Why Researchers Need to Be Careful About Using AI to Search for Aliens
Wed, April 21, 2021

Why Researchers Need to Be Careful About Using AI to Search for Aliens

A recent study suggested that AI tricks us into thinking we see signs of aliens where none exist / Credit: Fernando Gregory Milan via 123RF

 

Scientists and astronauts have been eager and determined to search for biological signs of life beyond Earth. They even coined SETI or the search for extraterrestrial intelligence to investigate and detect unexplained signals. Since it was launched, there have been several reports of unexplained signals that led researchers to wonder about the possibility of life on other planets. Aside from signals, they also search for signs of pollution in an exoplanet’s atmosphere or even an engineered structure.

However, up until now, researchers have no evidence that aliens exist. Nonetheless, this hasn't stopped the search for extraterrestrial life, especially now that they have modern technologies that they can use, particularly artificial intelligence. A recent study now suggests that using AI to search for technosignatures, evidence of the kind of technological activity we might expect from an advanced alien civilization, might not be a good idea because it can trick us into thinking we see signs of aliens where none exist.

A perfect example of this is what happened to NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in 2015. That year, the spacecraft found several bright spots in the crater Occator on the dwarf planet Ceres, leading them to speculate that these could be signs of alien life. According to Futurism, an online site that discovers the latest science and technology news and videos on breakthroughs that are shaping the world of tomorrow, this inspired researchers from Spain’s University of Cadiz to conduct a study to see whether an artificial vision system would identify the same potential technosignatures in planetary images as humans did.

“[W]e saw it as an opportunity to confront human intelligence with artificial intelligence in a cognitive task of visual perception, not just a routine task, but a challenging one with implications bearing on the search for extraterrestrial life (SETI), no longer based solely on radio waves.” researcher Gabriel G. De la Torre said. The spots turned out to only be salt deposits.