Would you be excited or afraid if SETI @home gets a confirmed radio signal from an alien race?
It would be mixed emotions -- part excitement and part concern (are they benevolent), but mostly very skeptical. There have been several "false alarms" in the past and a strange signal could be one more for the record. So it depends on what it looks like as to whether I'd agree on an alien origin. If they wanted to simply signal "Here we are!" to our corner of the galaxy, an easy way would be to transmit a series of sets of pulses, each set a prime number of pulses ascending from 1 to the Nth prime, where N would be, for example, the base of their numbering system. But if a SETI receiver just happened onto a stray signal that was clearly non-natural but unlike anything we would've transmitted, it could be years -- or decades - before we'd be able to fully decipher it. My own feeling about this is that it's extremely unlikely we'd receive a "regular broadcast" signal similar to what's still used today, a high-power omnidirectional antenna sending out a radio or TV signal. In time this will be obsolete technology because it's very wasteful of energy and will eventually be replaced by highly focused beams using satellites for up-/down-links or microwave repeaters, both growing rapidly in use. So if there is an alien race that has gone through technological evolution similar to ours, their omnidirectional transmissions would form a shell having a thickness in light-years equal to however many years it was in use. Thus Earth obviously would have to be in this shell for us to detect it, shrinking the probability of detection even further. And if it was a focused beam, the probability would be extremely small that we would lie along the beam, which would be very fleeting since the beam would be rotating along with their planet. All things considered, the chances of us picking up an alien signal are, in my opinion, very close to zero. But no harm in looking.
I would answer your question by saying, "Neither." If that sounds flippant, it is not meant to be, for there is no way to know the context in which any radio signal was sent or received.
Many people deny the possibility of intelligent life on other planets. It allows for a sense of secure footing in their universe, that they alone are right. Would the notion of another model of reality bring forth violent confrontation, such as those that occurred when white men first encountered non-whites?
And what if extraterrestrials view the discovery of human beings as a failed attempt at becoming like themselves? What would be their reaction?
We, meaning us homo sapiens here on Earth, assume that the gold records we affixed to Voyager I and II will be intercepted and interpreted by alien beings as benign greetings and informational gestures identifying the inhabitants of the planet Earth. However, would an extraterrestrial probing television signals a few million miles from Earth-like The Twilight Zone, Naked City, I Love Lucy, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, or any of dozens of science fiction movies made at the height of the Cold War and broadcast over television-interpret them as benign greetings?
I wonder what extraterrestrials would make of these weak broadcasts trapped at the fringes of Earth's ionosphere: a) Adolf Hitler's speech for the opening of the 1936 Olympic games, b) Governor George Wallace's protest at Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963, to prohibit racial integration there, or c) televangelist Jesse Duplantis's claim to his congregation that God said he needed roughly $54 million for a private jet.
Why do we assume that extraterrestrials have followed a similar evolutionary path as ourselves, and that their intelligence has developed in the same manner as ours? For example, Earthlings cannot agree on what is satire and what is offensive (see the January 7th, 2015, shooting at the Paris offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo). What if these concepts do not exist within the alien mindset-assuming aliens have minds as we know them? How will our actions, our violence, be judged?
The discovery of a technologically advanced alien race is exciting-but it also possesses disturbing possibilities. And it is for that reason alone that I feel one should approach the possibility with caution.
Both. I believe that in a sense, those of us who grew up in the so-called "Space Age" have been waiting our whole lives for confirmation of aliens. It would be almost the culmination of a life-long dream for many of us.
On the other hand, given what we know of how things have happened when a civilization that is advanced meets ones that are not advanced, things go badly for the less advanced civilization. The advanced civilizations are out there for reasons that have more to do with conquest and confiscation of wealth- including bodies- and the spread of faith, all by violence, if necessary. In the case of aliens, it is at least possible- if not likely- that they are out there making contact with the likes of Earth to take what we have and kill those who don't convert to the alien religion- or maybe even if we do.
For a child of the Space Age, it would be a harsh irony that the culmination of a life-long dream might also result in the culmination of life, period.
Excited for sure. I've been researching SETI and the whole concept for quite awhile (not as a scientist, but as a writer), so I've come to learn of the basic concepts and scientific thinking on the subject. Despite it literally being the biggest news ever (that's not hyperbole*), I think that after a few days, maybe a week or two, people will become bored with it.
*Possibly the biggest news so far as it relates to the entire human species - all life on Earth, in a way - were the moon landings. For the first time ever, humans walked on the surface of an astronomical body other than Earth. A confirmed SETI contact would mean that for the first time ever in human history, we would know there was non-terrestrial life. And just like the Apollo program, most humans would quickly lose interest.