It’s probably safe to say that most people would be pretty interested in humanity making contact with intelligent alien life, but few of us actually dedicate our lives to the search for it. Seth Shostak from the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute does just that, and he firmly believes we’re incredibly close to answering the question of whether or not we’re alone in the universe. In fact, he’s willing to bet that we’re just a couple of decades away from proving that aliens exist.
Speaking with Futurism at a recent event in New York City, Shostak was incredibly bold in his predictions, noting that he’ll “bet everybody a cup of coffee that we’ll find intelligent life within 20 years.”
Humans have explored much of our Solar System, sending probes to Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, and soon the Sun, but we’ve yet to discover evidence that life in any form exists elsewhere. At the moment, the most promising possibility is that we’ll discover some kind of microbial life, even invisible to the naked eye, but that’s not really what SETI has its sights set on.
Shostak is quick to point out that while he believes we’ll discover indisputable proof of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe within 20 years, that might not mean we’ll actually meet or even communicate with an alien civilization.
“I don’t know about contact,” Shostak explained. “I mean if they’re 500 light years away, you’ll hear a signal that’ll be 500 years old, and if you broadcast back ‘Hi we’re the Earthlings, how’re you doing?’ it’ll be 1,000 years before you hear back from them. If you ever hear back from them. So, it’s not exactly contact, but at least you know they’re there.”
It’s certainly within the realm of possibility, and scientists are always listening for signals in the noise, but it’s proved fruitless thus far. But if we do discover intelligent life within the next 20 years, perhaps we can ask them to save us from ourselves.