Re: SETI Re: non-communication between different levels of intellig

Chris Boyce (
Sun, 6 Jun 1999 07:25:18 +0100

Hello again, Richard, I recall reading something about non-linear communication in one of Ian Watson's novels some twenty or so years back. His concept was similar to what you outline. If I remember correctly his analogy was with mandalas, those complex pieces of Indian Tantric artwork representing a stylised picture of the universe. He believes - or at least he did the last time I spoke with him years ago - that if ETI thinks in such non-linear terms, communications will prove extremely difficult. The two objections I had, and they apply here as well, are these:-. 1) Any transmitted concept - artistic or otherwise - has to be assembled at both ends. There are active non-linear social communications taking place all over the Earth, particularly by ants and termites. They use combinations of pheromone complexes, touch, sound and vibration to transmit information to each other. It is the specific combination which is important. For all that, each combination is made up of components. Now an ETI signal may be multilayered - as Ian Ridpath suggested back in the '70s before Carl Sagan's 'Contact' - with different strata of significance. A full appreciation of what's being 'said' may require a total integration of all the different streams. Building one element upon another in a linear fashion, simply to construct the message, would still be required. The interpretation of a painting is, in this respect, similar to its execution. We don't take it in as a whole but work our way through it until we have our own appreciation. This is as linear process as applying the original brush strokes. 2) Mandalas are deliberately constructed in this manner so that the individual may take a personalised 'rasa' [taste or flavour] from them which will change and grow richer with longer exposure to and consideration of the individual mandala. They are intended to reward the casual glance as well as the deep meditation. In this sense they resemble the stylised 'dot pictures' we have already transmitted from Earth; a 'casual glance' indicates an artificial source whereas analysis exposes a good deal more. Personally, I think that unless we come across a very simple signal we will be unable to interpret it. In Drake's 'Is Anyone Out There?' he relates how he put together a 551 character long string of ones and zeros containing a stylised dot picture. He sent it out to the other members of 'the Order of the Dolphin' - only one, Barney Olover, figured out it was the sum of two primes (19 and 21) but the message eluded even him. Drake kept trying it out on others - including Nobel laureates. The following year it was published in a mag for amateur cryptologists and he finally received the correct interpretation from an electrical engineer. Of course in our society his interpretation of such a signal would probably be ignored if the Nobel prize winners couldn't do it. I mean, an electrical engineer? Get real! Something simple, perhaps a Euclidean type theorem, would, I think be best. Best regards Chris Boyce ET-Presence - HOGMANAYCON - ----- Original Message ----- From: Richard Burke-Ward <> To: SETI List <> Sent: 04 June 1999 10:29 Subject: SETI Re: non-communication between different levels of intellig > Ron wrote: > > >We have a French friend interested in our topic. My French is very poor. > >The article looks high level and good, any translators agree? > > It does indeed look interesting, Ron, though I have only had a very brief > skim of pieces of it. A lot of letters are missing which makes it pretty > hard going. Elisabeth Piotelat will doubtless make short work of it... > > In the meantime, it seems to me to be applying information theory to > langauge, and asking whether ETI communication might have a similar > fundamental structure to our own communication systems - i.e., > particulate and linear. My French is not good, and I don't have access to > a dictionary, but a very rough translation of the conclusion would read: > > "In my opinion the Cosmos is brimming with life, all on different > evolutionary levels. In the scheme of cosmic life, ETI's who have > succeeded in conquering their genetic and physical heritage are probably > the ones who participate in intelligent interstellar communication. > Lesser levels of intelligence, such as human intelligence, are very > likely outside the the communication sphere of these ETI's. There is a > kind of cosmic apartheid between advanced ETI's and more primitive > species. If ETI visited Earth, it seems reasonable and highly probable to > me that their method of communicating would be far beyond our own... > [Gets a bit garbled here - one obscure phrase] ...there will not be a > communication problem with people like us, simply because there is > nothing to communicate. This is what we should expect." > > But in between, there is a lot of talk about linear versus non-linear > communication, which is quite a hot topic. > > This is my own gloss to the article. Reading between the lines, I would > suggest that the author is saying that evolution may produce linear > communication systems (it's a lot easier to add one grunt to another than > it is to produce, say, a fully-formed holographic system). But for truly > advanced species, evolution is no longer the driving force behind their > communication system any more than it drives their hpysiology or > genetics. They are capable of reinventing themselves, and language is > part of the deal. So an advanced species (and that's what we're all > looking for) *may* have developed novel, non-linear, perhaps holographic > or fractal, methods of communicating. These may be completely impossible > for us to understand. > > He (she?) is right. Think of what communication system an intelligent > machine might use. Or a system geared to 'brain-boxes' which allow brain > (or sludge-nodes or whatever) to brain contact without the clumsiness of > a transmitted language... different coding systems entirely. And with no > linear logic to follow and attempt at decoding would have to process > entire signals as gestalt entities. Frankly, this is not something we are > up to. > > So we may never get further than detecting a carrier signal. Or standing > face-to-tentacle and wondering what's going on in there... > > Richard >

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Sun Jul 11 1999 - 00:43:09 PDT