DAVID BRIN looks at space exploration and seti

David Brin is best-known for shining light — plausibly and entertainingly — on technology, society, and countless challenges confronting our rambunctious civilization. His best-selling novels include The Postman (filmed in 1997) plus explorations of our near-future in Earth and Existence. Other novels are translated into 25+ languages. His short stories explore vividly speculative ideas.

Brin's nonfiction book The Transparent Society won the American Library Association's Freedom of Speech Award for exploring 21st Century concerns about security, secrecy, accountability and privacy.

As a scientist, tech-consultant and world-known author, he speaks, advises, and writes widely on topics from national defense and homeland security to astronomy and space exploration, SETI and nanotechnology, future/prediction, creativity, and philanthropy. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was appraised as "#1 influencer" in Onalytica's Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands & publications.

The Search For Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence can be a difficult and confusing topic, but this century's advances in our ability to explore nearby solar systems — and our renewed interest in human expansion into our own system — excite everyone from sober researchers to politicians to dreamers. Here are net-accessible articles, interviews, and essays about how we continue our space & seti explorations.

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where Brin asks the biggest question: who's there?

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  • discussing space & seti

    where will we expand next? and how will we do it?

  • blog: Contrary Brin
  • public appearances: Brin as a speaker and consulting authority
  • scoop.it!: Science and Space: Exploring new frontiers
  • pinterest: Space: where are we headed?
  • scoop.it!: SETI: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
  • other great resources

    Brin recommends these books, articles & websites

  • Starship Century: Toward the Grandest Horizon, ed. by James & Gregory Benford (#AmazonCommissionsEarned)

  • BRIN contributes to the search

    order The Great Silence from the Astronomy Abstract Service


    the controversy concerning extraterrestrial intelligent life

    David Brin's paper, "The Great Silence," remains the only scholarly review article about the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence. First published in 1983 in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society (Vol. 24, No.3, P.283-309), it compares assumptions and theories, thus avoiding the tendency to adopt and argue in favor of one favorite.

    read Those Eyes

    Those Eyes

    those infuriating little green men!

    "Those Eyes," (which appears in Otherness and is available to read for free here), takes you on a ride through the notion of UFOs following the tough gaze of a radio talk show host who challengess the nasty, skulking 'visitors' to come into the open and face us, eye to eye! Follow it with a more 'realistic' variation of this story: David Brin's "An Open letter to Alien Lurkers." Learn more about David Brin's other short stories.

    learn more about EXISTENCE


    a bold look at first contact

    David Brin's newest novel, Existence explores the ultimate question: Billions of planets may be ripe for life, even intelligence. So where is Everybody? Did planetary civilizations make the same fatal mistakes, over and over? Might we be the first to cross the mine-field, evading every trap? Can we learn the secret of EXISTENCE? Learn more about David Brin's other novels and books.

    articles about exploring space (and finding little green men)

    How will we inhabit our solar system, or even our little corner of the galaxy?

    opening the barn door

    our wide-open barn door

    Read this abstract from the 2019 issue of Theology and Science, "The 'Barn Door' Argument, The Precautionary Principle, and METI as 'Prayer'." In it, Brin argues that METI is psychologically driven as a version of the ancient human practice of prayer. (Or, purchase the article or journal.)

    space - heading out there

    space! heading out there

    Shall we begin "bootstrapping" our space technologies toward the goal of a Solar System Civilization? The idea is no longer science fiction's alone. "Right now, the mass we use in space all comes from the Earth. We need to break that paradigm so that the mass we use in space comes from space," said one NASA official. Pie-in-the-sky? Well, the potential methods for extracting space resources are looking more and more manageable.

    commercial space

    are we raising a generation of Lindberghs and Earharts?

    We are ready for the dawn of a new era, one of private space ventures. And, fortunately, the politicians seem perfectly ready to welcome non-state activity. We may, at last, be ready to embark on the equivalent of the the great age of "barnstorming" aircraft development, that our grandparents saw in the 1920s, when risk — and even some loss — was considered part and parcel of courage and exploration.

    SETI science

    who's out there?

