If you never thought cosmic loneliness was a computing problem, think again. In Popular Mechanics, SETI leader Seth Shostak says Moore’s Law means we’ll find aliens in the next 20 years:
If you’re trying to determine when we’re going to succeed with SETI, that really depends on only two questions. First, how many societies are out there broadcasting signals strong enough for you to find? And second, how quickly are you examining these star systems to find them?
My guess that we’ll succeed in the next two decades is based on the fact that with improvements in digital electronics and computers—which are getting better and cheaper, following Moore’s law—we will be continually sifting through the sky faster. And you can extrapolate how fast we’ll be able to search, assuming we have the money, in the next decade or two.
As for the number of civilizations out there—how many needles are we looking for in this haystack—now that we don’t know. But there are certainly thoughtful guesses, including those made by people like Frank Drake and Carl Sagan. And if you just look at the range of guesses, then this is where I’ve come to the conclusion that, if this experiment is well founded, if the ideas of SETI are legitimate in the sense that they make sense and this is realistic, then it’s going to succeed rather quickly if it’s going to succeed at all.