The Impact of Contact (III)

October 04, 2016 at 2:44 pm by Frank White

We have considered what might happen to our society if we were contacted by an extraterrestrial civilization only a few hundred years ahead of us in development. In theory, we might connect with civilizations that are much farther along than that. Imagine trying to converse with ETs that are a thousand years ahead of us, or a million, or more! The idea of such a dialogue is difficult to picture.

The White Equation provides a way to develop an Impact Index for any level of difference between our civilization and that of the aliens. However, as we move more deeply into using the equation, it raises some significant questions about the entire SETI enterprise. The problem is this: once we imagine an alien civilization that is, let us say, more than 10,000 years ahead of ours, it seems unlikely that they will still be confined to a planet, and even more unlikely that they will want to communicate with us.

When we look ahead at terrestrial civilization in 10,000 years, we are likely to have spread out into the solar system and perhaps far beyond its boundaries. The Singularity may have occurred, an event that takes place when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence. Again, we would imagine that Super Artificial Intelligence, or Super AI as it is called by AI researchers, is not going to remain tied to a single planet, but would prefer to roam free through the galaxy and beyond.

To be continued

(c) Copyright, Frank White, 2016, All Rights Reserved

(1) The SETI Factor, Frank White, Walker & Co., New York, NY, 1990.


The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution is available at and 

The SETI Factor, which explores the impact of contact with extraterrestrial intelligence, is out of print, but some copies may be available at