SETS is my proposal for a new SETI, the Search For Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. The change is Search For Extra Terrestrial Survivalists. The observation that SETI may owe its thus-far lack of success to how briefly intelligent societies may survive strikes me as crucial. I think, until now, the assumption has always been that intelligent societies would eventually fall upon the innate power of the atom and destroy itself shortly thereafter. Now I think another scenario is more likely.
I would like to call attention to another means of self-destruction which, although far less spectacular, may be more deadly to the intelligent society, namely the effects of energy consumption. I assume intelligent societies will be driven by such consumption of energy as we, ourselves’ have experienced. This is, by no means, an obvious assumption, but it does seem very likely.
I also think it very likely that renewable sources of energy will, more often than the opposite, not be the first form of widespread energy used. In other words, I suspect our experience will be more the rule than the exception. Given those assumptions, it seems very likely that any intelligent society will likely confront exactly the type of crises we find ourselves in.
Societies that survive beyond the crisis will not only be easier to detect because of their potentially longevity, their discovery might well help us survive our own crisis, for how they succeeded may be something from which we can learn.
More importantly, searching for survivalist societies will make us think about how one might survive crises like them, which we most decidedly need to do. For example, one of the proposals for dealing with global warming is an orbiting entity which shields the earth from the sun. Detecting such an entity might be even easier than finding the the planet in the first place. We may, therefore, do well in beginning to look for survivors. If no society that has survived by using a particular solution comes readily to the front, maybe that solution is not so promising. If one does come to the front, maybe we can learn from their experience, if we succeed in earning to communicate, what the potential pitfalls of the solution are.
In any case, whether outside help proves to be available or not, time is of the essence. If help is not readily available, time is clearly running out. At the very least we have to give up the idea we have forever. We do not.