Jim Arnold Lecture 2014

The Search for ET: An Investment in Our Long Future

Dr. Jill Tarter
Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI
SETI Institute
Mountain View CA 94043

The story of humanity began billions of years ago; you are intimately connected to the cosmos that made you.  The only near term method of discovering whether we Earthlings can outgrow our technological adolescence and enjoy a long future is to determine the average longevity of technological civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy.  Today, we do not know whether there are any other technological civilizations; we could be unique.  In physics we count 1,2, ∞; when only one example of a phenomenon is known, it could be singular, but as soon as a second example is found, we know there are many. N=2 is the important number for SETI.  There are many indicators and futurists that suggest this could well be our last century as a technological civilization, but the successful detection of evidence of another technological civilization would mean that someone else has survived into old age, and therefore could provide abundant motivation for us to do so ourselves.

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