SETI closed down

Posted on by TheLastPsychiatrist and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

seti, aliens

SETI program has been closed down. The odds were against it ever making contact. But that wasn’t the point.

SETI had already become a privately funded project. Like rocketry, corporations and private citizens were/are taking on the lead.

In some ways this is a good thing, and it’s more than likely that SETI will find another private donor. But as the government pulls out of such projects, it reinforces itself as an organization of the present, committed to the immediate.

In order for this nation to be viable in the future, it must explicitly articulate its role to future generations. Even corporations have mission statements. Humans need an existential answer, and while previously religion served this purpose, nations, too, can offer this in the form of a grand narrative.

But as shown with SETI, “the future” is relegated to private industry, and “the present” to the government. Ultimately, this reinforces the government as a tool of industry, and institutionalizes the culture of short term benefit, of myopia and narcissism. Furthermore, there’s already a pervasive distrust of government and the current narratives, with more than idle speculation that the government is operating at cross purposes with its citizenry.

At a cost of $2.5M a year, SETI should have been maintained, even expanded, if only so that we can point to it and say, “well, it’s all a lot bigger than us.”
 

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13 Responses to SETI closed down

  1. Dan Dravot says:

    …as the government pulls out of such projects, it reinforces itself as an organization of the present, committed to the immediate.

    Either that, or it was just a ridiculous waste of money. That may not be true, but it’s a view that sane and well-informed people can very reasonably hold. Sometimes a budget cut is just a budget cut.

    In order for this nation to be viable in the future, it must explicitly articulate its role to future generations.

    Done.

    Naturally, I speak under correction, but I am not convinced that to demonstrate a belief that there might be aliens in the Andromeda galaxy would more explicitly articulate our nation’s role for future generations. Or indeed articulate anything at all. Or relate in any serious way to anybody’s role in much of anything about the future, other than Congress’s role in paying people with very expensive degrees to…

    Ohhh, OK. I get it, I get it.

    But moving right along, wouldn’t it be funny if “this nation” and “the federal government” weren’t quite precisely the same thing? Imagine if the private donors who want to listen for aliens were part of “this nation” too!

    Crazy talk, I know.

    “the future” is relegated to private industry, and “the present” to the government. Ultimately, this reinforces the government as a tool of industry

    I wish you’d share your reasoning on the “tool of industry” part, because to me that looks like an epic non sequitur.

    As to the cultural effects: How many Americans even know what SETI is, or take seriously the notion that attempting to detect ET life has any bearing whatsoever on the future of this nation? If you limit yourself to Americans enough like you and me to care about, you’ll get the answer you want. That’s the beauty of circular reasoning. But just as a hypothetical, what if the government, what if America as a whole, were not the sole property of Americans enough like you and me to care about? And what if some of them even paid taxes?

    …with more than idle speculation that the government is operating at cross purposes with its citizenry.

    Of course we’ve just agreed that it ought to so operate, but heavens to Betsy, how very common of the little people to speculate about it.

    Or did you mean something else?

    DISCLAIMER: I personally think SETI is pretty cool, and I regard it as a much more sensible expenditure of $2.5×10^6/yr than most other things they piss away our money on.

    • Alex-5 says:

      Sometimes a budget cut is just a budget cut
      That’s if you use the gained money for something that’s better then the project you’re cutting away.

      • JohnJ says:

        When discussing government spending, there’s no such thing as “gained money”. The government doesn’t have an income, as such. Instead, the government takes its money through taxation. I have to ask, what right does the government, which is controlled by the rich, have to force the middle class to pay for things that the rich value? If the rich want it, they should pay for it themselves, and let the middle class make its own decisions.

      • Dan Dravot says:

        That’s if you use the gained money for something that’s better then the project you’re cutting away.

        That has nothing to do with what TLP said, nor what I said in response to it. Nothing at all. I can’t even figure out what it might have to do with either one.

        The sky is blue, have a nice day!

    • edumds says:

      Dan, you´ve said it all:

      “But moving right along, wouldn’t it be funny if “this nation” and “the federal government” weren’t quite precisely the same thing? Imagine if the private donors who want to listen for aliens were part of “this nation” too!”

  2. Dan Dravot says:

    Besides, isn’t SETI just another Bush-era wiretapping scheme?

    If it truly is in our nation’s interest to eavesdrop on Boskone or Tars Tarkas, surely you can persuade a judge to issue a warrant.

  3. BluegrassJack says:

    In order for this nation to be viable in the future, it must explicitly articulate its role to future generations.

    By its actions to date, Government has already told future generations that government’s role will be to collect enough money from future generations to pay for all wants and needs of the current generations.

  4. Guy Fox says:

    Humans need an existential answer, and while previously religion served this purpose, nations, too, can offer this in the form of a grand narrative.

    Sure, pondering the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything is great for cocktail party chit chat, but does anybody really need an answer? Can you need something that is in all probability unavailable? I’ll grant that consciousness makes existence perplexing for walking agglomerations of long-chain carbon molecules, but such is life – literally. It might sound like this opens the door for ethical nihilism, but it need not (though I’ll spare y’all the 20 000 words it would take to sketch that out). If you get vertigo from staring into this particular abyss, I’d recommend (ironically enough) remembering Matthew 6:28:

    And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow ; they toil not, neither do they spin.

    That said, $2.5 million is about $0.008/American/year or $o.0003/human/year, which seems like a bargain for what could be the most enlightening discovery for humankind in donkey’s years.

  5. Grad Student says:

    Look at it this way, Dan Dravot: Civilized men and woman allocated time, some of their best scientists, and millions of dollars in a pursuit inspired exclusively by wonder. This was the largesse of a prosperous time, sure… but it wasn’t only that.

  6. Jerboa says:

    I think you’re overextrapolating from an isolated budget cut. The NIH budget doubled from 1997 to 2003, and last time I checked they were working on doubling NSF funding as well (it may have happened by this point).

  7. DrAlexC says:

    Here’s to Dravot & others applauding. SETI has always been a waste of $, because even as its pioneering founder said, contact would be a non-event, with no possible action to take.

    But this site’s remarks about our country’s leadership, etc? BS. Dravot also hit it on the head — we wrote our national purpose & goals down over 200 years ago. Read it. Write The Donald and ask him to read it too. Ask most media folks & Congressmen too, while at it. Do something to show that the folks we owe our success & freedoms to weren’t also wasting their time, as SETI was.

  8. hansen says:

    OR they closed down because it’s now official that NSA decoded the 31(!) messages received from Deep Space.

    http://www.nsa.gov/public_info/_files/ufo/key_to_et_messages.pdf

    Not that the messages made any sense but the modulation scheme seems to have been decoded. What the signals are actual sending (lotto numbers?) we do not know.

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