Waiting for Godot
From its inception, Open SETI has anticipated that the SETI search programs based on the classical SETI set of fundamental assumptions are unlikely to ever detect extraterrestrial intelligence. The reason for this is that the assumptions are completely unwarranted, and thus the searches are looking for something that probably does not exist.

As the years have ground by, with nothing but Negadata to show for their efforts, the SETI Institute and SETI@home have tried to vary the program enough to maintain public interest. Thus in March 2003 (click here and here), SETI@home astronomers went back to Arecibo to reexamine some 166 tentative "hits" culled from 4 million volunteers' computers over four years. Having noticed nothing interesting in their initial real-time scan of the new data, they are going to send the data back out to the SETI@home volunteers for more crunching. This is so exciting.

Some readers of these pages will remember the Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot, in which the characters find ways of occupying their time while waiting for the mysterious "Godot" to make an appearance. The parallel is not complete, because Estragon, Vladimir, and the others are passively waiting, while SETI actively searches. But it does come to mind when contemplating many SETI-related activities, such as the projects on the impact of Altruism on interstellar messaging. One finds their musings fairly incredible, as much for the certainty with which they are stated, as for the ideas themselves. I would like to give examples, but the authors would lambast me for quoting out of context. Do follow the hyperlink and subsequents to see for yourself.

My point in all of this is that, in refusing to examine the evidence for the activities of other intelligences including ETI, as suggested in these Open SETI pages, SETI is free to indulge in wasteful diversions. Wasteful, not so much in wealth, as in time and lost opportunities for human experience and growth. For those who have some understanding of the issues confronting us, and the limited time we may have to deal with them, this loss is tragic.