Book in Focus
Extraterrestrial Intelligence"/>

25th January 2023

Book in Focus
Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Academic and Societal Implications

Edited by Jensine Andresen and Octavio A. Chon Torres


Too Late, But Not Too Little

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released the unclassified version of its 2022 Annual Report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, on 12 January 2023, slightly delayed from the 31 October 2022 deadline for the report stipulated in Section 1683 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022. The full text of the report can be read here: https://www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/Unclassified-2022-Annual-Report-UAP.pdf

Though lacking in punctuality, the new UAP report decidedly is not lacking in substance. Of note, ODNI now acknowledges a total of 510 UAP reports as of 30 August 2022. The role of DoD's new All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), which was established on 15 July 2022, is emphasized as the entity within the U.S. Government (USG) with primary tasking to attribute UAP when possible as a result of AARO's broad scope of authorities and responsibilities, which ensure that UAP detection and identification efforts will span DoD and its interagency partners. Dr. Sean M. Kirkpatrick, former Chief Scientist at the Defense Intelligence Agency's Missile and Space Intelligence Center, and a recipient of numerous scientific and intelligence awards, currently sits at AARO's helm as its new Director. As reported on in December, AARO is considering anomalous phenomena across all domains in which the U.S. military operates, and it is working with the military departments and the Joint Chiefs to expand UAP reporting beyond aviators to mariners, submariners, and space Guardians. (embed ink if possible: https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/3249317/dod-office-moving-ahead-in-mission-to-identify-anomalous-phenomena/

Substantively, ODNI's 2022 UAP should be applauded for its emphasis on coordination of effort across the entire USG, including but not limited to DoD and the intelligence community (IC). AARO currently is working with an impressive list of partners, including the National Intelligence Manager for Aviation (NIM-Aviation), the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD[I&S]), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Energy (DoE), ODNI/NIM-Emerging and Disruptive Technology (NIM-EDG), ODNI/National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), and ODNI/National Intelligence Council (ODNI/NIC). This coordination of effort requires tremendous dedication on the part of AARO and its partners and should be recognized for the organizational achievement that it is. 

Also substantively, ODNI's new report states that since the June 2021 publication of its Preliminary Assessment, ODNI has developed strategic guidance to enhance further collection on UAP, so that now, AARO and ODNI working together can collect and report on UAP in a comprehensive manner for the IC. Of note, NIM-Aviation will remain the IC's focal point for UAP issues while AARO now is DoD's focal point. This clarity with respect to roles and responsibilities also should be applauded.

To the real topic of UAP, the report states that 510 UAP reports have be catalogued to date. Some of these are decidedly pedestrian, being attributable to Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) or UAS-like entities, balloon or balloon-like entities, and clutter – all clearly human or natural in origin (especially the clutter, which includes airborne debris such as plastic bags). Nevertheless, after these unremarkable reports can be subtracted, a full 171 UAP reports remain that currently are "uncharacterized and unattributed." Most of these originate from U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force aviators and operators who witnessed UAP during their operational duties. Fortunately – and very substantively – ODNI reports that to date, "there have been no reported collisions between U.S. aircraft and UAP." Furthermore, ODNI states that "there have also been no encounters with UAP confirmed to contribute directly to adverse health-related effects to the observer(s)." These two statements should do much to assuage concerned citizens who may have read media coverage to the contrary. 

What everyone can agree is very significant about ODNI's report is the number – 171 – UAP reports that currently are unexplained. This is not 1, 2, or 5 – it is 171, which is a rather large number especially when one knows that ODNI and its impressive list of partners mentioned above no doubt have done everything they could do to attribute these UAP events prior to the publication of ODNI's new 2022 UAP report. Granted, as the report indicates, multiple factors affect the observation and detection of UAP, including weather, illumination, atmospheric effects, and accurate interpretation of sensor data. Also, the report itself is quite straightforward when it states that "a select number of UAP incidents may be attributable to sensor irregularities or variances," which is another way of saying that these factors by no means account for all UAP incidents, especially out of a total of 171 that remain unattributed.

The upshot of this is very substantive indeed. We should be prepared for the extraordinary, which is that an advanced, extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) may be operating in our midst. But while this statement may seem extraordinary from one vantage point, it could not be more natural from another. 

The universe is enormous, at a scale that most people find difficult to imagine. With approximately 100 billion stars comprising our Milky Way galaxy alone, and with approximately 100 billion galaxies comprising the observable universe as we know it, we live in a fish tank of extraordinary size and complexity. When considering the habitability of the universe, scientists extrapolate from its physical and chemical consistency to its supposed biological qualities. Because the universe displays the same physical and chemical conditions on average, this suggests that the universe also is a biological one, as esteemed theoretical physicist Paul C.W. Davies notes in his various publications including those on the bio-friendliness of the nature of physical laws.

In other words, if ETI is here operating on and around Earth and in Earth's waters, we really have to acknowledge that in many ways, nothing could be more natural given the immensity of the universe as a whole. If this is the case, we may be on the brink of extraordinary changes in human society – which may arrive not a second too late. Human beings have much to learn, and UAP may be providing us with just the opportunity we need to spread our wings.


Dr. Jensine Andresen holds an undergraduate B.S.E. from Princeton University and a Certificate from the School of International and Public Policy, a master's from Columbia, and master's and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard. Dr. Andresen also is the lead editor of Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Academic and Societal Implications (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2022) and the author of the upcoming Extraterrestrial Ethics (Ethics Press, 2023). She currently is a member of the Research Team of The Galileo Project at Harvard University but emphasizes that all opinions above are hers alone and are not a statement from the Project itself. 


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