Are we investing trillions in what matters?


President BidenJoe BidenBiden addresses Coloradans after wildfires: “Incredible courage and determination” Ron Johnson to run for office: On the Money reports – US reports weak job growth to end 2021 MORE recently sign in law the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2022. The defense budget represents the amount of money the nation allocates to defend itself against the threat of other nations. For 2022, it is 768 billion dollars, one hundred times more than the budget of the largest scientific projects, like the Large Hadron Collider or the James Webb Space Telescope. Given that these projects took decades to complete and involved several nations, it is concluded that the monetary priority of defense concerns is currently thousands of times higher than the largest science projects mankind contemplates.

On the other hand, the Galileo Project, which I manage, engages in a scientific research of objects close to the Earth which could have been produced artificially by an extraterrestrial technological civilization. Its first telescope system will be assembled on the roof of the Harvard College Observatory in the coming months and copies of it will then be placed in many other places.

Imagine a situation where one of these telescopes uncovers indisputable evidence of extraterrestrial equipment. This discovery would obviously be of great scientific and international importance, not respecting the borders between nations. As a result, we might find that we are childish focusing on conflicts between nations when there is more than likely something bigger.

Now, let’s take it a step further and imagine that the political system subsequently changes its priorities by realizing that knowing more advanced neighbors on our cosmic bloc is a higher priority than national security. If a trillion dollars a year was spent learning more about our cosmic neighborhood, what could we do with it?

The first action would have been to passively observe our cosmic environment with new telescope systems. This effort would constitute something like a larger-scale version of the Galileo Project, using larger telescope openings and more observatories around the globe and in space. They would provide us with new scientific information of greater fidelity and quantity as we gaze into space.

The second item on the agenda would have been to design new space missions that will explore the environment far from Earth. A robot like the one from NASA Rover Perseverance explores the surface of Mars following the orders of engineers from Jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena. More ambitious space missions could launch autonomous systems, equipment with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities. With current propulsion technologies, journeys exploring interstellar space – light years beyond the solar system, would take tens of thousands of years to reach their destination and cannot be guided by timely communication. from Earth. Hundreds of billions a year could be spent to develop propulsion, communication, AI and 3D printing technologies that will be used in these expeditions, then send numerous probes to explore and report back to our cosmic neighborhood. The search for new information will likely accelerate over time. The more we spend on finding smart neighbors, the more questions our findings might raise.

Finally, we will need to consider the societal implications in establishing an organization that will represent Earth and exploring the reorganization of human society on Earth due to the larger perspective we gain in retrieving new information about our extraterrestrial neighbors.

Scientific exploration of other technological civilizations in interstellar space will take our minds away from the pitiful struggle in the mud on social media and international politics. Maybe there is something bigger, and we better learn more by shifting our priorities.

The bottom line is simple: extraordinary evidence requires extraordinary funding. We could invest a trillion dollars a year in what may ultimately matter most after the sun dies and all of Earth’s oceans boil. As Oscar Wilde Noted, “We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

avi Loeb is the leader of the Galileo Project, founding director of the Black Hole Initiative at Harvard University, director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and former chair of the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University (2011-2020). He chairs the Breakthrough Starshot Project Advisory Board and is a past member of the Presidential Council of Science and Technology Advisors and a past Chairman of the Physics and Astronomy Council of the National Academies. He is the bestselling author of “Extraterrestrial: The first sign of intelligent life beyond Earth“and co-author of the manual”Life in the cosmos», Both published in 2021.

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