This concept of "Technical Ineptitude" or "ETI Mediocrity" is hereby described, with credit to Clive Goodall. He suggested the term "Ineptitude" as a kind of synonym that would avoid confusion with the theory of terrene "Mediocrity".
When I first started crunching the SETI numbers last June, I based my analysis on the inherent belief that ETI technologies were very advanced. As time has passed, it became clearer to me that the real reason that the SETI community has been so enthused with microwave technology and the "water-hole" concept, is the inherent assumption of "technical ineptitude" by ETIs. Previously, I have accused the SETI community of lacking imagination. Clearly, this is just another way of viewing the problem. Certainly, I think the community has been very timid in limiting the technical abilities of ETIs. Perhaps, because the idea of SETI was ridiculed for so long by the established scientific community, it is understandable that people were loath to suggest the possibility of strong ETI signals.
Over the years a complex SETI rationale (mystique) has developed. Today, this rationale stands like a pyramid, at the apex of which is that proposed in the 1959 classic paper by Coconni and Morrison. To understand the possible "flaw" in SETI thinking, we must go right back to basics; to the very apex of the pyramid. Once a decision was made that communications over vast interstellar distances were going to be very difficult for ETIs, we became locked into a series of consequential assumptions. Indeed, the SETI community takes comfort in the fact that ETI communications abilities are mediocre, for then we can explain the failure so far to detect ETI on the basis of weak signals, low-sensitivity of our detectors, and/or lack of a number of all-sky surveys.
If the SETI community was made to believe that ETI signals were strong, then there would be an immediate crisis of confidence - surely, strong microwave signals would have been discovered by now, perhaps even interfering with our terrestrial microwave communication systems or radio astronomy. The implication would then be that microwave ETI signals don't exist, or at best are extremely rare. The community would then set about making all sorts of sophisticated arguments to explain the lack of signals. However, since we have only searched a tiny portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, a much simpler solution presents itself; that the signals are not in the low- microwave region of the spectrum and near the water-hole, but at higher frequencies, perhaps in the millimeter-wave band or at infrared or visible. Until we have done a search above 10 GHz, particularly in the optical spectrum, we won't know if this is indeed the case. As I have said on at least one other occasion, despite the logo below, the chances are that this is a situation "where artificial optical photons have gone before", except we have been too blind to see.
May 3, 1991 RADOBS.30 BBOARD No. 496
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