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Thread: How to talk to aliens

  1. #1
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    How to talk to aliens

    Does this seem like a good way, compared to others proposed, to communicate with ETI?
    https://niginsblog.wordpress.com/201...alk-to-aliens/
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    I've seen the movie he mentions: 'Arrival'. I had several issues with it .. however, one principle I think I agreed with was that development of a method for communicating depends entirely on the immediate circumstances of the initial encounter. The same goes for how to diagnose simpler life if/when we stumble across it somewhere.

    The scientific process always starts out with an observation of an object and its surroundings and a record of event time(s). How something 'fits', or doesn't 'fit', in that landscape at a given time, is the beginning of discovering clues on how to communicate with it (or test) that thing. Trying to devise a means for doing any of that prior to having any observation whatsoever of an alien, is virtually a total waste of time, because the best one can do is to logically extrapolate from one's own initial assumptions about what that alien is, or isn't .. which was all made up to begin with!

    The author then starts out with a bunch of such assumptions which only serve to completely reflect his own basic human philosophical outlook (ie: Realism):
    Quote Originally Posted by Nigin
    Math is a very artificial construct, and it is possible to imagine an advanced civilisation that doesn’t know prime numbers or powers of two. Science, on the other hand, is something that exists in the real world, so aliens should know it, but differences in notation can cause total misunderstanding.
    With these assumptions, this guy shows us nothing about what makes Science ... science.
    Science exists as a very human process which we either choose to do (or don't choose to do) ..ie: speculate, hypothesize, objectively test, document results, and form logical conclusions. All of those things are things human minds do (and nothing else does any of 'em .. yet).. but imagining that aliens do any of that prior to observation of them, is just anthropomorphism at its finest! The physical laws and the fundamental physical constants are, themselves, constructs formed to explain amongst ourselves, repetitively consistent observations! (Try convincing say .. an ant .. that the concept of say, the three coupling constants for the gauge groups SU(3) ◊ SU(2) ◊ U(1), are fundamental to its existence in 'the real world'! Is he kidding?) To say any of these constructs 'exist' in something glossed over, by giving it the label of 'the real world' is a total cop out, I'm afraid.

    We need to have a very, very clear understanding of what we are, and the behaviors that constitute 'being human', before we have even a slim chance of dealing effectively with a first contact situation!

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    It doesn’t seem like an entirely bad way, but it does seem to be optimistic. The missing steps are determining if the ET can communicate and is willing to. The “can” part may be hideously difficult as humans have a remarkable ability to convert assumptions (“only humans make and use tools”) into Truths, and aliens may make similar assumptions, like only they can communicate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    Does this seem like a good way, compared to others proposed, to communicate with ETI?
    https://niginsblog.wordpress.com/201...alk-to-aliens/
    A few thoughts

    1. I share Nigin's scepticism about whether an alien intelligence would be able to make sense of human-devised symbols for mathematical and scientific concepts developed by us humans.

    2. Nigin suggests working with an alien language using the methods of cryptography, i.e. techniques for deciphering coded messages. The thing is, in cryptography there is a underlying message in a familiar language, which you find once you've cracked the code. That's not at all the same thing as making sense of an unfamiliar language — even a human language, let alone an alien one.

    3. The suggested system of visual symbols reminds me of Blissymbols — a constructed visual language which has been used for teaching handicapped children. A system like that might be worth trying with aliens, but it would obviously depend on which senses the alien species uses most. If you were trying to teach a human-devised language to a species which relied more on hearing rather than vision, then it would make more sense to use a sound-language rather than a visual language.

    4. I agree with Nigin that meeting an unfamiliar intelligent species is potentially dangerous... Important to remember Robert Freitas' advice — never stand directly underneath a hovering or landing UFO !
    Last edited by Colin Robinson; 2018-Jul-11 at 01:07 PM.

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    What about the rumored law that in the US it's illegal for a private citizen to communicate with an extra-terrestrial species?
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDon View Post
    What about the rumored law that in the US it's illegal for a private citizen to communicate with an extra-terrestrial species?
    That doesnít make much sense. If itís only a rumored law, then you donít know whether itís true or not and you would be free to talk to them. Could you imagine the court proceedings:

    Prosecutor: well your honor, we arrested him because it is rumored there is a law against it...


