SETI @ Hat Creek
Visitor Center
I do not believe that I have ever taken so long to develop an architectural concept as with this project.
There are several reasons for this reluctance to start: the press of other work that had a more immediate time frame; the complexity of the program; the requirement of including and facilitating the large number of stakeholders; the need to build the capability of SFIA Architect-MasterBuilders before taking on a project of this scale and scope. All these are true but not sufficient; I have not been ready.
In recent weeks, however, this project - the IDEA of it - has been pressing on the back of my mind. It is time to hatch it and see what we have.

October 4, 2004 Note:

I first started to explore this project with Jill Tarter in 2000; I wrote the comments above just over a year ago. Still, the IMAGE of the project remained obscure and this web page did not move forward. A long incubation period indeed.

A few moths back, CNN produced a couple of special programs in which Jill was quoted rather extensively. In both, she remarked on how difficult it is for humans to get out of the dominate paradigm of their time; to think “outside of ourselves.” As I watched, the idea of this facility came to mind. I have had part of it for a long time. This was that there should not be a major building on the site. In stead, there should be a number of scattered places and environments that provide a series of intense experiences. What I did not have, before hearing Jill on CNN, was the Program, the reason why these learning stations needed to be as I had dreamed them.

This reason is embedded in what Jill was saying. The experiences need to do several things. They need to take us outside of ourselves; at the same time, they must be a record of what we are, what we have come from and what our potential might be; that have to be a statement - made to ourselves - of what we would say to an alien life if we were to meet it.

The following scenario is a way of illustrating how this “Visitor Center” might work. It must be a profound educational experience. It must be the summary of not only human science but human art and life. It must inspire us to become what we can become. It must educate (to lead out) us to our past and our future. It must be a welcome to all life in all of its diversity. It must be a place of peace, of reconciliation and of aspiration. A place that shows a reality of life far beyond what we experience today.

It is the discipline in many traditions to make a PRILMAGRIGE. This is true is science, in religion and in the liberal arts. One goes to the great Centers to learn and to contribute. What if Hat Creek became such a place? What if it was not about the past - although it would honor our evolution - what if it was about our future? The future we may not have if we do not think about it and make a sustained effort to create it. What would we have to do - to become - to reach “Graduation Day” as Bucky called it? What if we were to discover other life, what would we want to say about ourselves - how would we want to be represented? what would we want to BE?

Experiencing these questions is what this Center needs to be.

Five SCENARIOS of reconciliation and hope:



As we decided, when we were last together, I have visited the SETI site at Hat Creek in Northern California. I did so anonymously as a visitor not in my role as a member of the Institute. I wanted to see what kind of science was being presented to the public.

As you know, I have often been critical of this program and questioned its cost and contribution to science when so many programs you and I consider critical are going un-funded.

I have been skeptical that real science can be done while co-mingled with such an extensive Visitor Center so this is where I focused my attention. Frankly, I expected to see “ET come home” but actually experienced something entirely different in nature. In fact, I was quite moved by my experience. It is causing me to check many assumptions that I have held in more than one arena of human activity.

I generally dislike science museums and particularly all stripes of “hands on” so-called learning. From what I had heard this is what I expected to see. No so.









Fellows, I choose to write this message in the language of these curious and paradoxical earth-people in order to authentically express the full nuance of this gnostic species.

I decided, when given the mission to document this civilization and to place humans on the scale established by the PRIME DIRRECTIVE, to visit their own Center for the search for what they call “extraterrestrial” life in what they conceive of as the Universe. It is not possible to frame these concepts in our own language as our experience of life and universe, and certainly time, is radically different from theirs. I am tempted to describe their view of life-potential as narrow and provencal but I am reminded that we are not to succumb to the same thing ourselves. Indeed, there is much that is charming, fresh and challenging in how this species sees things - and much that is, frankly, appalling from our point of view.