    The early 1960s were pivotal for the field of "exobiology" (extraterrestrial biology) and especially the sub-branch that dealt with intelligent life, "xenology." For the first time it was legitimate for leading scientists to publicly consider the possibility of contact with intelligent species off of the planet Earth. No matter how daring, they were faced with one major limitation: a near total lack of data. The only known case of intelligent life is here on Earth. So what do they look for?

    the art of propaganda

    let's uplift ourselves first!

    Will bitter ideological rifts dominate the 21st Century, as they did the 20th? Or might we shrug off some of the obsolete intellectual baggage we've inherited from past thinkers who (in fact) knew much less than we do now? David Brin's questionnaire regarding ideology and human destiny pokes at the deeper assumptions that underlie the many assumptions we take for granted.

    Heart of the Comet cover detail

    comets & astrophysics

    Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in David Brin's PhD research (UCSD 1981) — a spinning icy mass insulated by carbonaceous dust, with sun-heated, geyser-jets spewing particles into space. That work inspired Brin's novel with Gregory Benford, Heart of the Comet, just before the 1986 Giotto mission confirmed the model. See the Astrophysical Journal paper "Three Models of Dust Layers on Cometary Nuclei" or an abstract of David Brin's PhD dissertation: "Evolution of Cometary Nuclei as Influenced by a Dust Component."

    harvesting our solar system's resources

    harvesting our space resources

    It appears that a small cabal of the Good Billionaires — those who got rich through innovation and who feel loyal to the future — are about to to fund a new effort worth some excitement and attention. It aims at transforming not just our Earth — but the whole solar system. And, along the way, this endeavor may help bootstrap us back into our natural condition... a species, nation and civilization that believes (again) in can-do ambition. Can that be achieved — while making us all rich — through asteroid mining?

    David Brin at the Planetary Society

    why have we resumed exploration?

    At Planetfest 2012, David Brin addresses the questions, "Will we see a new burst in planetary exploration?" and "With all the cameras, why don't we have better photos of the little green men?"

    meeting our closest neighbors?

    letting others have their say

    If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens ... Where Is Everybody?, by Stephen Webb

    All These Worlds Are Yours, by John Willis

    Exoplanets: Diamond Worlds, Super Earths, Pulsar Planets, and the New Search for Life Beyond Our Solar System, by Michael Summers and James Trefil

    The Cosmic Zoo, by Dirk Schulze-Makuch and William Bains

    The Future of Humanity, by Michio Kaku

    Welcome to the Universe, by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Michael A. Strauss

    Universal Life, by Alan Boss

    Faint Echoes, Distant Stars, by Ben Bova

    Mapping the Heavens, by Priyamvada Natarajan

    The Hidden Reality, by Brian Greene

    searching the skies

    the great silence persists

    Where is everybody? And why can't we find them? Persistent null results from the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence do not invalidate continuing the search, but they do raise questions about long-held assumptions over how we search. The Great Silence — or "Fermi Paradox" — has joined the Drake Equation as a key metaphor in appraising both the possibility of Extra-Terrestrial Civilization and our own prospects to flourish as a progressive, outward-looking species.

    expanding the search

    from listening to speaking

    Should the endeavor called SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) augment and transform itself into something new? Should 'Active SETI' depart from the traditional passive program — patiently listening and sifting for signs of advanced civilizations — and switch over to doing something new: Deliberately and vigorously transmitting into space, in order to draw attention our way?

    speaking to extraterrestrials

    from listening to shouting

    SETI — the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence — has long occupied a unique niche in modern intellectual life, at the same time both widely popular and a bit obscure, combining serious and far-reaching science with a kind of gosh-wow zeal that seems (at times) to border on the mystical. Perhaps driven by frustration over the lack of SETI-gleaned signals, so far, a few dozen radio astronomers in this international community-of-interest now aim to provoke a response from the stars — by transmitting messages of their own.

    reasons to explore space

    grand-scale reasons to explore space

    In this video I discuss the economics of space exploration. Every decade since the 1940s, some scientific breakthrough (or several) enabled the U.S. to stay rich and vibrant enough to then spend it all in the Great Buying Spree that propelled world prosperity and created a world-majority Middle Class. That is, every decade except the first decade of the 21st Century, amid the calamitous War on Science.

