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Benjamin C. Kinney @BenCKinney
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Last of today's short #SoCIA18 talks: Kelly Smith (of Science Friday fame!) on "METI or REGRETTI: Scientific Paternalism, Informed Consent, and Alien Contact."
Or, revised title (on slide instead of the program): "METI or Regretti? The Ethics of Attempting Contact with Extraterrestrials."
REGRETI (as a variant on SETI/METI) apparently comes from a comic by Tim Rickard: Reckless Endeavor Goofily Revealed Earth to Invaders.
David Brin apparently put METI into three buckets: (A) Publicity stunts posing little real threat; (B) Unintentional leakage; and (C) Significant alteration of Earth's detection profile. Only C really needs further consideration.
(Some things in B are surprisingly strong, like military radar, but quite transient. A is easy to make 100% safe if you aim it in the right direction.)
Bioethics framework: in modern medicine you don't treat a patient without permission unless (1) not possible to get permission, (2) not competent to provide permission, or (3) other people will be adversely impacted (public health).
Bad criteria for overruling/skipping permission: (1) Patient refuses for silly reasons, or (2) The refusal will harm/kill the patient.

You have the right to act foolishly. Unwise deicions may be bad, but coercion is worse.
For METI (Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence):
(1) Getting consent is not impossible, (2) Many who oppose METI are not incompetent, and (3) There is no significant cost of inaction.
Therefore, it's immoral to pursue Real METI (class C) without the "consent" of those affected.
Apparently, Bill Kitchen will be giving a talk tomorrow - and he very much plans to do METI with his telescope soon! So stay tuned tomorrow afternoon for counterarguments.
People doing METI say "low risk." But that's not the question - it doesn't matter what the risk level is, it matters whether the people consent. Various superficially plausible pro-METI arguments...
Bad argument #1: "The Barn Door is already open." Meh, a METI signal is a million-fold increase aimed specifically at a target. (If you didn't think it would increase contact-odds, you wouldn't be trying it anyways)
To watch "I Love Lucy" at 50 light years would require an antenna the size of our solar system. Not impossible for an advanced alien society, but a biiiiiig assumption.
Another bad argument: "Risk is insignificant." Actual risk is not the same as acceptable risk! For example: "If you press this button, one in a billion chance that everyone you love will immediately die a gruesome death. But I'll definitely give you $1." Haha no.
Aha yes, now he's making my "if you didn't think it would increase contact-odds, you wouldn't be trying it anyways" argument from a couple tweets back.
Ok, so what should we do? Original international agreements imply that you can't send a message alone (it tells you what to do if a signal arrives via SETI). We could codify those rules. Develop new rules w/international discussion. Educate the public.
It's possible that the public won't care. But y'know, if you could establish that, it could count as consent to METI! But you have to actually establish it.
David Brin apparently has a bet that most people will initially react positively to idea of METI, then come to dislike it the more they learn. Would be fun to test this as course-credit research participation in Psych 101 courses!
(Obviously that would not be a perfect study for many reasons - hello, research on US college students - but it's a place to start.)
Q&A: Don't we have bigger/other moral things to care about? Sure, but we can walk & chew gum at the same time. And we (here in this room) have more control over this one! And the risks ARE potentially severe.
The speaker notes that, to be honest, he'd love to do METI. Gain from METI (not just risk) really is possible, even if the average odds are against us. (The risk goes all the way up to World Destroyed.) But: that's not a moral argument.
A more technologically advanced civilization will probably know, based on our choice of EM transmission, how primitive we are. (Or that we're trying to falsely appear primitive.)
Analogy to driving: "assume that everyone else is drunk and incompetent." Thus, (A) move carefully, and (B) you are aware of the risks!
Of course, the Affected People are not us, but our descendants. Sadly we cannot get their consent. We're their best proxies, I suppose. But anyways, "can't access them" does not lead to "do whatever we want."
Nice long Q&A time. What does it mean for a planet to provide informed consent? Are humans alone sufficient? Even if so, what would it look like for seven billion humans to consent? ...
...Answer: We often make decisions for large groups of people who aren't contributing/deciding directly. Democracy seems like an ok system for doing this. We can definitely debate what consent would look like, but some METI proponents say "no debate, I press button now."
Public Health analogy isn't perfect, but it does line up with things like "no texting while driving" laws - where we restrict how people engage in risky behavior.
Some METI proponents have a paternalistic attitude. "You'll never understand this, let the astronomers figure it out, don't worry your pretty little head." Which is understandable given some public-science debates, but in this case morally problematic.
And we close with a reference to the Three Body Problem as a nice example of a worst-case scenario.

Now, we break! Likely to return in 1hr with @matociquala's keynote talk.
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