Re: seti@home WILL NOT WORK

Brian Atkins (
Wed, 07 Jul 1999 19:10:44 -0400

"Robert J. Bradbury" wrote:
> > "Michael S. Lorrey" <> wrote:
> >
> > Just got started with seti@home (here at work),
> > How do I join the exi seti team?
> > Jonathan Reeves <> wrote:
> > Go here
> >
> >
> I can't believe this. I looked and there are 35 people that
> have been hoodwinked into this effort (not that RC5 seems
> that much more justifiable), but at least RC5 is guaranteed
> to produce a result (if it gets enough computers/time), while
> SETI@HOME never will.

Wrong. You actually have no way of knowing whether the SETI effort will succeed or not; this is just your not-so-humble opinion. And don't forget that this project has other goals including getting the general public more interested in space. As for RC5, THAT is a complete waste of time. We already all agree on what currently makes for a "secure" level of encryption. Wasting your CPU time on cracking yet another stupid RSA message is the height of boredom.

> Perhaps these people were not at the Extro3 conference or
> perhaps they never read the J-brain discussions of many
> years ago, or perhaps they simply want to believe that those
> benevolent little green men want to talk to us. Or perhaps they
> are simply nano-alien clones spreading confusion on the issue
> to keep us from looking in the right places or perhaps they
> simply can't follow a logical argument when presented with one.
> At any rate...
> A 10^40th to 10^50th Instructions Per Second SuperIntelligence
> (compared with a 10^12 to 10^14 IPS human { leaving out those
> on the SETI@home lists where I believe there may be a "-" sign
> in front of the "10" :-)} ) that has the capacity of building
> 100 billion telescopes (or radio transmitter/receiver dishes)
> the diameter of the moon and has an internal communication bandwidth
> so large I can't even begin to compare it to a human brain
> *ISN'T GOING TO COMMUNICATE WITH US*! Paraphrasing what I said
> at the Extro3 conference -- "We don't talk to nematodes and SIs
> don't talk to us" (we are closer to a nematode than we are to
> a SI!).

Well the fact of the matter is: you can't really say for sure what a SI will want to do with its time. You can blather on all day, but it's all a guess. In fact you can't even be completely sure that there are even any SIs in this universe.

> We don't begin to become interesting until the post-singularity
> era arrives. Until that time, perhaps the best they could do
> is guide us towards that point (as lightly as possible), making
> sure that we don't get too depressed beforehand by discovering
> them and plunge like lemmings into the sea when we realize
> how very far down on the evolutionary tree we actually are.
> That brings us to what happened to the WIRE mission, launched
> in March, which was supposed to conduct a really good
> infrared survey of the entire sky. NASA has attributed the
> mission failure to a design "flaw":
> It could be sloppy engineering or it could be alien SIs being
> really clever at hiding themselves... You be the judge.
> In the mean time, since there aren't any good space based
> IR telescopes going up in the near future, the best use of your
> computer time would be in processing the 2MASS survey data
> []
> trying to identify very cold objects that could be further
> examined for a lack of a stellar spectral fingerprint.
> The 2MASS survey has about 10 terabytes of data at this point,
> so there is plenty of work to be done. Even if you didn't
> come up with SIs, you would come up with brown dwarfs,
> proto-planetary dust clouds, asteroids or comets that might
> be on Earth-impact trajectories, etc. (in contrast to
> SETI@home which does nothing but pollute the planet).
> Unfortunately, they haven't written any software to let you
> work on the data yet and if they did have it would have to
> overcome the used-car sales job the SETI@home people have done.

So you are saying there is nothing currently available better than SETI@Home to spend your time on? Or did I misunderstand.

> I'm going to take the SETI@home people to task (and make
> sure they understand how silly the project is). I may
> get to do it at the Bioastronomy conference at the end
> of this month, but failing that I will definitely be doing
> it early this fall. If I'm lucky, I might convince them
> to adopt the SETI@home distribution mechanism with some
> software to process the 2MASS data and then we would
> have a crack at finding those darn SuperIntelligences.

Why that's a great idea! Instead of spending your time dissing everything, you could actually take some of the advances the SETI people have made in distributed computing and use it for something else!

> If you want to use your excess computer time for something
> else, push on the people at the Foresight Institute or the
> Institute for Molecular Manufacturing to come up with
> a software package that would produce "random" collections
> of atoms that are assigned merit values as "building block"s
> or "functional unit"s (pumps, gears, etc.). Then we could
> use all the processing power to "evolve" the designs and
> have some interesting things to build when the nanoassemblers
> arrive. Where would we be tomorrow if Zyvex announced a
> working nanoassembler? We all act as if its going to arrive
> someday in the far far future.
> As an Extropian, probably the best thing you could do is hack
> the SETI results and send them back something that decoded as
> "You are not alone, you are not alone, you are not alone..."
> repeating endlessly. [According to the news at,
> someone did hack the SETI@home site the other day and replaced
> it with a picture of Alf.] It had me ROTFL because thats the
> only way the project will ever have anything to show.

Riiight. Ok well thanks for sharing your insecurities and other odd personal views on this issue with us. Let me know when you have that software for the 2MASS stuff ready. Ok? Ok.

> Robert Bradbury
> ---------------
> 6th cousin, twice removed from the
> S.F. Author "Raymond Douglas Bradbury"

What, is that a name drop or what?

Join the ExI/>H SETI team today:
"It IS possible." - Vincent, _Gattaca_