    Enrico Fermi quote

    the loneliness of no neighbors

    The great physicist Enrico Fermi sasked: "If it seems so likely the universe may host other life forms, how come we haven't seen any signs?" Not just of radio beacons, but of mighty structures that our own descendants might someday build out there in space. Or leakage from chatty commerce between civilizations. Or indeed, any trace that the Earth was visited during the 2 billion years that it was "prime real estate" with an oxygen atmosphere, but nothing higher than slime molds to defend it.

    moon landing

    the moon landing: a 45 year-long look back

    Why don’t more of today’s youth care about expanding into space? The easy answer would be to seize upon a simple nostrum — about each era rejecting the obsessions of the one before it. But then, in that case, why is the very opposite true about popular music? Back in the hippie era, music divided the generations! But today? Well, my kids adore classic 60s and 70s Rock. In a surf shop or bike store, all I have to do is mention a few of the concerts that I snuck into, long ago, and the brash young fellers are at my feet, saying “tell us more, gramps!”

    the moon transiting earth

    2015: our best year in space yet!

    ... toward the vast, vast majority of all that's been acheived. And after decades of doldrums, after the obstacles thrown up against us, it seems we truly are regaining some momentum in space exploration. Have you been keeping score? We are a people who are doing all these wondrous things, exploring our solar system with pennies out of each citizen's pocket. We are doing all this, and so much more! We are a mighty folk — a folk of legend who will be the subject of songs, in times to come. Problem-solvers who will go ahead and save the world, despite the doubters and skeptics. And go on to the stars.

    Drake equation

    life is durable and planets are everywhere — so where is everybody?

    Just after World War II, Enrico Fermi — exasperated by his students' zealous expectation of alien contact — asked: "Well, then? Where are they?" The question inspired me to publish a paper back in 1983, attempting to catalog all of the theories then floating around. Alas, in a scientific field that lacks any known subject matter, many otherwise bright participants tend to seize upon one "explanation" and deride all others.

    brin & dolphin

    raising animals to human levels of intelligence

    Humanity has often looked outward beyond the tribe with a combination of sociability and paranoia for mates or insights or the next potential threat. Even now we scan the skies for extraterrestrial intelligences (and simultaneously crowding the theaters to watch such encounters go horribly awry), but so far all we have run across is a Great Silence, also known as the Fermi Paradox — the quandary that asks where all the alien civilizations are. If we cannot find aliens in the stars, might we create alien intelligences on Earth?

    read Exploring the Scale of the Universe

    exploring our place in time & space

    How do we envision the immensity of the universe? It's almost beyond our comprehension. Here is a list of just a few interactive sites that guide us through the vastness of the cosmos, scaling in from galaxies to planets to buildings to atoms and quarks — or explore the realm of Time... from the Big Bang through the evolution of life on Earth and the history of humanity.

    DAVID BRIN's interviews and discussions

    Let's talk about space — and those annoying little green men.

    our near and far future in space

    In this video Brin presents "The Near and Far Future in Space" at the Space Technology Innovations Conference at Google Headquarters.

    ReInvent the exploration of space

    On ReInvent, SciFi author David Brin and an amazing roundtable of space entrepreneurs, experts and NASA scientists rough out some of the ambitious new goals that could drive the next Barnstorming Era in space, goals ranging from mining asteroids to exploring to....

    talking the Fermi Paradox

    Brin is video-interviewed on Fast Forward: Why haven't we heard from aliens? What explains the Great Silence? And why we haven't found any extraterrestrial neighbors yet?

    an "explanation" for life's origins that falls way short

    Guest-blogging on Sentient Developments, Brin notes: "These problems do not invalidate the notion that panspermia-seeding might have set life in motion on our planet. I find that general concept plausible in a very broad way — though not a leading candidate. Top position — until someone comes up with good reason to change — goes to the Standard Model consensus or life-from-nonlife in Earth's early seas."

    should we terminate the transmission?

