The Cost of SETI & METI

The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence and Messaging ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence are about 50 years old as a proper scientific endeavour – the first published paper was in 1958 and the first SETI was in 1960. But the Search has come up empty handed. However before we conclude ETIs are rare to non-existent we should ask ourselves if we’re conducting the Search in a reasonable manner? Have we considered the best strategy? Or has SETI been driven by wishful thinking divorced from economics?

Twin brothers James & Gregory Benford, plus Dominic Benford, have argued that Searching and Messaging driven by cost considerations (in a very general sense) won’t look anything like the hoped for (and unseen) Great Blindingly Obvious beacons, and will look a lot like the brief flashes of radio-energy seen so far…

Cost Optimized Interstellar Beacons: SETI
Cost Optimized Interstellar Beacons: METI

…following the current work on the Galactic Habitable Zone, and the Extra-Galactic Cosmic-Ray Periodic Death Scenario, the authors argue that searching and messaging should focus on the Galactic Core and stick to the Galactic Plane. This also reduces the total energy needed and increases the odds of a message finding a receiver.