Language barrier poses questions of how we will talk to extraterrestrials

Space Science

Efforts to communicate with extraterrestrial life present a layered problem: What do you say, and how do you say it?

Wired.com walks us through some of the necessary considerations in an article titled “Do we need a special language to talk to aliens?

Alien civilizations are advanced if they are receiving signals we are sending into space, but how will they understand our messages? The interstellar language barrier has sparked debate over whether artificial languages should be used, or if music or math would be better ways to introduce ourselves.

Language isn’t completely independent of our biology. The sounds we can make and the structure of our brains factor into our languages. Expecting aliens to learn our communication when their biology could be very different might be the wrong approach.

Our understanding of mathematics might be more of a universal tool for communication. Scientists see math as a constant that has probably been a common “language” to understand our world and every other world.

And a possible common experience could help solve the problem: the pursuit of artificial intelligence. The questions raised in that pursuit have perhaps led us through the reasoning of how to instruct others to understand us.

The article concludes: “The best way to communicate large amounts of information may not be painstakingly designing artificial languages from scratch, but sending a large corpus of natural language text, such as an encyclopedia. This is how we train natural language algorithms on Earth, which tease out the rules of human language by statistically analyzing large collections of text. If ET has developed its own AI, it could potentially decipher the structure of a natural language message.”

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