    In this interview with Astronomy Now, Brin argues for a core group of SETI scientists who forcefully argue that we should not be shouting into the jungle, that we shouldn’t be looking to strike up a conversation with strangers whose motivations and capabilities are completely unknown to us.

    contacting NASA

    Brin participated in a conversation with Robert L. Forward and Jonathan Vos Post, moderated by NASA scientist (and Nebula Award winner) Geoff Landis, about the possibility of interstellar flight without faster than light travel. (This article originally appeared in the magazine Science Fiction Age.)

    a really bad idea?

    Slate Magazine interviews Brin after the debate about whether — and how — to broadcast reignited "at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held in San Jose."

    debating the search

    Should we beam messages to the cosmos? Science fiction author David Brin debates SETI and METI (Messaging to Extraterrestrials) on CBC Radio, with author and journalist Nick Pope. David Brin states, "My main concern as a scientist is the incredibly unprofessional way in which this has been proceeding."

    are you down with METI?

    On Star Talk Radio, the conversation delves into the SETI-METI debate — about whether to tell aliens where we live comes to StarTalk All-Stars, with host David Grinspoon, author David Brin and Chuck Nice.

    searching for searchers

    What are the chances of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization? In this video interview with The Daily Galaxy, David Brin comments on the Great Silence, the Fermi Paradox, and intelligent life in the universe.

    Libertarian implications of the Great Silence

    Taking the Libertarian perspective, David Brin criticizes the possibly reckless turn in recent SETI research. He also speculates on what the great silence may say about human societies. (Be sure to read the dissenting essays that follow Brin's.)

    a brief intro to science fiction author DAVID BRIN

    To learn more, visit his books page, or see his "about me" page or detailed biography.

    DAVID BRIN author


    David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!). Learn More

    shorter fiction

    Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form. Learn More

    Contrary Brin blog

    Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore. Learn More

    social media influencer

    Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages. Learn More

    DAVID BRIN scientist


    David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research. Learn More

    transparency expert

    Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy. Learn More

    speaker & consultant

    Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 300 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings. Learn More

    future/tech advisor

    Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was appraised as "#1 influencer" in Onalytica's Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands & publications. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More

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  • Contacting BRIN

    All the Ways in the World to Reach David Brin

    an ornery, contrary BLOG, and other insightful wormholes!

    Do not enter if you want a standard "Party" line! Contrary Brin's incendiary posts on science, sci-fi and politics and its engaged, opinionated community poke at too-rigid orthodoxies, proposing ideas and topics that fascinate — and infuriate. See for yourself, and if you like — subscribe for more.

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    references and recommendations

    See more references and recommendations for Brin's public speaking and consulting and his novels and books.

    praise for Sundiver

    "The original Progenitors have long disappeared, and the intergalactic search for relics of their presence, along with the conflicts generated by humanity's asserted uniqueness, shapes much of the sequence, which Brin enlivens throughout with exceedingly clever depictions of a wide range of Alien species."
    — John Clute, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

    The Highlands Future Concepts Program (U.S. Secretary of Defense)

    "David is one of the most thoughtful and provocative speakers I have run across. He has a remarkable talent for getting inside a concept and turning it into something completely new. Before his landmark book, The Transparent Society, was written, he engaged the Highlands Forum with these ideas in open conversation. What was at the time stunning now seems to be accepted by many around the world as the society we are coming to. An amazing mind."

    praise for Brin's science fiction

    "Extrapolation of the highest and most subtle order."
    — Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine

    praise for Earth

    "Brin is a physicist of note who has been a NASA consultant, and he knows how to turn the abstractions of particle physics into high adventure.... He excels at the essential craft of the page-turner, which is to devise an elegantly knotted plot that yields a richly variegated succession of high-impact adventures undergone by an array of believably heroic characters."
    — Thomas M. Disch, EW.com

    final thoughts ...

    ... for this page, at least ...

    what will we find... out there?

    DAVID BRIN quote

    "The worst mistake of first contact, made throughout history by individuals on both sides of every encounter, has been the unfortunate habit of making assumptions. It often proved fatal."
    David Brin

    DAVID BRIN quote