Opponents of the Active SETI initiative say we shouldn’t be beaming transmissions out into space to try to attract people’s attention because, well, we might. And that might not go so well for us.
“But,” say people like me, “We’ve been radiating a racket of electromagnetic shit in all directions for a hundred years. Even The X Factor is out there now, spreading through the Galaxy – and if nobody’s counted that good reason to eat us, I can’t imagine what would be.”
“Very funny,” say the opponents of the project, “But actually this is serious. Our ridiculous soap operas aren’t an issue because the signal from our normal day-to-day emissions is scattered and attenuated so much that any potential alien threat wouldn’t see it against the background noise.”
“Oh,” I say, suitably chastised. Then, because I’m nothing if not an insufferable smartarse: “But on the bright side, doesn’t that go some way towards explaining the mystery of the Great Silence? Or at least rendering it not a problem? After all, we’re making as much noise as we are and you say that no-one can hear us against the background – so why should we expect to hear anyone else, even if they’re out there in vast numbers? Unless they’re signalling us directly their signals will be similarly attenuated, surely?”
And the opponent of Active SETI says, by way of settling the issue: “[Fill your own reply in here, if you wouldn’t mind, because vague facetiousness aside, I am genuinely interested.]”