Danger of SETI: Humanity is Not Prepared for Extraterrestrial Contact

Attempts to make contact with alien civilisations should be reconsidered because humanity lacks the adequate knowledge and awareness of the universe and our place in it, according to clinical neuropsychologist Professor Gabriel G de la Torre.

In a study that considered the knowledge and viewpoints of 116 university students at institutions in the USA, Italy and Spain, de la Torre found that, despite major progress in science and technology, the majority of people lack enough knowledge of the cosmos to make an informed decision about whether contacting alien civilisations is a good idea.

De la Torre, who is based at the University of Cádiz, Spain, initiated the study in response to plans by the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) to begin sending messages from Earth telling anyone out there who can listen where our planet is.

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SETI has been going since the 70s, when it was founded with financing from NASA, and is focused on processing space tracking data from Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory using the computers of thousands of volunteers from around the world.

Previously its work has been passive, but plans to send out messages from earth, known as Active SETI, could potentially result in alien civilisations with technology far superior to our own knowing where we live.

For many, this seems like a good idea. Such aliens would surely want to meet us (assuming their technology allowed them to) and share their remarkable innovations, enriching humanity and helping further our access to the stars.

However, fears that such a meeting could go horribly for the human race have been repeatedly voiced by astrophysicists such as Stephen Hawking.

Speaking to The Times in 2010, Hawking said: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.

“I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”

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For de la Torre, this risk makes for a significant ethical concern. “Can such a decision be taken on behalf of the whole planet?” he asked. “What would happen if it was successful and ‘someone’ received our signal? Are we prepared for this type of contact?”

In order to answer this question, he crafted a survey that would assess respondents’ religious beliefs, general awareness, astronomy knowledge, thoughts on likelihood of alien contact and general perception of humanity.

This was to determine how much each respondent was basing thoughts about extraterrestrial visitors on rational knowledge and how much was based on morality.

“Regarding our relation with a possible intelligent extraterrestrial life, we should not rely on moral reference points of thought, since they are heavily influenced by religion,” explained de la Torre. “Why should some more intelligent beings be ‘good’?”

He believes that decisions to contact potential alien civilisations should involve all of humanity, however, too many of the respondents showed a lack of astronomical knowledge or used religion to form viewpoints on the matter for humanity to be able to make an informed choice, leading de la Torre to call for “a new Galileo to lead this journey”.

“This pilot study demonstrates that the knowledge of the general public of a certain education level about the cosmos and our place within it is still poor,” said de la Torre. “Therefore, a cosmic awareness must be further promoted – where our mind is increasingly conscious of the global reality that surrounds us – using the best tool available to us: education,”

Blood sugar: How an invasive sensor will help people lose weight and live longer

A sensor that is implanted in the body to detect sugar levels in your blood will help people to lose weight and live longer, its manufacturers have said.

The sensor is inserted under the skin by a ‘place and go’ application, which the company assures us is not painful, where it detects glucose levels electrochemically.

Made by Glucovation, it lasts seven days broadcasting the stats to a smartphone, smartwatch or activity tracker every five minutes. This gives the user a guide to how their glucose levels are impacted by what they eat.

CEO Robert Boock told Factor the technology can help people to lose weight or tell when they are going to crash from a lack of sugar.

He also claimed that it is more accurate that wearable technology that is strapped on the body as it has access to what is happening inside.

Boock said: “This data is coming from your body and it’s exactly what is happening in your at that particular moment. Here’s something where you get the information about your body and you can get the information and you can respond to it.

“If you can basically manage to control your blood glucose and keep it in a narrower range, keep it a lot more moderated you can actually lose weight, you can feel better, you can do all of the things that the premise of an activity tracker for the average consumer.”

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The data provided by the device is then distilled into information that the user can understand and be used to change a lifestyle. This includes reducing glucose variability which can lead to a longer life.

Blood sugar variability has been linked to cardiovascular disease and increased mortality.

Glucovation are currently running a crowdfunding campaign to help develop the product further. The company includes three former members Dexcom who created blood sugar measuring devices for diabetics.

The company has high ambitions for the future as they want to make the sensor a launch pad for them to build on so they are able to help monitor other levels in the body.

“If we can accomplish our goals with glucose we can basically start to add other metaboli. If you were to talk about an elite athlete we can add things like lactate, we can do continuous lactate with the glucose.

“If you’re talking about a dietary market we may be able to monitor fatty acids, we can give you a lot more information with a combination centre,” Boock said.

He added: “If we really look ahead what we’re looking at is that we’re trying to develop a platform technology that we can get out to people and we can start to add a whole bunch of other metaboli so we can give you a much more rounded picture of what’s happening in your body and tailored to what you want to know.”

However it is possible users would be put off by the need to put the sensor inside of the body.

Boock says it gives more accurate results and provides a better kind of wearable technology than those that are simply strapped on.

This could mean a future where we need to insert wearable technology into our body if we want to receive real-time data on our health and how our body is performing.

Boock said: “It is a minimally invasive sensor and that’s kind of the price you have to pay for real science. I know there’s a lot of companies out there on some of the other crowd funding sites that are really trying to push that they’re a non-invasive technologies and things like that for measuring glucose.

“There isn’t a non-invasive technology that I know of that works. This is a really great product for people that really want to understand what’s going on with their metabolism.”


Image two courtesy of Glucovation