SETI & Technosignatures

Planetary Biotechnospheres, Biotechnosignatures And The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
International Journal of astrobiology
October 8, 2023
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Planetary Biotechnospheres, Biotechnosignatures And The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Midwestern US seen at night from the space station

The concept of planetary intelligence as collective intelligence is used to consider possible evolutionary paths of biotechnospheres that emerge on the intersection of the technosphere with the biosphere and support coupling of the technosphere with the biosphere, thus affecting planetary evolution.

In mature biotechnospheres, the intelligence of technologies and the intelligence of life forms, including engineered life forms, could act in concert to perform various tasks (e.g. monitoring planetary biospheres and environments; restoring planetary environments and biodiversity; steading planetary environments; providing support for space missions; terraforming cosmic objects). Space exploration can expand biotechnospheres beyond planets and create cosmic ecosystems encompassing planets and other cosmic objects; biotechnospheres, spacecraft and the environments of near-planetary, interplanetary space or interstellar space. Humankind, other civilizations or their intelligent machines may produce biotechnosignatures (i.e. observables and artefacts of biotechnospheres) in the Solar System and beyond.

I propose ten possible biotechnosignatures and strategies for the search for these biotechnosignatures in situ and over interstellar distances. For example, if a non-human advanced civilization existed and built biotechnospheres on Earth in the past, its biotechnospheres could use engineered bacteria and the descendants of that bacteria could currently exist on Earth and have properties pertaining to the functions of the ancient bacteria in the biotechnospheres (such properties are proposed and discussed); intelligent technologies created by the ancient civilization could migrate to the Solar System’s outer regions (possible scenarios of their migration and their technosignatures and biotechnosignatures are discussed); these two scenarios are described as the Cosmic Descendants hypothesis. Interstellar asteroids, free-floating planets, spacecraft and objects gravitationally bound to flyby stars might carry extraterrestrial biotechnospheres and pass through the Solar System.

In connection to the fate of post-mainsequence stars and their Oort clouds, the probability for interstellar asteroids to carry biotechnospheres or to be interstellar spacecraft is estimated as very low.

Planetary biotechnospheres, biotechnosignatures and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, International Journal of astrobiology (open access)


Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