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    That doesn’t make much sense. If it’s only a rumored law, then you don’t know whether it’s true or not and you would be free to talk to them. Could you imagine the court proceedings:

    Prosecutor: well your honor, we arrested him because it is rumored there is a law against it...


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    Oh, they'd just use some national security law.

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    Robert Sawyer outlined a neat way to communicate in "Starplex".

    It relied on the aliens first parroting back what we send them.

    At first, we just sent a ping. One ping, repeated after a while, until the aliens parroted it back.
    Then, we sent two pings, waiting for them to send two back.
    It proceeded (I forget exactly the intervening steps) to say one ping AND one ping EQUALS two pings.
    Then one plus one plus one does NOT EQUAL three.
    Once that is established, we have a TRUE/FALSE proto-language.
    Now we can start building a vocabulary of subtler things like 5 is MORE THAN 1. 5 is LESS THAN 10.
    And on up the scale of complexity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    That doesn’t make much sense. If it’s only a rumored law, then you don’t know whether it’s true or not
    Ah, but ignorance of the law is no excuse.

    Remember the old Steve Martin defense:

    I FORGOT ... that not paying my taxes is illegal.
    I FORGOT ... that murder is illegal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    Ah, but ignorance of the law is no excuse.
    That is indeed a legal principle, but let me just quote from the Wikipedia article about ignorance of the law.
    The doctrine assumes that the law in question has been properly promulgated—published and distributed, for example, by being printed in a government gazette, made available over the internet, or printed in volumes available for sale to the public at affordable prices. In the ancient phrase of Gratian, Leges instituuntur cum promulgantur ("Laws are instituted when they are promulgated").[3] In order that a law obtain the binding force which is proper to a law, it must be applied to the men who have to be ruled by it. Such application is made by their being given notice by promulgation. A law can bind only when it is reasonably possible for those to whom it applies to acquire knowledge of it in order to observe it, even if actual knowledge of the law is absent for a particular individual. A secret law is no law at all.
    So a law that is only a rumor can't be a law, is what I meant.

    But actually, there is a law that might be interpreted to mean something like that in the US, but not really. The Logan Act of 1799, which prohibits private citizens from being private diplomats in a conflict between a foreign government and the US. So if you were to talk to an alien government representative and agreed to receive technology in exchange for allowing them to rule the US, you would be in violation of that law (and incidentally treason as well). But it wouldn't apply to an ET who is merely a private citizen.
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    Formerly Frog march.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    That is indeed a legal principle, but let me just quote from the Wikipedia article about ignorance of the law.


    So a law that is only a rumor can't be a law, is what I meant.

    But actually, there is a law that might be interpreted to mean something like that in the US, but not really. The Logan Act of 1799, which prohibits private citizens from being private diplomats in a conflict between a foreign government and the US. So if you were to talk to an alien government representative and agreed to receive technology in exchange for allowing them to rule the US, you would be in violation of that law (and incidentally treason as well). But it wouldn't apply to an ET who is merely a private citizen.
    This could wander into politics, but prosecutors have a great deal of discretion, including rather creative interpretations of statute. Coded communication with unknown foreigners? Obviously, conspiracy to commit acts of terror.

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    The interesting part would be calling the alien to the witness stand.

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    Tough to enforce a subpoena.

    Rendition would probably be worse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    This could wander into politics, but prosecutors have a great deal of discretion, including rather creative interpretations of statute. Coded communication with unknown foreigners? Obviously, conspiracy to commit acts of terror.
    I guess if they want to argue that there is conspiracy they could try, but Iím not sure what the conspiracy would be.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    That is indeed a legal principle, but let me just quote from the Wikipedia article about ignorance of the law.


    So a law that is only a rumor can't be a law, is what I meant.

