The Eerie Silence by Paul Davies (2010) is a popular science book which “explores the possibilities of intelligent extraterrestrial life, and its potential consequences” (Wikipedia).
The reading we were provided included the end of Chapter 6 “Evidence for a Galactic Diaspora” and the beginning of Chapter 7 “Alien Magic”.
At the end of chapter 6, Davies focuses on how ETI may be responsible for the lack of certain high-energy objects that have been predicted by theoretical physicists but have remained elusive. Most grand unified theories (models where the electromagnetic, strong and weak forces can merge at extremely high temperatures) require a magnetic monopole. These particles would have extremely high mass energies, so maybe ETI is scooping all of them up and annihilating them whenever it needs more energy. Don’t know what to do with that possibility, but I guess it could be true.
At the beginning of chapter 7, Davies talks about alien technology. It is possible that alien technology will be just that, alien. We may not be able to distinguish what it does or even that it is technology at all. Becuase of this, Davies wants technology to be known as “nature-plus”. Technology does now break the laws of nature, it simply arranges pieces of it together in a way to harness these laws to do a useful function (like break rocks, or in the case of art, inspire/express emotion). He suggests that we should avoid our own human biases in trying to think of what ETI may want/is capable of. That being said, the known laws of physics should be used as a basis, because without them, there is only speculation as to what ETI can do, which would be both endless and pointless.
That is a good point to keep in mind I think. It is hard to work in a field where you have only a limited idea of the capabilities and desires of what you are searching for (there might be a connection here to USA/USSR trying to figure each other out during the cold war, but even then they had a lot more information on each other than we have on ETI), but it is still important to not lose sight of reality. We may not like that we only know what we know now, but we just have to live with it and do the best we can. That’s all we can (and should) do.