The SETI League, Inc., a membership-supported, non-profit {501(c)(3)}, educational and scientific organization Searching for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

Ask Dr. SETI ®

Chapter 5: Sociology

Isn't the Invitation to ETI Futile?

Dear Dr. SETI:
I recently visited the Invitation to ETI website (, and have a little difficulty understanding how extraterrestrial intelligence (even when it's really highly intelligent) could use this web page. First it would have to learn our language, and then it would have to stumble across the website so it can communicate with humans correctly. I understand the neccesity of that, but still, you would need a lot of luck to make sure ETI come to this website first, right?

Marten, Netherlands

The Doctor Responds:
You raise some valid points, of course. If you review the various articles on the Invitation to ETI website, you will note two things:

(1) the type of entity which we consider most likely to encounter and interact with the IETI website is probably not biological, but rather an advanced interstellar AI probe. Artificial intelligence designed specifically to explore other civilizations will have possibly been orbiting our solar system for considerable time, studying our telecommunications leakage and thus teaching itself our languages and culture.

(2) even if no such robotic probes exist, the contents of this website are a profound statement to the inhabitants of Planet Earth (many of whom can indeed interpret both human languages and our internet protocols). So, if nothing else, the site helps to shape human resolve with regard to eventual interstellar comment.

As far as stumbling across the website is concerned: you managed to. Can we assume that extraterrestrial intelligence is at least as observant and resourceful as you?

Thanks for your comments.

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