It’s possible that our sense that life is significantly more common in the cosmos than technology is incorrect. Rethinking how resources are prioritized in one of science’s major goals might have an impact. The search for life beyond Earth has taken two major paths: looking for indicators of intelligent life, such as radio broadcasts, or looking for biological activity’s impacts. Given that neither strategy has worked so far, it’s difficult to say which is more likely to succeed.
Nonetheless, a research published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters makes an odd argument for technology over biology. The case for looking for biological indicators is straightforward. Not all worlds containing life will produce civilizations with technology that we can detect; in fact, the great majority are unlikely to do so. A star like Alpha Centauri may potentially host lifeforms on its circling planets, but the chances of finding something technologically advanced are slim. The renowned Drake equation, which attempts to quantify the number of technological civilizations in the cosmos, contains the premise indirectly.
Dr. Jason Wright of Penn State University and co-authors, on the other hand, contend that this straightforward logic must be weighed against four variables that may collectively exceed it. The most evident of these is the ease with which they may be detected. We could detect a radio signal throughout the galaxy if it was strong enough, but biological indications are more likely to be detected just around nearer stars.
There’s also the possibility that technology life forms may disseminate their goods for further than they will travel. Only Earth harbors life inside our solar system, as far as we know, yet human technology can be discovered on Mars and the Moon, as well as in orbit around Venus and Jupiter. It’s possible that some will continue to work long after mankind, if not all life on Earth, has vanished. The authors suggest that it’s also important to contemplate the likelihood that technology will continue to self-replicate well beyond its original creators (whether by intention or by accident).
Finally, life is restricted to planets or at the very least moons, whereas technology may live across worlds and even star systems. While many of these arguments are common to individuals participating in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, they are less recognizable to other astrobiologists, according to the authors. The authors adapt the original Drake equation to develop two “Drake-like” variants that estimate the number of technical or biological signs to be found in order to evaluate these arguments. Each, like the original, necessitates calculating the probability of multiple events, frequently with little information.
Will one out of every hundred planets with life develop a technologically advanced civilisation, or one out of every million? No one knows, but a lot of people have ideas. Will successful spaceflight lead to the colonization of a few dozen planets on average, or millions? The answer is also a bit hazy. The authors point out that depending on whatever statistics you use, you may infer that biological signals significantly outweigh technical ones or vice versa. “An objective, quantitative assessment of the actual relative abundances of technosignatures and biosignatures is challenging because it depends on extraterrestrial life features that we can’t know for sure until we have several instances to learn from,” the article states.
On the other side, we can reasonably expect that where technology exists, it will be simpler to locate than indications of life, at least as long as it is still operational, rather than a massive wreck. In addition, technological signals are less likely to be unclear. When astronomers like Frank Drake first considered the topic, they didn’t have much of a choice. We could look for evidence of life on Mars and maybe elsewhere in the Solar System, but we’d have to rely on radio signals to go anywhere else. We couldn’t even discover more distant planets, much less investigate their atmospheres for signs of life.
Thousands of exoplanets have been discovered, some of which may be capable of hosting life. Future telescopes may help us locate proof if it exists, at least in more localized situations. The authors believe that the Square Kilometer Array, with its significantly increased ability to detect radio signals, will provide better value for money when it comes to detecting life, much as the JWST would in other areas of astronomy.