Earth is not even close to ready for a close encounter with extraterrestrials.
Seth Shostak, who works on detecting radio signals from extraterrestrials at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in Mountain View, told Live Science that "protocols" were drawn up in the 1990s to deal with possible alien transmissions.
"They say, 'If you pick up a signal, check it out . . . tell everybody . . . and don't broadcast any replies without international consultation,' whatever that means," he said in an interview also posted on NBC News.
"But that's all that the protocols say, and they have no force of law. The United Nations took a copy of the early protocols and put them in a file drawer somewhere, and that's as official as they ever got."
Shostak said he is not aware of any government-level plans or established procedures in case of an alien contact, nor are there "'Men in Black' government investigators of UFO lore" like those depicted in the comedy sci-fi movie.
"In 1997, we got a signal that looked pretty promising for most of the day," Shostak said. "We thought it was possibly the real deal. I kept waiting for the 'Men in Black' to show up — they didn't. I kept waiting for the Pentagon to call. I kept waiting for the White House to call. They didn't call. But The New York Times called."
Shostak argues even though there is no action plan for government agencies or the military in case of an encounter, it might not make much sense to devise one.
"It would be like the Neanderthals having a plan in case the U.S. Air Force showed up," he said.
At any rate, he said, ET knows where we live.
Television and radio signals "have been going out into space since the Second World War, so we've already told them we're here," Shostak said.
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