What do SETI terms mean? A committee weighs in.

Inspired by a paper by Iván Almár’s paper on SETI terms:


I wrote down my opinions on the topic and recommended a taxonomy of SETI in this paper, which I describe in my blog post hereSofia Sheikh presented my suggestions at the Decoding Alien Intelligence workshop:

One of my recommendations was to organize SETI in a taxonomy like this:

After the talk, Frank Drake(!) stood up and recommended that there be an ad hoc committee to discuss SETI terms and recommend what they mean (thanks to Michael Oman-Reagan for providing me the audio!). So, in anticipation of the upcoming NASA Workshop of Technosignatures, in Houston next week, I convened such a committee, including Sofia and me, Jill Tarter, Iván Almár, Kathryn Denning, and Steven Dick.

We didn’t agree on everything, but we came up with a lot of good recommendations and clarifications that I hope NASA will find useful. We did not go with “Communication SETI” because the committee thought it was too reminiscent of METI, and we did not recommend against “civilization” or “colonize” (mostly because both are in wide use and we did not want to endorse major changes without very good reason) but we did note the problems with those terms.

Our final report is here:


and Sofia will present it at the workshop on Wednesday!

1 thought on “What do SETI terms mean? A committee weighs in.

  1. Robin Datta

    Searches for standard biosignatures and habitability may miss xenobiology; they certainly will miss post–biologic (artificial) intelligence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *