If aliens are really out there, do we really want to wave a flag at them letting them know we’re here, especially when we haven’t yet created a global planetary defense system? More importantly, do we want to contact them in a way that will make them instantly hate us and want to vaporize us as quickly as possible? That’s what Seth Shostak, the director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute, is proposing in The New York Times with a zany plan to beam the entire Internet into space.
“We could transmit the contents of the Internet [into outer space],” writes Shostak. “Such a large corpus — with its text, pictures, videos and sounds — would allow clever extraterrestrials to decipher much about our society, and even formulate questions that could be answered with the material in hand. Sending the web on its way would take months if a radio transmitter were used. A powerful laser, conveying bits much like an optical fiber, could launch these data in a few days.”
I’m sorry, but this is the absolute worst idea ever.
I spend most of my day on the Internet searching for interesting news to write about. And I will tell you, there are days when the Internet makes me want to see humanity exterminated.
Whether it’s trolls driving Zelda Williams off Twitter after her father died last summer or people issuing death threats over video games or people setting up revenge porn sites, the Internet is filled with human beings behaving at their absolute worst. And do we really want aliens learning about human communications via YouTube comments? Just imagine a spaceship landing on Earth and the first thing the little green man inside says isn’t “Take me to your leader” but “1/10, would not anally probe.”
Not everything on the Internet is bad, of course, but it still probably wouldn’t make us look too flattering to beings from other planets. For example, aliens might find it cute that we’re totally obsessed with taking videos of our cats… until they realize that we have to scoop up their feces from a litter box every day. What kind of “intelligent beings” willingly scoop up a lesser creature’s waste on a regular basis?
At any rate, I don’t think this idea is going anywhere so it’s not something we should be worried about. But the next time you get tempted to photoshop semen onto some celebrity’s face and post it on 4chan just for the lulz, remember that in the future that image could be the very first impression that extraterrestrials have of humanity.