what would we say to represent ourselves to another world is something that can’t be decided just by a handful of astronomers Steven Hawking has said whatever you do if you get a signal from the aliens do not transmit because they may come to Earth and strip-mine our planet. What could be a more vivid image of first contact than Stephen Hawking saying when Columbus came to the new world they decimated the indigenous people and that might be what it will be like for an alien civilization to come to earth. In my view there is no reason at this point in our history to send a message proactively into space. This is not science this is diplomacy it’s unauthorized diplomacy. The question comes up as to why do we need post-detection protocols for and what currently exists. The simple answer is there doesn’t exist a lot. There’s something called the first protocol that SETI scientists normally adhere to our generally adhere to which basically says that if there is a detection everything should be transparent the second major principle of it is that there should be thorough confirmation but the third general principle is that before we respond to that signal from another star that there be broad consultations whatever that means presumably that means that the United Nations Security Council might take a boat to determine whether to respond and what to respond and so forth there’s nothing stopping anybody from responding to a signal from ET and there’s nothing stopping anybody from initiating a signal to a star that they think ET may be on so the very principle that all of Earth should decide in unison and some sort of coherence whether when and what to communicate back to ET is completely undecided and it’s a wild west open situation at the moment What Hawking is ignoring is the fact that any civilization that really has the ability to travel between the stars could already pick up I Love Lucy or other leakage television or radio signals that are already screaming out into space so anyone who’s saying that we should fear an alien invasion because of our METI signals I think is really missing the point the point is that we want to send an intentional message something that stands out from the cosmic static and that maybe it’s signaling our intentionality that will make the critical difference as we look for targets for our METI transmissions very enticing to look close to home one great example that was just recently discovered the star called Gliese 411b it’s one of the closest stars to earth it’s only eight light-years away so that means if we sent them a message we could get a reply back in just 16 years by human timescales a long time I think it’s doing something that won’t pay any benefits for 16 years but on a cosmic scale it’s just a blink of the eye. Nobody can take it back it’s going at the speed of light it’s gone and they have encumbered generations unborn with the results of that action to send intentional messages ultimately gets at the soul of who we want to be as a species we want to continue to explore do we want to continue to say we don’t know what our future is but we have enough hope that we’re going to reach out we have enough hope that we want to hear a response.