The Cheap Pleasure of Searching for Aliens

Why looking for extraterrestrial life gets more and more efficient—and less and less expensive—each year.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: How do you rate the chances of our discovering life on other planets?

Freeman Dyson:  Well, of course, well, nobody knows.  That’s why it’s interesting.  I mean that it’s completely unknown whether these creatures exist or what they look or where they are, so we’re free to search in all sorts of ways and what is delightful about it is that our…  It is very cheap.  Actually the amounts of money that have to be spent are quite small and they don’t increase with time because our processing of data is all the time getting cheaper and cheaper.  It’s essentially a matter of computers which are getting more powerful every year, but are not increasing in cost, so it means that we’re getting better and better at it, but with more or less constant expenditure and so it makes a lot of sense just to go on.  There is always a chance next year we find something and we don’t have…  It’s not…  The public is not, is misled into thinking this is a grand and expensive project.  Actually it’s not.

Recorded March 5th, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen