Funding the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence with… a Lottery Bond?

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Posted November 18, 2013

Funding tasks like the search for the extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is rather complicated, especially considering the fact how long it could take to get the first results out of any SETI-like project. However, the advancement of human knowledge in various fields of astronomy or astrophysics often has no immediate practical implications, although particularly the extraterrestrial life has been an object of various sci-fi-oriented speculations for a long time. So is it commercially viable to look for signs of life in distant worlds, or should we forget this expensive idea and do something else instead?

Well, the practical usefulness is quite a broad discussion. However, it could be possible to fund this venture using an idea as simple as… lottery. The author of this idea, Jacob Haqq-Misra from the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, USA, has proposed the establishment of a SETI Lottery Bond which could become a source of continuous income required to fund the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The paper providing full mathematical basis and relevant ethical details of this proposal has been published at the last week.

The author claims that fixed-rate perpetual bond is the most suitable for this purpose and more stable compared to ‘regular’ crowdfunding. Anyone, who invested in SETI, would receive an interest continuously, similarly like via investments in ordinary shares. The ‘lottery’ part of this conception hides the most interesting part: in case the extraterrestrial intelligence is found, a random subset of the shares, or lottery bonds, would be awarded a prize based on the total financial pool accumulated over all the years took to find the ET, counting from the start of the lottery.

The author also suggests this lottery bond to be transferable, i.e. that the investors could trade bonds in secondary markets. The total capital would be supervised by some financial institution and annual payments would be used to fund the SETI initiative, pay investor interest and contribute to the overall growth of the lottery fund. Jacob writes in his paper, that this method makes it possible to generate more than ten million dollars for extraterrestrial life research each year, which, in turn, could provide steady funding source for the entire telescope arrays.

Of course, it is quite obvious, that human life duration could be not sufficient in order to claim the main prize. In any case, the fixed-rate income seems a nice way to provide a slight compensation of this potential ‘loss’. And who knows, maybe your great-grandchildren could claim the main prize?

By Alius Noreika, Source:

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