The Guardian's Jon Ronson profiles Paul Davies, the Arizona State Univerity scientist who chairs the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Post-Detection Task Force. SETI, the brainchild of Frank Drake and Carl Sagan, has been active for almost 50 years. So far, nothing.
This hasn't stopped Davies from wondering what he would do if an alien civilization contacted humanity, however:
Yes, the thought that an advanced extraterrestrial species' first contact with humanity may involve Jimmah and Brit-Rock depresses me, too. Still, it says something about how rich and wondrous our society is that it can bankroll scientists' static-listening habits for decades.
I wrote about Carl Sagan, a longtime hero of mine, and E.T. some years ago here. The utterly speculative Contact is one of Sagan's best books. (Readers will note, however, that the lefty Sagan, writing about the world at the turn of the millennium, assumed the Soviet Union would still be alive and kicking.)
There is absolutely no evidence that extraterrestrials exist. The absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence, of course. But if they do happen to be out there, as Tyler Cowen argues provocatively in Create Your Own Economy, would they really want to talk to us?
(A tip of the homburg to The Browser, which is always worth reading.)