This is a great topic. I’m not sure exactly what everyone’s take on this question is but I’ll just dive right in with my take on it. It might be something totally different than everyone else’s opinion or take on the subject.
Last year, I read some kind of short story in a science fiction book, of which I forget the title right now. I remember that the author went into a whole discussion about what would happen if we met aliens and on what terms we should try to communicate. The author was looking at it from a logistics approach. I do not remember everything that was said but I want to talk about the parts that I agreed with and modified with my own thoughts.
The main issue of meeting aliens is an issue of trust. We probably would not trust them and they would not trust us, so no communication would be done without a lot of compromise as to where and how we should communicate, so that we both preserve our own buffer zones.
We would have to communicate under the assumption that the aliens might have evil motives and want to enslave or destroy us for any number of reasons. Maybe they wouldn’t want competition on conquering other worlds. Maybe they would kill us just because we are weak or possibly because they think that we might grow too strong later for them to defeat us. After all, there is no sense tempting fate in case we would get too strong later. Of course, they might be thinking the same thing about us. Neither side would really know what the other is thinking or their motives, which is a very difficult position for either of our races to be in and would take a lot of work to overcome.
In the book that I read, the author came up with a good idea that would probably be the only one that seems logical. That is, that both of our races would need to find a neutral location far apart from our own respective planets, so that neither side would know where the other’s planet is located. This way, both sides can communicate without the threat of having their planet attacked, if the other side really is evil and wants to destroy the other.
This is the same kind of idea as meeting a new person for the first time in a neutral location with lots of people, in an effort to protect ourselves in case the person turns out to be a killer, rapist, stalker, or plain weirdo. The same idea and precautions should be used with alien races.
There is a big problem with this idea though. That is, how will we meet the aliens before they get close enough to our planet to attack? The author came up with another suggestion and that is that we should have our own spaceship light-years away from our planet in the hopes of encountering an alien race with a spaceship. This would have to be done by sending dozens or hundreds of our own spaceships out in all different directions in the hopes of meeting aliens out in space.
With all of this being said, the problem with using SETI is it that we are sending out signals in hopes of aliens intercepting our transmissions. We are, in effect, giving aliens a beacon right to our planet. If the aliens or purely evil and more technologically advanced, which we already know that they would be because our own spaceships can barely make it to the planets in our own solar system, they will be able to kill us at their own whim. Do we really want to risk it?
Now, even without SETI sending out signals on purpose, we are still sending out signals every day without even knowing it. Our modern world now relies on satellites, radio waves, cell phone towers, microwaves, and an innumerable array of different wave-like forces. These signals bounced back and forth around Earth but many of you probably do not know that we are bombarding space with our signals.
Millions of our transmissions are flying out into space as we speak. If aliens are out there and they know how to read our transmissions, it is only a matter of time before our signals are intercepted by them.
It might take years, decades, centuries, or longer for our signals to reach them but, rest assured, one day, aliens will find their way to our planet. Who knows what our technology will be like then and if it will be strong enough to combat the aliens, if they turn out to be evil?
Scientists have also sent out satellites with different formats to carry our media out into space, in an effort to attract aliens, who might be able to decipher all the messages and images that we have included on the satellite. We sent it out years ago and the messages and images show, or try to show, that we are a peaceful planet (yea, right!). At least, this is what we have been told. Maybe it is just a hoax to placate the curious humans.
So, regardless of whether or not we continue to run the SETI program, our signals are still getting out to outer space and possibly being picked up by aliens already. This means that it is already too late to try to block our signals and we have to hope that the aliens that show up are as friendly as ET. If not, we are in big trouble but it is too late, so, as Scooby Doo and Shaggy would say, “Zoinks!”