SETI If ET Were Visiting Earth

Dr. Eric W. Davis (
Sun, 11 Jul 1999 11:03:02 -7

Because of the incommensurability problem (or cognitive mismatch),
Walt: re: your questions below!

ETI will not have a common frame of reference with us with which to
make a determination as to whether and with whom they are to contact
on Earth. Their different biology (and primary sensory modalities),
social culture, models of nature (science), psychology, etc. would
force them to spend years covertly surveilling Earth to find and
catalogue the various Earth species, study their (us) biology
(primary sensory modalities), social cultures, models of nature, etc.
to understand them (us) before deciding on and attempting contact.

This is exactly what primate anthropologists like Jane Goodall did
for years before they (she) ever attempted to contact ape cultures
and make their (her) way to gaining their acceptance into their
culture. Goodall meticulously studied the apes remotely and
covertly before she began to make brief but infrequent periods of
exposure of her presence to them, and she did not contact any
specific individual as representing the group. When she identified
the group leader, she was forced (by incommensurability between her
and the apes) to behave like a group member and follow their social
rules in gaining the leader's acceptance. Apes have the same
primary sensory modalities as humans, which define the cognitive
learning process (such as learning through sight and sound), so
Goodall was able to exploit that commonality when making contact.

ETI would have to determine how to contact us and what our
social rules are given the different sensory modalities and cognitive
mismatch between them and us. It won't be as easy for them as it was
for Goodall. The process ETI follow will be entirely different from
hers since evolution in an extrasolar environment is not guaranteed
to result in sensory modalities and cognition similar to our own
(human or other Earth species).



Eric W. Davis, Ph.D., FBIS
Aerospace Physics & Astrophysics
Nat'l Inst. for Discovery Science

> From:
> To:
> Date: Sat, 10 Jul 1999 20:52:13 -0800
> Subject: SETI: If ET Were Visiting....
> Reply-to:

> Hello All,
> If ET were visiting would they contact us? How would they know
> who to contact? Is our world unified to the extent that anyone
> body could be recognized as voice for all? Would ET know this?
> (this presumes that visitors rationalize the same as we)
> Comments are invited.
> Walt Williams, 99.07.10

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Sun Aug 01 1999 - 16:28:42 PDT