Longevity is the key factor in the search for technosignatures

Università degli Studi di Roma, Astronomical Observatory of Belgrade
It is well-known that the chances of success of SETI depend on the longevity of technological civilizations or, more broadly, on the duration of the signs of their existence, or technosignatures. Here, we re-examine this general tenet in more detail, and we show that its broader implications were not given the proper significance. In particular, an often overlooked aspect is that the duration of a technosignature is in principle almost entirely separable from the age of the civilization that produces it. We propose a classification scheme of technosignatures based on their duration and, using Monte Carlo simulations, we show that, given an initial generic distribution of Galactic technosignatures, only the ones with the longest duration are likely to be detected. This tells us, among other things, that looking for a large number of short-lived technosignatures is a weaker observational strategy than focusing the search on a few long-lived ones. It also suggests to abandon any anthropocentric bias in approaching the question of extraterrestrial intelligence. We finally give some ideas of possible pathways that can lead to the establishment of long-lived technosignatures.