I understand that writing in their language may impose a barrier to your understanding as I have already used several concepts that exits in their idiom but not in our way of communicating. However, to try to understand them is important to my mission something that I have been devoted to since we first started receiving transmissions. As we have discovered, using their language is the best way to understand an indigenous species and their culture.

I was able to travel among them by employing a disguise. Due to the primitive state of their health care there are many among them that are confined to what is called a wheel chair. This has enabled me to visit while not being hampered by size, speech and mobility issues. They think of me as a young child that cannot walk or speak but who is nevertheless mentally active and curious. They seem to have a special fondness for those in these unfortunate circumstances. In this way, the only part of me that has to look human is my upper trunk, head and hands. Although we are configured differently in these matters it has proven fairly easy to appear to function this way. A strange constraint which required active, moment-to-moment management of my physical configuration, and which give me some empathy with what these creatures have to deal with, but a workable one.




These scenarios contain a certain bias in that they are all stories of individuals that came to the Visitor Center with a degree of skepticism and left with an expanded view of themselves, the human race and the possibilities of other life. I do not wish to imply that I think that this coming-in attitude on the part of our writers represents the majority case or that, in any way, the purpose of the Center is propaganda to promote the SETI agenda - just the opposite in fact. These “cases” were used for literary purposes; the “conflicts” described are devises to dramatize the elements that I believe to most essential to the concept. And while I do not believe that the SETI program is at conflict to the degree that a singular reading of the scenarios would imply, the underlying issues these stories bring up are certainly major points of controversy in our society today. The fact that the Visitor Center experience can be inspiring, present a comprehensive viewpoint of life’s potential and help visitors, no matter their own world-view, find themselves in the larger story of humankind is the opportunity this project posses. In today’s environment of manufactured controversy and managed information I also have to state that my alien writer scenario is not making a comment on visitations - or not - from other intelligent life forms. Again, it is a literary technique to help us to get out of ourselves and see our civilization from another perspective than just from inside of it. This is consistent with the proposed THEME of the Center’s Program. Besides, in order to get the permission to publish the letter, I had to promise not to disclose the star system from which our writer came. Any inquiries seeking this information will be ignored.
The PROGRAM is clear: There are few places on this planet that are truly neutral . By neural I do not mean without agenda and passion. By Neutral I mean objective. By objective I do not mean cold and dispassionate. By passionate I do not mean crazy and without reason. By reason I do not mean that the universe can be reduced to a mere logical statement. Passionate to me means the investment of everything you are. Reason, to me, means a reason-able approach to life. The PROGRAM is to provide experiences that are the SUM of what to be HUMAN is about; what has been achieved; what is longed for; how we can relate to all life; what we can become.
This is a PLACE that must be heuristic. There has to be a near infinite number of paths through it depending on the choices each individual makes as they travel the SETI landscape. This is a physical algorithm of life itself. Each decision leading to an number of options and restraints and undisclosed opportunities and risks.
The IMAGERY is clear: as we seek life other than ourselves we find ourselves.
The PROCESS is clear: this is a physical manifestation of the Glass Bead Game - every day it is played differently. This play is documented and each play changes the experience itself. It even, over time, changes the physical buildings built into and on the landscape. It becomes the history of those who come to dream and to explore. It is an ALIEN landscape only in that it is one that we have not yet accepted as our own. By experiencing it, we see ourselves in a new way. We understand. We shift our notion of what is important. We learn to believe in what we can do - actually do. The content is the best we have thought and tested. It is open source so it is the reflection of all - individual genius and GroupGenius. It evolves yet it seeks a timeless core.
The SETI site is an ARTIFACT. It is embedded knowledge. It is human Armature. “visitors” become explorers - they discover their heritage, they dream new dreams, they lay aside petty differences, they embrace the universal, they become more human. They learn to seek the Temple in Humankind. A place like this has not been built on Planet Earth in centuries.
This “building” will be a distributed structure. The structure will be so integrated into the landscape that where nature and human artifact each begin and end will be subtitle and ambiguous. The “rooms” will be nodes in this distributed structure forming a synapse like experience.
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