    But actually, there is a law that might be interpreted to mean something like that in the US, but not really. The Logan Act of 1799, which prohibits private citizens from being private diplomats in a conflict between a foreign government and the US. So if you were to talk to an alien government representative and agreed to receive technology in exchange for allowing them to rule the US, you would be in violation of that law (and incidentally treason as well). But it wouldn't apply to an ET who is merely a private citizen.
    There is the precedent of handling peacetime espionage.
    So, the governments of Earth humans can argue that communications not expressly authorized with extraterrestrial aliens are analogues with communications not expressly authorized with terrestrial alien humans - leaking information to potentially hostile governments, whether to foreign government agents or to private foreigners who are free to transmit it to their governments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chornedsnorkack View Post
    There is the precedent of handling peacetime espionage.
    So, the governments of Earth humans can argue that communications not expressly authorized with extraterrestrial aliens are analogues with communications not expressly authorized with terrestrial alien humans - leaking information to potentially hostile governments, whether to foreign government agents or to private foreigners who are free to transmit it to their governments.
    Well, they could, and would have to show that it is actual espionage, in the same way that it works with other humans. Just talking to an agent of a foreign government doesn't make you guilty of espionage--you have to give secret information away. So talking to an alien and just talking about yourself and what music you like would not be espionage.

    And in any case, that would not be a "rumored law." It would be "application of an actual law." You just can't have a "rumored law." If there is a secret law that you can't wear yellow shirts, and the government tries to prosecute somebody, the court will naturally say, "how did you expect them to know the law existed if you never published it?"
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    I always wonder, when I see/read of first contact scenarios, why it is always up to the planet bound apes to teach the warp capable aliens how to communicate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snowcelt View Post
    I always wonder, when I see/read of first contact scenarios, why it is always up to the planet bound apes to teach the warp capable aliens how to communicate.
    One possibility is that it is the apes who wrote the script for the movie.


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    Quote Originally Posted by snowcelt View Post
    I always wonder, when I see/read of first contact scenarios, why it is always up to the planet bound apes to teach the warp capable aliens how to communicate.
    Zjsdhpt: They use what??
    Gsr'thlr: Mouths!
    Zjsdhpt: Mouths?
    Gsr'thlr: Mouths, ears, sonic vibrations that have to travel through the air - on a planet! A planet!
    Zjsdhpt: How do they use this "mouth" between star systems?
    Gsr'thlr: They don't. Their noises only travel the length of a knubkl - and not even in space, nevermind subspace.
    Zjsdhpt: How do they Grok each other's individual cerebral frequencies? How do they interface with the hive AI?
    Gsr'thlr: They don't. They have to learn how each other speaks!
    Zjsdhpt: *Pfft* This isn't a trip to the zoo! I'm not going to grow a mouth just to interface. That's disgusting. Let's try the cows again.


    In an old sci-fi RPG (Traveller), using a device above your tech level was easy. Point and press the button. Poof! Your target is dead.
    Trying to use a device below your own tech level actually had a penalty. "I've got to what?? Load my own ammo? What it this? Sticks and stones?"
    Last edited by DaveC426913; 2018-Jul-25 at 12:11 AM.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by snowcelt View Post
    I always wonder, when I see/read of first contact scenarios, why it is always up to the planet bound apes to teach the warp capable aliens how to communicate.
    It's a test to see if the planet-bound apes are smart enough to bother with.

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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    In an old sci-fi RPG (Traveller), using a device above your tech level was easy. Point and press the button. Poof! Your target is dead.
    Trying to use a device below your own tech level actually had a penalty. "I've got to what?? Load my own ammo? What it this? Sticks and stones?"
    I used to play that, but it was so long ago that I don't remember that rule! I just remember that the books were black...
    As above, so below

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    Do they have a previous experience communicating with aliens?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    Zjsdhpt: They use what??
    Gsr'thlr: Mouths!
    Zjsdhpt: Mouths?
    Gsr'thlr: Mouths, ears, sonic vibrations that have to travel through the air - on a planet! A planet!
    Zjsdhpt: How do they use this "mouth" between star systems?
    Gsr'thlr: They don't. Their noises only travel the length of a knubkl - and not even in space, nevermind subspace.
    Zjsdhpt: How do they Grok each other's individual cerebral frequencies? How do they interface with the hive AI?
    Gsr'thlr: They don't. They have to learn how each other speaks!
    Zjsdhpt: *Pfft* This isn't a trip to the zoo! I'm not going to grow a mouth just to interface. That's disgusting. Let's try the cows again.


    In an old sci-fi RPG (Traveller), using a device above your tech level was easy. Point and press the button. Poof! Your target is dead.
    Trying to use a device below your own tech level actually had a penalty. "I've got to what?? Load my own ammo? What it this? Sticks and stones?"
    For something a bit longer on those lines: “They’re made of meat”. http://www.terrybisson.com/page6/page6.html

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



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