Approaching the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Strategically

A Proposal to Identify and Assess Strategic Alternatives to Microwave SETI

Scot L. Stride

There are several competing hypotheses relating to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). These hypotheses mainly take the form of stated assumptions. Only a few are formulated allowing for any reasonable falsification. Propositions must be constructed so gathering the necessary empirical evidence can test their predictions. Most SETI hypotheses do not contain theoretical predictions based upon any existing observational evidence. Presently, in the face of no solid evidence, none of the competing hypotheses can be summarily dismissed. Nonetheless, certain SETI approaches have dominated even though their assumptions are no better than others are. The fundamental objective of the SETI is to collect factual observational data that can be used to verify that ETI exist. To this end, searching for ETI must be approached with a well-formulated strategic plan. Clearly there exist strategic alternatives, and some rank higher than others. In the drive to discover ETI, there is too much at stake to squander resources on ineffective strategies. The strategic alternatives must be ranked so that our finite resources for the SETI can be allocated properly. This paper examines how the microwave strategy came to dominate the SETI, and why this strategy must be challenged. It also examines our strategic response to finding ETI, and proposes a method to objectively compare the alternatives in order to make the right choice.

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