This paper argues for an interdisciplinary approach to SETI, building on other recent suggestions (e.g., Dysonian SETI (Bradbury 2011)). Special consideration must be given to how best to facilitate this interdisciplinary approach, particularly in the vocabulary used to discuss this broadened SETI perspective. Academic/industrial subfields are so deeply entrenched in their own jargon and vocabulary that the general language used to describe SETI needs to take each relevant subfield into account.
Two contrasting views have recently arisen with respect to how SETI is / should be approached. These are commonly referred to as “orthodox SETI”, which focuses on the detection of extraterrestrial communications, and “Dysonian SETI”, which focuses on the secondary effects that advanced civilizations have on their environments. The optimal SETI approach is likely some combination of these two mindsets, and, regardless of what approach is taken, the broad umbrella term of “SETI” should capture both viewpoints.
Several relevant fields discussed here that should be included in an interdisciplinary approach to SETI are: radio astronomy, infrared/optical astronomy, exoplanets, Earth system science, game theory, social sciences, anthropology, galactic astrophysics, stellar astrophysics, time-domain astronomy, computer science, multi-messenger astronomy, planetary science, media/communications, law, and political science. It rapidly becomes obvious why implementing such an interdisciplinary approach can be challenging. It will require a great deal of effort by practitioners of SETI, as they will have to master (or, at least, grasp deeply) the concepts in all other relevant fields in order to appropriately apply those concepts within a broader framework.
The author suggests a structure that could be used to organize the various SETI efforts. First, they argue that SETI is most certainly a subfield of astrobiology. Where astrobiology is primarily focused on the discovery of extraterrestrial life, SETI narrows this focus by restricting it to intelligent extraterrestrial life. This search has the added bonus that intelligent signals are likely to be much more obvious, and obviously artificial, than their unintelligent counterparts. Within SETI, efforts can be broadly classified as either communication SETI or artifact SETI, though the lines between these two are often blurred.
Overall, special care must be taken (particularly with respect to vocabulary) to facilitate a sustainable interdisciplinary approach to SETI.