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Podcast: should we use AI to try to find aliens?


They’re out there – or are they? Some say the study of UFOs, or Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP), as they’re called nowadays, could be boosted by artificial intelligence (AI). But even if that’s true, should we use the technology to find or contact extraterrestrials?

That was the enticing topic we chose to explore in the latest installment of the Cybernews podcast, Through A Glass Darkly.

We kicked off with an overview by our deputy editor and resident space enthusiast, Vilius Petkauskas, who gave us a breakdown of what he has learned from talking to various experts in the field.

In the discussion that followed, we covered the following sub-topics:

  • How feasible is the prospect of successfully using AI to make contact with other species – could this be accomplished within our lifetimes?
  • The moral considerations: should we be focusing on using tech to seek out other planets and their occupants while ours is still in such a mess?
  • The side perks of space technology have always had a beneficial knock-on effect for humankind thanks to accelerated scientific development.
  • Who’s to say an advanced alien species wouldn’t take one look at us and decide to terminate us? What if they teamed up with our own AI against us?
  • Given such considerations, would using our tech know-how to address our planet’s major problems first not be a safer option, as well as a more humanitarian one?
  • Set a thief to catch a thief… using AI to find and talk to aliens might be starkly appropriate, given an advanced lifeform could well have already migrated itself into machines long ago and, therefore, constitute a non-biological, artificial entity.

It’s already been proven that artificial intelligence can help us to detect planets our species was previously unaware of: University of Georgia doctoral student Jason P Terry recently used machine learning to discover a gas giant five times the size of Jupiter, the biggest planet in our solar system.

Vilius tells us how Terry and his team did it, and also raises an interesting point: if AI can uncover traces of alien lifeforms in a similar fashion, proving we aren’t the only species – intelligent or not – in our galaxy, might that not alleviate some of humanity’s existential loneliness?

Meanwhile, Gintaras asks if it would be worth the sheer cost and effort of sending human beings to another planet like Mars when we can just send machines instead while I explore moral questions underpinning space exploration: sure, the knock-on tech benefits like sneakers and braces might be welcome, but can we justify spending billions on it while our planet continues to struggle with age-old problems of inequality?


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