There is a strong case to be made for searching for technological signatures of extraterrestrial intelligence. There is also a sound argument to be made for searching for such within our own solar system despite the low likelihood of one being there. Among the reasons for such are the relative ease of doing such a search, the powerful implications of finding something, and the myriad side benefits that pursuit of such a goal might bring.
The relative ease of a thorough search of the solar system seems self-evident. Compared to any other system, there is simply less distance to travel. Indeed a similar argument was presented by Davies and Wagner in their paper titled, ”searching for alien artifacts on the moon” in which they make the case that since the moon is relatively unexplored and easy to explore, there is little reason we shouldn’t scour it on the off chance that we might find alien artifacts or other things of interest there.
This seems outlandish and naïve at first glance. Why should we think that some other civilization would make the effort of coming to our system? We aren’t anything special. But consider this. We are putting together plans to send craft to other systems right now with programs such as breakthrough starshot. It’s not unreasonable to think that if there are other civilizations out there with at least our level of technology, they might do something similar.
I’ll admit, with the immense distances and timescales involved, searching for artifacts is like looking for a needle in a haystack when we aren’t sure if there’s a needle in the first place. However, unlike an otherwise fruitless sift through hay, the search for alien artifacts can yield many side benefits. Through all the hurdles great and small that we would encounter in this search, we will be forced to innovate and develop technologies that can be useful elsewhere. For example, everything from modern athletic shoes to CAT scanners were invented with the help of NASA.
As wild of a goal as it is, a thorough search for life and artifacts in our own solar system is worthwhile. Not only for the longshot possibility of confirming the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, but also as a challenge to improve mankind technologically. Necessity is the mother of invention.
You have brought up some very interesting points and made your post very easy to read. I agree that all signs point to exploring what is close rather than shooting off into the unknown. Even without the prospect of extraterrestrial life in our solar system, I feel the potential benefits of thoroughly searching what is in our own backyard are huge. Especially with where we are with our technology, we realistically can't learn a whole lot in a reasonable timeline from exoplanets that are 10-20 years from us. As we branch off into our own solar system we can develop better technologies and hopefully continue to extend our reach further and further. The idea that the we might find remnants of another civilizations attempts to contact us on another planet is a little harder to believe. If they were able to sense that our solar system had life potential wouldn't they also single out earth to be the most life potential planet in the solar system? I find it hard to believe that they would send probes to the moon or to Jupiter and not directly to us.
I like the point you add about looking at it from the aliens' point of view, because they are probably in the same boat as us. If we were to find a solar system with an earth-like planet on it, we would probably focus more heavily on that solar system/planet. Searching in our solar system narrows our search by a lot, but with current technology we don't really have a choice.
I think that searching our own system makes sense, too. We eventually want to send humans to explore our solar system, they might as well look for any signs of life while they are out there. I think they should make a point of choosing landing sites that make sense for other forms of life to be interested in. this would be pretty easy, because we would be interested in those locations as well. I truly hoe we find something out there. If people got excited over a car being launched into space think of what finding an alien artifact would do to our exploration efforts!