We have seen so many science fiction movies about aliens that it seems almost rudimentary to ask this: how will we contact and communicate with the aliens? A new NASA book called ‘Archaeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication‘ explores this question.
Typically, any talk of aliens and contacting them centers around the kind of technology it may involve and similar other computer-science problems. However, this new book takes a refreshingly different view of the issue. The book talks about communications with aliens in terms of the cross-culture communication between different portions of human populace over the course of our history.
The premise of the book is that the aliens, howsoever they turn out to be, will have stark cultural differences with us. And those differences will translate into any communications we may be able to establish with them. Talking about these differences, John Traphagen writes in one of the chapters:
If we do look at our own world as an analogue of what we might find elsewhere, we must face the fact that we could be dealing with a world fragmented into different cultural frameworks, much as our own is, and consisting of beings who may not respond to contact with us in a uniform way. Technological advancement on Earth has not always been associated with increased political and social integration (think World Wars I and II). Even if the experience of our planet is dissimilar to that of another world, it seems reasonable to think that we will be dealing with beings shaped by common memories (among themselves) and who will share, but who will also debate and contest, ideas developed within the frameworks of those common memories and experiences about what to do with the fact of having contacted humans.
The emphasis of the book is that trying to establish a contact with an alien race is not enough. What we also need to do is prepare ourselves as to what kind of hurdles or problems we may face in communicating with an alien race shall we confront one in the future. The book is available for free download from NASA’s site.