Segments in this Video

Introduction: Should We Search for Extraterrestrial Life? (06:07)


Moderator John Donvan outlines the topic and introduces panelists. Jill Tarter and Paul Sutter state their positions.

Resource Allocation (06:22)

Sutter questions opportunity cost and potential harm. Wealthy individuals provide funding at approximately $10 million a year; current technology provides astrophysical data, not data on engineered phenomena.

Are We Alone? (06:26)

What have we learned so far in the search for extraterrestrial life? A small hot tub compared to all the Earth's oceans represents the amount of space volume scientists have searched. Sutter believes that volume is a detriment.

Technology Advancement (03:45)

Tarter believes we will develop new ways of explaining properties of the physical universe, resulting in a better understanding of what is non-physical. She discusses recognizing when a search is fruitless.

Appearance of Life (08:49)

Sutter believes that searching for the appearance of regular life on surfaces other than the Earth's is a more promising avenue than searching for intelligent life. Tarter asks, how far away can that be found?

Space and Technosignatures (04:58)

Searching for any kind of life increases the odds of success; Sutter cites an incident involving the light curve of a star. Donvan questions distance and civilization longevity; the longevity of the technology is important.

Planetary Options (07:55)

The distance between stars and the energy to travel among them is so vast that the ability to reach a habitable world is beyond reasonable projections of technological progress. Laboratory synthetic biology may allow us to imagine life in a new way. Sutter argues for constraint.

Unambiguous Signal (05:22)

Detecting evidence of extraterrestrial technology will change self-perception, philosophy, and possibly some religions. We need to decide what to do with limited resources. Donvan thanks panelists.

Intelligence Squared (01:35)

Donvan thanks listeners, encourages continued funding of the program, and cites the names of key individuals. IQ2 works to combat extreme polarization through civil discourse.

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Should We Search for Extraterrestrial Life?: A Debate

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For decades, scientists around the world have dedicated their lives—and research dollars—to one question: Is there anyone else out there in the universe? In the early 1970s, NASA joined the hunt with its own program to search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). When that was defunded by Congress, private efforts took hold. But just what have these efforts taught us, and how should we approach the search for extraterrestrial life and intelligence? Seeking intelligent life beyond our planet is a fundamentally human endeavor, supporters argue, and expands our understanding of the cosmos. Discovering intelligent life could show us where our species fits into the greater universe, they contend, and help humankind live and survive on Earth and beyond. But critics warn that SETI is a fantasy and distraction that, at best, diverts crucial resources from other scientific endeavors and, at worst, could threaten our species' survival. Just what would happen if we actually do find other beings, they ask, and what if the intelligent life is hostile or dangerous? Should we search for extraterrestrial life? Audio only.

Length: 52 minutes

Item#: BVL283504

Copyright date: ©2022

Closed Captioned

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