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Aliens: If They Come, Could We Talk to Them?

What if They Want to Talk with Us?

Alien lifeforms are definitely likely to have evolved their own unique ways of talking, so in the event of their “arrival,”  would we be able to communicate with them? According to NASA’s chief scientist Ellen Stofan, we definitely know where to look and how to look.

Moreover, she predicted we might even find alien life within the next 10 years. Nowadays, only two years from the end of that date range, researchers still think they might be extremely close to finding enough evidence that extraterrestrial life might as well be real on other far-off planets.

However, even if there’s no definitive proof just yet, some scientists think it is something we should be nevertheless ready for.

Well, what if we will discover life on another planet? What if it turns out to be intelligent? How will we communicate with our cosmic neighbors? Scientists already started asking what alien language might sound like, especially if our species could ever hope to understand each other.

Humans have been known to bridge seemingly impossible language issues. Researchers were able to decipher ancient scripts and languages, and they did that by referencing human habits as a reference point.

For instance, the way we circle something important in writing is known to have helped scholars unlock the Rosetta Stone, a decree that dates all the way back to 196BC which provided a clue to reading ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Body language is also quite an important tool, especially when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Americas, for instance. They used hand signs and gestures to communicate with the indigenous people they met. The tragic and bloody outcome of the respective encounters shouldn’t exactly serve as an example of how this might be done successfully.

alien talk
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But humans are different: as a species, we evolved to communicate with one another. Extraterrestrial beings might as well think and behave totally differently to us and then to us. They might have a completely different social structure if they even have one, which might end up being completely unrecognizable or unfathomable. How could we guess what they might be trying to say?

If you were to even listen to Earth from outer space, you would hear around 7,1000 human languages. However, our planet is fully inhabited by creatures other than humans. Could the ways in which animals communicate with one another teach us anything about extraterrestrial conversations?

According to Arik Kershenbaum, a well-known behavioral ecologist at the University of Cambridge, UK, evolutionary challenges are 100% universal, and the evolutionary forces that are capable of shaping life on Earth might produce plenty of similar features in extraterrestrial life.

If he is right about that, it would mean that life, and language, might share similar features, no matter where their location may be in the cosmos.

Life, wherever it may be, is capable of achieving complexity, and it has been like this for many millennia. It retains favorable changes and loses unfavorable ones, which is also known as natural selection. In evolutionary convergence, for instance, unrelated lineages of organisms can evolve in similar features as a response to similar environmental challenges.

For example, let’s take travel: the laws of physics and biomechanics are known to constrain a series of different ways in which animals can move about. This is also why the wings of birds work in pretty much the same way as the wings of bats, even if their last common ancestor was a small wingless lizard-like animal that lived more than 300 million years ago.

Why would these constraints be any different in other parts of the universe? After all, everything and everywhere, communication included, is basically subject to the laws of physics (as far as we can tell).

From the gestures of apes all the way to the whistles of dolphins, to the swirling patterns of colors on the skin of a cuttlefish, any of these could pinpoint to the basis of language on an alien planet. Animal communication can only tell us so much. We are basically the only species that use language in the sense of an open-ended system that can be somehow used to express anything you want to communicate.

According to a theoretical linguist known as Noam Chomsky, language is a system of communication that’s infinitely adaptable, and designed to serve human interests and also to solve human issues, one that’s enough flexible to discuss a wide range of concepts. If there’s some kind of bacterial life on Mars or on the moons of Jupiter, this would automatically imply that they are simple organisms.

What we really want to understand is the range of intelligence of certain organisms. You need to decide what’s the criteria for intelligence in this case. The answer to that would be technology if it’s a technological civilization that is comparable to ours, which also has the ability to get off their planet.

After all, we bet they’re also sitting over there, on their own planet, wondering who else is out there, and if we exist. As Chomsky added, “let’s say a species is smart enough to want to build a spaceship or even a radio telescope. Anyway, something complicated. You would need to know a lot about physics and mathematics. You would have to have the capacity to develop scientific theories and also to collaborate. You would have to be able to communicate a wide number of ideas to other individuals. The truth is other animals don’t have the needed technology.” And without language, technological civilization is simply inconceivable.

alien talk
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How alien could alien language really be?

Back in 2022, Roberts helped to create The Cambridge Institute of Exo-Language (CIEL), with the main goal of considering how we might be able to communicate with intelligent exo-beings, and just how different alien language and intelligence might be from our own.

At its origin, the language would have to be very similar to ours, meaning that its formal mathematical nature would need to be quite similar to human language. But at the same time, they wouldn’t automatically have anything like speech.

According to Ian Roberts, a well-known professor of linguistics who’s also at the University of Cambridge, human language comprises way more than just speech. We also express our thoughts through writing, body movements, drumming, whistles, and many other things.

What’s really remarkable about human language is that in all its forms, it preserved pretty much the same properties. It’s also interesting to question if we have a good idea of how human grammars look like and to compare it to potential alien grammar.

According to Roberts, intelligent exo-beings could potentially externalize their language in a series of ways that we can’t even comprehend yet, whether through pheromones, magnetic fields, and many other ways. However, if we are able to decode that language, we might find it quite similar to human language.

So even if we already got a message from outer space, it’s still debatable if we would be able to recognize it as a message in the first place. For a specific period in time, we thought we can decipher it by certain regularities in signals.

We thought that this would make it clear that it wasn’t natural. However, certain celestial bodies emit constant and regular signals, like quasars. We would still require further evidence that there’s some intention behind it all. There’s more to discuss on this subject, so if you don’t want to drop it, we recommend you check this book: “The Alien Communication Handbook” by Brian S. McConnell.

If you found this article interesting, we also recommend checking: 10 Gender Restrictions Women Faced in the 1960s

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