When it comes to finding alien life, scientists have encountered some small hurdles. Jill Tarter, an astronomer, has pointed out that to uncover any sign of alien life we need to look for technosignatures such as radio transmissions. To do this, we have to think differently about the approach that we are using.
A new method to look for alien life
IBM, NASA, Intel and the SETI Institute have started to tackle this problem with a new program named the Frontier Development Lab. The software would look through the data collect and signal if it uncovers something unconventional to the scientists. However, the success of this program would rely solely on our ability (and the AI’s) to conceptualize the idea of the difference.
To do that, scientists would have to think outside the box, outside of the norms that we have put into place regarding our current systems (cultural, scientific and social).
The main challenge of this type of approach would know the limits of alien intelligence or alien life, and SETI researchers are aware of that. An example of an uncommon form of intelligence is the fungus Armillaria ostoyae which lives in Eastern Oregon’s mountains, which could be between 2 and 9 thousand years old. Some people might not look at this fungus as a form of intelligent life. Do you see the challenge now?
This is why the main concern of SETI researchers is how ideas about difference will be encoded in the AI and how that will shape the outcome of the situation. To do this, they could look at the field of anthropology which has managed to identify familiar concepts that we now think are the norm. In a nutshell, bias needs to be eliminated from AI systems so that the search for alien life could come up with good results.