Aliens could wipe us out with AI messages
Aliens could trigger apocalypse on Earth without even visiting our planet.
That's according to a new study by scientists in Hawaii that claims ET could send humanity a message hiding malicious AI.
We should consider deleting messages from aliens without reading them to avoid havoc on Earth, the researchers claim.
Not only do these messages have the potential to contain AI that can shut down power systems, opening them can also alert aliens to our whereabouts.
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Aliens could trigger apocalypse on Earth without even visiting our planet. That's according to a new study by scientists in Hawaii that claims ET could send humanity a message hiding malicious AI (stock)
The study, titled 'Interstellar communication. IX. Message decontamination is impossible,' explains how a message from space may require the use of computers to display, analyse and understand.
'Such a message cannot be decontaminated with certainty, and technical risks remain which can pose an existential threat,' the researchers write.
'Complex messages would need to be destroyed in the risk averse case.'
The researchers say a bug hidden in the message could wreak havoc with technologies on Earth.
They also claim aliens could send messages such as 'we will make your sun go supernova tomorrow' to cause panic worldwide.
The research paper, written by two researchers at Sonneberg Observatory in Germany and the University of Hawaii, explains that based on what we know about being cautious with reading alien messages, we should adapt our own transmissions.
'As we realize that some message types are potentially dangerous, we can adapt our own peaceful transmissions accordingly,' the researchers write.
'We should certainly not transmit any code.
'Instead, a plain text encyclopedia, images, music etc. in a simple format are adequate.
'No advanced computer should be required to decrypt our message.'
The researchers say a message from aliens cannot be 'decontaminated' with certainty.
'For anything more complex than easily printable images or plain text, the technical risks are impossible to assess beforehand,' the researchers write.
However, they do note that the potential benefits of joining a 'galactic network' may be considerable.
'It is always wise to understand the risks and chances beforehand, and make a conscious choice for, or against it, rather than blindly following a random path.
'Overall, we believe that the risk is very small (but not zero), and the potential benefit very large, so that we strongly encourage to read an incoming message,' the researchers write.
Previously, other researchers have warned about contacting aliens.
Lucianne Walkowicz, an astrophysicist at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, told NBC News that in fact, making contact could be catastrophic for the human race.
'There's a possibility that if we actively message, with the intention of getting the attention of an intelligent civilization, that the civilization we contact would not necessarily have our best interests in mind,' she said.
'On the other hand, there might be great benefits.
'It could be something that ends life on Earth, and it might be something that accelerates the ability to live quality lives on Earth.
'We have no way of knowing.'
Stephen Hawking also believes we're playing a dangerous game by trying to contact them.
The physicist believes if aliens discovered Earth, they are likely to want to conquer and colonise our planet.
Stephen Hawking (left) and billionaire Yuri Milner (right) have their sights set on finding alien life. Now, the first results from a $100 million 'Breakthrough Listen' mission to uncover signals from ET have been released
'If aliens visit us, the outcome could be much like when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans,' he said in a recent interview.
But co-founder and former director of the Seti Institute, Jill Tarter, doesn't think this will be the case.
She argues any aliens who have managed to travel across the universe will be sophisticated enough to be friendly and peaceful.
'The idea of a civilisation which has managed to survive far longer than we have...and the fact that that technology remains an aggressive one, to me, doesn't make sense,' she said.
Basic protocols for first contact were put in place in the 1980s, but these are merely guidelines, rather than an action plan for dealing with alien contact.
Seth Shostak, who leads efforts to detect radio signals from extraterrestrial civilisations, says that governments have taken little interest in updating the guidelines, and that more needs to be done
Seth Shostak, who leads efforts to detect radio signals from extraterrestrial civilisations, says that more needs to be done to put an action plan in place.
He says our current response to aliens 'would be like the Neanderthals having a plan in case the US Air Force showed up,'.
Mr Shostak is a senior astronomer at the Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in California, where researchers are working to detect radio signals from outer space.
In the 1990s, Mr Shostak chaired a committee that prepared a 'post-detection protocol' for researchers listening for alien transmissions.
But these have remained largely unchanged since then, and are seen as guidelines, rather than a definite plan for dealing with alien contact.
Mr Shostak told Live Science that the guidelines say: 'If you pick up a signal, check it out ... tell everybody ... and don't broadcast any replies without international consultation.'
But the protocol has no force of law, and Mr Shostak says that the United Nations has taken little interest in updating them.
He said: 'The US government has shown no interest in SETI research so far.
'It's not a government program, so they have nothing to do with it. I would love to see some interest from them, but I never have.'
In 1997, a SETI false alarm was set off by a signal from a European satellite, but the only response was from journalists.
Mr Shostak said: 'We thought it was possibly the real deal.
WHAT IS THE BREAKTHROUGH LISTEN PROJECT?
Breakthrough Listen is a search for intelligent life using two of the world's most powerful telescopes.
It was launched in January 2017 with the aim of scouring one million of the closest stars to Earth for faint signals thrown out into space by intelligent life beyond our own world.
Huge satellites, such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's (CSIRO) are being used to detect radio signals from space
Scientists taking part in the $100 million are also scanning the very centre of our galaxy along with 100 of the closest galaxies for low power radio transmissions.
Breakthrough Listen will collect data over a 10-year period.
Search capacity will be 50 times more sensitive, cover 10 times more of the sky, 5 times more of the radio spectrum, and at speeds 100 times faster.
The project is currently using the Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia and the Parkes Telescope in Australia to search for radio transmissions from advanced civilizations.
In addition, the Automated Planet Finder at Lick Observatory is being used to search for optical laser transmissions from other technological civilizations.
The initiative will span 10 years.
'I kept waiting for the Men in Black to show up — they didn't. I kept waiting for the Pentagon to call. I kept waiting for the White House to call. They didn't call. But The New York Times called.'
While detecting radio signals is not as extreme as physically encountering spaceships on Earth, Mr Shostak said that neither situation has a plan.
He said: 'Some people asked me at a conference last week, 'What plan does the military have to deal with aliens should they land?' And I said, 'I don't know … but to the best of my knowledge, they don't have a plan.''
Others have expressed concerns about how we would communicate with aliens.
But Mr Shostak believes that making a good first impression would be key.
'I've been to several conferences where people discuss whether we should tell [aliens] all the bad things about humanity, or just the good things, and that sort of thing,' he said.
'To me, that would be like the indigenous people of Australia seeing Captain Cook coming over the horizon in his ship, then saying, 'We're going to have a couple of conferences to discuss what we're going to talk to these guys about, and what language we'll use' — [but] it doesn't matter.'
Humans have been broadcasting news for years, in the form of television and radio signals.
Mr Shostak said: 'Those signals have been going out into space since the Second World War, so we've already told them we're here.'