We’re almost getting sick of writing about how humanity has yet to uncover alien life. As restless as we are about stumbling upon E.T. somewhere out there in space, one astronomer is experiencing much more intense impatience. Not only does Seth Shostak believe we’ll find aliens within 20 years, he bet everyone a cup of coffee that it’ll happen.
Since its founding in 1984, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute has been on a mission to “explore, understand, and explain the origin and nature of life in the universe, and to apply the knowledge gained to inspire and guide present and future generations.” (Well, that’s a fancy way to say “find aliens,” huh?)
During the Worlds Fair Nano NY, senior SETI astronomer Seth Shostak shared his thoughts with Futurism on the current status of our hunt for alien life. The scientific knowledge of alien life, at the moment, is “very little — because we haven’t found any,” says Shostak. But, according to him, that’ll change sooner rather than later. “We may find microbial life — the kind you’d find in the corners of your bathtub… It’s gonna happen, I think, in your lifetime.”
How Do You Take Your Coffee?
As for scoring the jackpot with the discovery of intelligent alien life (not just bathtub germs), Shostak made quite the bold wager. In speaking with Futurism in 2017, he bet everyone a cup of coffee that we will find intelligent aliens within 20 years. That’s 7.6 billion lattes. He’s been consistent with that thought for a few years now, too. In a 2012 TED talk, he promised to buy anyone and everyone a cup of joe if we don’t find aliens within the next 24 years. One cream, no sugar for us, Seth.
Shostak points to the huge findings science has uncovered about the universe in the past 20 years as the basis of his bet. At this rate, Shostak feels confident we’re on the road to meeting our alien neighbors for the first time relatively soon. He references the Fermi paradox to back up his hypothesis to Futurism, “There’s a lot of real estate out there, right? There are a trillion planets in the Milky Way. We can see a trillion other galaxies, each with a trillion planets. If they’re not out there, then all these people behind us are really special.”
While Shostak is fairly certain that the discovery of intelligent aliens will happen soon enough, but communicating with them is a different story. “I don’t know about contact,” Shostak told Futurism. “I mean if they’re 500 light years away … you’ll hear a signal that’ll be 500 years old, and if you broadcast back ‘Hi we’re the Earthlings, how’re you doing?’ — it’ll be 1,000 years before you hear back from them. If you ever hear back from them. So, it’s not exactly contact, but at least you know they’re there.” If he’s wrong, he has a lot of coffees to buy. As much as we enjoy a hot morning brew, we sure are rooting for Shostak to come out on top.