I consider myself to to be a geek-activist trying to help find some signs of other intelligent life in the universe.
Thoughts about SETI and SETI@home
In my opinion the qunatification of life and therefore the determination if it exists is a great philosphical question. I often go back to plato and sagan on this one and try to imagine what life would be like and if we could detect it.
Certianly from our perspective, finding signals that follow some type of "pattern" is the only thing that is in our current realm of analysis.
As certainly as we were convinced of devine intervention and creationism thrououghout so many centuries - the detection of "life" outside our planet only seems even slightly possible in our time -
Rather obviously a huge sign saying "eat a joe's" could be being broadcast in full power through our very bodies at this moment but not in a way that we can detect it.
The benifits of such a discovery could be of great importance (see contact carl sagan) and would represent a unifying mission for us a planet (something other than the propogation of consumerism or fundemental religoius ideas). Could this technology if sent in the form of an instruction book be used for benovolance of all humans ? or would it represent the pandoras box of universe (much like the nuclear danger we face at ever increasing levels today)?
One thing for sure .... it is in our nature to conquer it seems ingrained in our nature (perhaps one could phrase this differently but goal of controlling and possessing seem to be intrinsic in our nature)
This being said - I hope for the best but fear the worst but press on we must in everyway possible as we have no choice if we are to explore as humans do to ...
I run SETI becuase I have had a keen interest in finding other civilizations to find out how they (if there is even a way of compraable understanding) have coped with the inherent dangers in technolgy.
If we found intelligent life would that imply that we are somehow able to live together without the destruction of ourselves and drake and so many others have postulated ..