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

Richard Burke-Ward (
Wed, 9 Jun 99 21:31:34 +0000

Dear Chris, dear all, Good to hear from you again, Chris, as always. > 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. Yes, you're right, there has to be at least some degree of linearity in any transmission or processing system. Again, you are right to say that this may not actually apply to the content. A good example would be a computer generated hologram (or even a picture), where the linear transmission means gives little clue as to the coding system or any way to reconstruct a coherent message from it. The is all I intended to imply. The coding system need not be linear in a sense which any *de*coding system could meaningfully apply. > 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. Exactly right, I think. Because the assumption behind any communication system is a shared comprehension of the the coding system. Few people, I htink, accept how thoroughly alien such a system might be. Add to the basic technical issues the further filters of perceptual biology, culture, even the time-lag implicit in any interstellar message, and you get a scenario where we will hardly know where to begin. It seems likely to me that SETI may produce evidence of a signal, but that the massed minds of Earth might (*might*) never figure out what the content was. Frightening. Possible. All the best, Richard

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