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geordief

A universal language

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Suppose we wanted to leave a message to another civilization in the event that our's came to a bad end and so we could inform others of our failure (or our successes) ,how could we be sure that our message would be understood if it was ever come upon and read?

 

Would we need to invent some kind of a universal language that we could be confident that  any (or at least many/ most ) advanced civilizations would be able to decipher?

 

What basic principles could be employed to ensure that the "reader" would firstly understand that our message was worth  the effort to understand and then that it could be understood?

Has this subject been already explored perhaps?(probably ,no doubt)

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You could consider the plaques added to the Pioneer spacecraft, both destined for interstellar space, where they might get intercepted by aliens. They are described in the Wikipedia article. The logic used for them seems a good starting point.

In a sense the object is not to develop a language as such, but rather to find the most convenient way of conveying information. Of course, we need to account for the possibility that the aliens we hope to "talk" to are deaf, or blind, and communicate via odours, or body movement, or . . . .

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Was just going to say something like Area54, Aliens could be much different than we imagine, they  would maybe interpret the world in a different way.

Edited by Saiyan300Warrior

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37 minutes ago, geordief said:

Would we need to invent some kind of a universal language that we could be confident that  any (or at least many/ most ) advanced civilizations would be able to decipher?

 

I think the answer to this is "yes". Well, maybe not a universal language, but we would have to teach the 'reader' a language prior to communicating a complicated message.

Perhaps we should think about the steps that go into teaching an infant human a complicated idea. Start with baby steps and build up to more and more complicated communications. 

Just to be safe we should probably go through the entire process in more than one medium. For example, a visual medium in different electromagnetic wavelengths; sounds of different wavelengths, etc. Then they would have a kind of Rosetta Stone where any understanding of our lessons using one medium may help them gain insight through the other mediums.

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7 hours ago, geordief said:

how could we be sure that our message would be understood if it was ever come upon and read?

There are no guarantees here. The best we can do is make the assumption that whatever finds the message has a roughly similar sensory apparatus as we do, and that their mental processes are roughly similar to our own; we can then attempt to construct a pictorial or auditory message in the most general and (to us) universal of forms, and hope for the best. Over and above that, all bets are off.

The thing is that all languages are social constructs - words, sounds and pictograms mean to us what we take them to mean because everyone within our social context agrees that they do mean that, and we have been taught those particular conventions in early childhood. Even amongst us humans it can sometimes be very difficult to communicate certain ideas and concepts outside of a given social context, and our attempts at communication with other species in the animal kingdom have met with at best limited success. Communicating to an alien species that may share few or even none of our cultural and social conventions could be exponentially harder still - and potentially disastrous, should we get it wrong. In the worst case, the alien race may be sufficiently different in terms of sensory apparatus and mental processes that there isn’t even a common channel for communication, never even mind a common language. I don’t know how such an encounter would pan out.

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@MarkusHanke  @zapatos   I think there for that we should train ourselves by  attempting to learn the languages of the creatures on the Earth first.

Then ,to be more sure that the message is understood as a message we might send 2 versions of the message;the first just a  plain object without a message and the second the  same object but with the message encoded

 

 

 

Edited by geordief

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7 hours ago, geordief said:

What basic principles could be employed to ensure that the "reader" would firstly understand that our message was worth  the effort to understand and then that it could be understood?

 

I would suggest the way the question is phrased misses a trick from our own historical experience.

You suggest one language, and each language on Earth is unique because it doesn't need to be otherwise.

Yet it is known both from deciphering codes and the experience with the Rosetta Stone that having more than one different representation of the sme thing in the single most useful thing to have.

Consequently our communication attempt should contain not one, but many, 'languages' for comparison.

Edit cross posted this this. +1

3 minutes ago, geordief said:

@MarkusHanke  @zapatos   I think there for that we should train ourselves by  attempting to learn the languages of the creatures on the Earth first.

Then ,to be more sure that the message is understood as a message we might send 2 versions of the message;the first just a  plain object without a message and the second themselves object but with the message encoded

 

 

 

 

Edited by studiot

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57 minutes ago, geordief said:

I think there for that we should train ourselves by  attempting to learn the languages of the creatures on the Earth first.

Since the only creatures on Earth that definitley* have language, as opposed to a small array of signals, is homo sapiens, the objective has already been met.

*This applies even although some of them cannot type definitely correctly.

Edited by Area54
Comment on typing error.

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45 minutes ago, studiot said:

Yet it is known both from deciphering codes and the experience with the Rosetta Stone that having more than one different representation of the sme thing in the single most useful thing to have.

This is a very good idea.

I just hope when/if they read the message, they don't mistranslate it to "Hey, there's food and other usable energy here." ;)

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2 minutes ago, joigus said:

This is a very good idea.

I just hope when/if they read the message, they don't mistranslate it to "Hey, there's food and other usable energy here." ;)

I was thinking along the lines of a posthumous  message that explained how we had managed to survive as a group or what led up to our self destruction.

 

@Area54 maybe advanced civilizations  might have language/signalling abilities more akin to primitive life forms.

 

I doubt we have understood all or much of these mechanisms here on the Earth .

 

If only we could come to a modus vivendi with our new friend Covid-19....

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1 minute ago, geordief said:

I was thinking along the lines of a posthumous  message that explained how we had managed to survive as a group or what led up to our self destruction.

Yes, you're right. My own pessimistic thinking is that we would be so busy at each other's throat that nobody would care about other survivors out there.

But your question is very interesting, as well as the answers so far.

I do believe with you that attempts at communication with intelligent animals should be a good laboratory for that hypothetical situation. Maybe we can train some animals to speak once a code is "agreed."

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2 minutes ago, geordief said:

@Area54 maybe advanced civilizations  might have language/signalling abilities more akin to primitive life forms.

While I don't rule it out, it runs counter to our present understanding of language and of animal communication. The power of language is its ability to combine various elements to communicate complex concepts. A corollary of that is the ready opportunity to create completely unique messages that are nevertheless understood directly by those familiar with the language. For example, I doubt if the following sentence has ever been written or spoken before:

The elderly spinster from Copenhagen had never expected the train journey by express through the Low Countries would lead, during a meal at the station buffet in Brussels, to an introduction to the former chancellor of Edinburgh University and his adopted daughter, a violinist en route from Prague.

You are unlikely to have had any difficulty in understanding the sentence. No animal is known to able to do anything akin to this. (I accept that the jury is still out in regard to cetaceans and that is an area worthy of further research. ) I suspect at least that level of sophistication is necessary for any advanced civilisation, but that may just be ignorance on my part. Certainly I can well imagine a species that complemented its full blooded language with a variety of more primitive and simple signals. After all we humans do it with body language and non-verbal noises, so I am not arguing against having a sound understanding of all communicaiton systems.

14 minutes ago, geordief said:

I was thinking along the lines of a posthumous  message that explained < snip > what led up to our self destruction

Surely a picture of Donald Trump should be sufficient.

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24 minutes ago, joigus said:

This is a very good idea.

I just hope when/if they read the message, they don't mistranslate it to "Hey, there's food and other usable energy here." ;)

 

9 minutes ago, joigus said:

I do believe with you that attempts at communication with intelligent animals should be a good laboratory for that hypothetical situation. Maybe we can train some animals to speak once a code is "agreed."

 

My dog changes from somnolent to very intelligent and communicates most successfully with me every mealtime and walkies time.

:)

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35 minutes ago, Area54 said:

 

Surely a picture of Donald Trump should be sufficient.

On a pike.

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