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There’s a lot of talk these days about the existence of intelligent alien life. Mexico had two different congressional hearings this year where alien enthusiasts showed the government what they said were the mummified remains of aliens from over a thousand years ago. Earlier this year, US Congress also held hearings with testimony from military officers who said that the government is hiding evidence of extraterrestrial UFOs.
Theoretically, if we did come in contact with intelligent lifeforms from out of this world, how would we even communicate with them? There’s no right answer yet, but scientists and linguists have been trying to figure out a system.
Human beings evolved to be able to communicate with each other, even if we don’t speak the same languages. Aliens haven’t evolved alongside humans, but they probably would have a language system similar to ours in order to create the kind of technology needed to actually contact and communicate with us in the first place. That is, according to Ian Roberts, a professor of linguistics who is also at the University of Cambridge.
Roberts says we need to focus on what we might have in common with this other species. He’s on the Advisory Council of Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Meti), an organization that’s been sending messages from Earth to outer space since 2015. The Meti system, and other similar approaches in the past, use signals to demonstrate humanity’s intelligence, using things like math and science.
The goal here isn’t really to teach aliens math; they would already need their own math system to have advanced technology. Instead, the idea is to teach them how we “code numbers as symbols.” Then they can start to understand more complicated communication in our human style.
This might not be the best or even the most straightforward way to build a connection, but it’s something. Then again, there’s always the chance that aliens might not want to talk to us, even if they can. We can admit, we’re a bit of a handful as a species.