A recently published study looks into the potential threats of receiving an alien message from the stars. Scientists say how the contents of a potential alien message could be malicious in nature, resulting in many problems for our civilization.
The research suggests how humanity could protect itself against spam or malicious viruses from a hypothetical extraterrestrial message.
As explained by Michael Hippke from the Sonneberg Observatory in Germany, and John G. Learned from the High Energy Physics Group, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Hawaii; “A complex message from space may require the use of computers to display, analyze and understand. Such a message cannot be decontaminated with certainty, and technical risks remain which can pose an existential threat. Complex messages would need to be destroyed in the risk-averse case.”
The recently published study has warned that if humans ever receive a message from an extraterrestrial civilization, apart from the fact that this would be the largest event in the history of mankind, we would be at great risk.
The study published on arXiv and titled ‘INTERSTELLAR COMMUNICATION. IX. MESSAGE DECONTAMINATION IS IMPOSSIBLE’ analyses the risk of potential alien messages.
Hippke and Learned note in their study how there are “several possible threats from an ETI message. On the most basic level, a message might represent a statement like “We will make your sun go supernova tomorrow”. True or not, it could cause widespread panic.”
“More realistically, a longer text could have a demoralizing cultural influence. For example, it is debated whether the Roman Empire was destroyed by the bible. We now follow along with the (perhaps more likely) case that the hypothetical message is not very short, and non-trivial in content.”
In their paper, multiple possibilities of a hypothetical contact with an extraterrestrial civilization are analyzed in detail.
The research considers how humanity could protect against spam or malicious viruses that could contain a message from the stars, for example.
Speaking in an interview with Universe Today, Professor Learned said: “There is no compelling reason at all to assume benevolence (for example that ETI is wise and kind due to their ancient civilization’s experience). I find much more compelling the analogy to what we know from our history… Is there any society anywhere which has had a good experience after meeting up with a technologically advanced invader? Of course, it would go either way, but I think often of the movie Alien… a credible notion it seems to me.”
Scientists suggest that any potential alien messages spotted by SETI are examined and “decontaminated” previously, to avoid potential damage, since, as researchers point out, to eradicate an entire civilization it would be much easier for aliens to send us a malicious message (virus) than an alien armada.
The study takes a look at the different dangers that an extraterrestrial message could contain. As noted by Universe Today, beyond the likelihood that a message could convey misinformation designed to cause a panic or self-destructive behavior, there is also the possibility that it could contain viruses or other embedded technical issues (i.e. the format could cause our computers to crash).
Hippke and Learned assure that neutralizing a possible computer threat that could arrive in the form of a message coming from an extraterrestrial civilization with more advanced technology would be very difficult, so they recommend being cautious and applying security measures to try to avoid greater risks.
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Reference: Universe Today