Let's get personal with some aliens

From spring of 2003 until my graduation in May 2006, I wrote many articles for several sections of my college newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan. Here's one of my Opinion articles.
Let's get personal with some aliens

Mark J. Lehman
Assistant A & E Editor

Originally published March 16, 2005

“I am a 20-year-old college student who is involved in community service, online publishing, and writing for the school newspaper. Seeking an attractive, intelligent woman who is goal-oriented but has fun along the way.”

These are the sentences that begin the personal ad I just posted to craigslist.org, a site which allows free classified and personal ad postings for about 100 different cities and areas in the US and overseas. And here are the closing remarks of that same ad: “PS Any aliens out there in space getting this, shoot me an email. I don't discriminate. But you've still gotta fit the profile.”

Anyone not privy to craigslist or the swarm of news articles surrounding it this past week should be very confused right about now. The site, which has burst onto the internet scene with amazing force and expanded by leaps and bounds within the past year or two, recently won an online auction by Deep Space Communications Network for the first private communications transmission light years into deep space. Jim Buckmaster, craigslist’s CEO, decided to bid $1225 for this right with the idea of letting the site’s users transmit their ads into hyperspace. So now someone like me who wants to have a “close encounter” or someone who is getting a new apartment wants to sell a couch to one of the creatures from the “Alien” films can post an ad for free and hope for the best.

While the notion of extraterrestrial life is fascinating, and the idea of contacting alternate life forms is something I never thought would happen during my lifetime, I question the methods of doing this. Though astronomers at the SETI Institute have stated that the chances of extraterrestrials receiving and understanding the craigslist transmission are slim to none, suppose that it does happen—that not only do non-human beings from another world pick up the transmission but decipher it and understand it.

Do we as a people really want our first contact to include a written log of Joe Blow’s quest to find MILFs? Or John Smith’s attempt to get $50 for his LA Dodgers bobblehead collection?

The other problem here is the auction itself. Do we really want it left to chance who gets to send personal messages to ALF? These types of foreign relations don’t seem like something best left to the highest bidder.

There are plenty of things that could have gone wrong with the whole auction process. However, though it seems absurd, Earth lucked out with craigslist. And at least we’ll keep ourselves honest this way. After all, besides personals craigslist has job listings, activity partners, classes, housing, and even discussion boards on everything from haikus and pets to nightlife and fetishes. If we want the Klingons to get a sense of who we are, a personals site would provide almost the perfect cross-section of our world. Or in this case, at least they’ll get a good chunk of Americana.

So next time you’re looking for someone to play tennis with or trying to find someone to work the late shift at work, don’t be afraid to check that box that says “ok to transmit this posting into outer space.” After all, who knows? You might find that ET can double your production, or perhaps be the next Andre Agassi.

As for me, I’m just hoping for one who looks like Keira Knightley. Bring on the alien babes!
[Los Angeles Loyolan web site does not have archives available this far back.]
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