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At Mind Matters News, some fun: Would ET intelligences understand the 1974 Arecibo Message?

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Arecibo Message

Probably not, says astrobiologist Dirke Schulz-Makuch, who raises the question of whether we could ever really communicate with extraterrestrial intelligences:

In early, easily-mocked sci fi, a little green man points his raygun at an unsuspecting passerby and barks “Take me to your leader.” Fast forward: If the little green man didn’t have the technology to figure out who the leader was before landing, he certainly wouldn’t have the technology to get here.

News, “Would ET intelligences understand the 1974 Arecibo Message?” at Mind Matters News


Schulze-Makuch also notes that life forms on Earth don’t all communicate using the same methods:

We humans communicate primarily through language, using sound waves in a very narrow range. This doesn’t even apply to all the animals on our own planet, however. For dogs, the primary means of communication is smell. Cuttlefish and squids “talk” by changing their skin coloration and texture, as well as by their posture and movements. For dolphins, it’s a matter of echolocation, clicking, and whistling.

Dirk Schulze-Makuch, “The Science of Aliens, Part V: How Would They Communicate?” at AirSpaceMag (September 13, 2021)

Then there’s the bee dance that points to sources of nectar some distance away…

One can object that there is a big difference between the sort of animal communications intended to signify food, territory, mating, etc. and x2 + y2 = z2 and e = mc2. If ET received those signals from us — or we did from them – in any interpretable form, it would be clear that an intelligent entity had sent them. They are true and very important — but they are also abstractions.


Takehome: Extraterrestrial intelligences should, however, recognize abstractions like mathematics and physics facts, which could be used to interpret communications.

You may also wish to read:

Where could aliens be hiding technology in our solar system?
Possibilities include the Oort Cloud and Lagrange points, where NASA can park spacecraft to reduce fuel consumption. What astrobiologists are looking for is technosignatures — events and entities that nature did not simply generate apart from some form of thought.

and

Quantum physicist: Aliens may communicate by starlight Terry Rudolph of Imperial College, London, argues that they may have evolved so as to take advantage of quantum mechanics via photonics more easily than we can. Photonics is a form of communication that takes advantage of the fact that light moves faster than electricity.

4 Replies to “At Mind Matters News, some fun: Would ET intelligences understand the 1974 Arecibo Message?

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    Would the signal even be detectable 47 light-years out?

  2. 2
    Fasteddious says:

    Sci-fi author Adrian Tchaikovsky has written some fascination stories about humans working out how to communicate with intelligent spiders and evolved squids in the far future. He handles the different modes of communications (vibration for spiders and colour patterns for squids) and the different mind patterns (worldviews?) of these species quite imaginatively. That sort of exercise suggests that an intelligent species, given enough interest and time, could figure out at least part of the message. Of course, they would first have to recognize it as a message, and that involves ID thinking; was this signal designed and if so, how can we be sure? This, of course, is what ID thinkers do with DNA, fine tuning, OOL, and other aspects of reality: identifying that they indeed involved design, without having to say who did the designing, or how.

  3. 3
    Origenes says:

    In early, easily-mocked sci fi, a little green man points his raygun at an unsuspecting passerby and barks “Take me to your leader.” Fast forward: If the little green man didn’t have the technology to figure out who the leader was before landing, he certainly wouldn’t have the technology to get here.

    They’d better have the technology to figure out who the leader is, because, at the moment, no earthling seems to know.

  4. 4
    jerry says:

    Went to a production of the musical, Young Frankenstein, at Ogunquit and one of the characters was a giant green man. He was about 6’8” and huge but could sing and dance.

    He was a hit. And all his skin was green.

    Aside: why would green men be little?

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