Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, an organization leading ongoing efforts to detect possible radio signals from intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations, has warned that there are no government-level action plans in place in case aliens show up.
During an interview with Live Science, Shostak addressed a key issue of interest to scientific researchers in the SETI field: How humans might communicate with intelligent extraterrestrial species at first contact and what would likely happen if humans make radio contact with aliens or if Earth is visited by spaceships from technologically superior extraterrestrial civilizations.
Do we have a plan?
“There are some protocols, but I think that’s an unfortunate name, and it makes them sound more important than they are,” Shostak told Live Science.
The SETI scientist was referring to the so-called “post-detection protocols” designed to guide researchers in the SETI field who watch for possible intelligent transmissions of extraterrestrial origin.
The original protocols were drawn up in the 1980s. But Shostak noted that they were meant only to guide and encourage U.S. and Soviet researchers to share information about potential SETI sources and signals. The protocols were not meant as a global or government-level action plan to respond in the event of an alien contact, communication or visitation.
The protocols, according to Shostak, say that “If you pick up a signal, check it out… tell everybody… and don’t broadcast any replies without international consultation.”