seti@home WILL NOT WORK

Robert J. Bradbury (
Wed, 7 Jul 1999 12:38 PDT

> "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.

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!).

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.

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.

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.

Robert Bradbury

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