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Technical Ineptitude

Radobs 30

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
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
BBOARD No. 496

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* Dr. Stuart A. Kingsley                       Copyright (c), 1991        *
* AMIEE, SMIEEE                                                           *
* Consultant                            "Where No Photon Has Gone Before" *
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