A Bracewell probe
is a hypothetical concept for an autonomous interstellar space probe
dispatched for the express purpose of communication
with one or more alien civilizations. It was proposed by Ronald N. Bracewell
in a 1960 paper, as an alternative to interstellar radio communication between widely separated civilizations.
A Bracewell probe would be constructed as an autonomous robotic interstellar space probe
with a high level of artificial intelligence
, and all relevant information that its home civilization might wish to communicate to another culture. It would seek out technological civilizations–or alternatively monitor worlds where there is a likelihood of technological civilizations arising–and communicate over "short" distances (compared to the interstellar distances between inhabited worlds) once it discovered a civilization that meets its contact criteria. It would make its presence known, carry out a dialogue with the contacted culture, and presumably communicate the results of its encounter to its place of origin. In essence, such probes would act as an autonomous local representative of their home civilization and would act as the point of contact between the cultures.
Since a Bracewell probe can communicate much faster, over shorter distances, and over large spans of time, it can communicate with alien cultures more efficiently than radio message exchange might. The disadvantage to this approach is that such probes cannot... Read More