This is how I would begin my “Breakthrough Message” to those extraterrestrials who are just like us and are currently scanning infinite space for intelligent radio or laser signals generated by societies that happen to be just like them. I’ve decided to enter the contest because I know how aliens just like us think, and if my letter gets chosen to represent all of humanity, I can win a million bucks.
“When you get this message, I will be dead. My children, my grandchildren, their children, and their children’s children will be dead, too. When and if you choose to reply, I can’t vouch for the character of who’ll be reading your response. But I can assure you that, posthumously, as far as I’m concerned, this was the happiest day of my life.”
Oh wait – did you miss it? Over the summer, with the support of celebrity physicist Stephen Hawking, Russian jillionaire Yuri Milner decided to rejuvenate the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence with a $100,000,000 gift. A fraction of the greenery goes to whoever produces the best “Breakthrough Message.” The UK SETI Research Network decided to enter the sweepstakes a few weeks ago, so game on, I’m in.
“This dispatch emanates from a world called Earth [see attachment for coordinates]. Point the best telescopes you’ve got in the direction of our G2V yellow dwarf star and we’re the third rock out. We’re the planet with the junkyard haze of satellite debris in permanent orbit, our own little welcome-mat of hurtling shrapnel. Since you’ve acquired and deciphered this signal, that means by inference you’re using the kind of technology that likely went obsolete here several hundred years ago, or however long it took you to confirm our presence. I say ‘likely’ because there may not be much left of us now.
“We’ve been randomly ejaculating a mishmash of our own unique noise into the universe for nearly a century, but the decision to send an intentional focused message is probably as much a eulogy as it is an act of faith. We are, from all appearances, genetically predisposed toward migration and colonization on Earth, but when we sent explorers to our moon – you should have a moon, since you’re just like us – we couldn’t find anything to easily exploit so we decided it wasn’t worth the effort to send Earthlings back there. And that was nearly half a century ago. Our decision to hang back and stick with the known world defied some of the most fundamental impulses of our species. But the truth is, when it comes to making collective sustained commitments to much of anything anymore, we’re about as reliable as hogs on ice [photo of hogs included in attachment]. We did manage, however, to dispatch robotic probes on photo-recon missions of our solar system. We even peered deep into impossibly distant galaxies, but all that did was make us feel irrelevant. So mostly we just decided to stay put and fall back on our insecurities and our languages and our gods and our tribes and our nations and our legends and our history, which has a perversely reassuring way of repeating itself.
“Are you noticing unidentified flying objects coursing randomly through your atmosphere, without authorization? So are we. But if you’re like us, you’re ignoring them because life is complicated enough already. However, considering how Earth is probably at least a few hundred years ahead of your technology, here’s a remote but possible explanation for what’s going on upstairs: They could be ours. Really. Because at the time we sent this message, our planet was on the front end of a calamitous environmental transition that none of us had much enthusiasm for confronting. Our sea levels are on the rise due to global warming trends created by our proliferation and negligence. The high ground is reserved for only the most privileged members of our civilization. What you may be seeing in your air space could be their escape modules, dispatched without fanfare before the flood. There shouldn’t be many of them — it takes a lot of money to break the laws of physics — but their values could present a danger to critical thinking, so just ignore them and they’ll probably go away. As for the unorthodox things flying around in our own skies, we not only haven’t figured that out, we couldn’t care less because we know for a fact they can’t possibly be you.
“So this is the historic crossroads we’ve all been waiting for. If they’re still alive, our distant progeny, to whom you will hopefully respond hundreds of years from now, are dying to hear back. Choose your words carefully. Be gentle, be smarter, and — once again — greetings from Earth.”
I’m so money. But if you think you’ve got a better “Breaththrough Message,” now’s the time to air it out. […]