Even when it was first started circa 50-60 years ago, it should have been obvious that there was very close to a zero probability that it would detect & recognize signals from some technological ET culture. I wonder if the organizers were sociologist or psychologist types with little knowledge of hard science & technology. To me, the other alternative is that they figured running such a project would allow them access to higher salaries & perks than teaching or doing potentially useful research. When they started SETI, I do not think they had any competitive groups, while various more plausible research projects had many groups/individuals vying for funding. I find it hard to believe that a knowledgeable physicist would expect the SETI project to be successful.