What is interesting to an alien?
Well, first of all: a very Merry Christmas to all ThinkingShift readers, that is if you celebrate it. If you don’t, maybe you’re just having a relaxing time off work. Either way, to amuse you over the Christmas holiday period is today’s post on “What is interesting to an alien?”.
New Scientist had a recent piece on how our messages to extraterrestrials have gone unanswered and ponders why this is so. One of the reasons for lack of response could be that aliens are too bored to reply according to the article. The alien chat line has so far consisted of four messages – largely mathematical, coded descriptions of the biology of the human race. Now if aliens are anything like me, they’d fail to understand the message because they flunked maths at school or because the topic is just plain dull. An advanced civilization out there has probably visited us so many times that they know all about our physical and genetic make-up according to Canadian astrophysicist, Yvan Dutil. After reading the messages Dutil says: ” they will be none the wiser about us humans and our achievements. In some ways, we may have been wasting our telescope time”.
So Dutil and his seriously smart buddies are now working on composing more interesting messages. But the question is: what on earth is interesting to an alien? They’re probably pissed off with us for wrecking up the world and think we’re pretty dumb. So they’re trying to find some language and common ground to tell aliens things about human society that they’ll find worthy of taking note of. One of these topics is the vexing question of how to cut a cake (no joking).
I’ve not noted this problem because when there’s cake around, I don’t care how it’s cut as long as I can lay my hands on a piece! But apparently mathematicians have resolved the problem of ensuring that everyone gets their fair share of cake. Clearly, this has implications for the equitable allocation of resources in society, which I think any aliens would be far more interested in. So democracy might be a hot topic for extraterrestorials – who knows what sort of political system they might have, so they could be eager to learn about democratic institutions. Perhaps they could study the USA 🙂
Maybe aliens would be interested in learning how we’ve managed to snuff out some glorious civilizations through conquest or transmitting disease or through needless warfare. A good lessons learned project perhaps. Maybe we could tell aliens about Facebook and MySpace, heck even invite them to have a MySpace page! But then again, advanced civilizations would probably conclude from social networking sites that we’re only concerned with self, getting plastered onto YouTube and being micro-celebrities.
One scientist suggests that we simply send aliens the encyclopedia (would that be wikipedia or Encyclopedia Britannica?) and hope that there is enough redundancy for them to spot patterns. Whilst another suggests that we should have a sort of Help Desk with a message ready and waiting should aliens make contact: “We’ll get back to you, once we’ve figured what on earth you’re asking us”.
So if we don’t know our audience, it is pretty hard to compose meaningful messages and questions. Scientists have tried using teenagers to send messages to extraterrestrial intelligence and told them about humans’ internal emotional world amongst other stuff – getting into emotions might have scared them off particularly if they’re like Spock of Star Trek fame and don’t understand human emotions. Heck, even humans find it hard to understand human emotions. Even a Theremin concert has been flung into space. Maybe the aliens didn’t like the music played.
This all had me thinking: what message would you send to aliens? What questions might you ask them? Who should be the spokesperson for the human race? How would we explain to aliens what it means to be human? How do we explain the concept of God? As to our spokesperson or ambassador, if we want to keep ET away from our planet, we could use Prez Bush. And why select a human representative? Maybe a dolphin or whale would have a better chance at establishing contact than a human.
What message would you send? And who would you select as an ambassador?