A Universal Message – Matt Pham

The hard part about picking what kind of art to show to an extraterrestrial intelligence is that we don’t know how they think. As humans, we can enjoy and appreciate each other’s art because we come from a similar biological and cultural background. Aliens, however, are completely disconnected from our culture and biology. They may not understand the message that we want to communicate. Even with humans, seemingly universal messages can be vastly misinterpreted. For example, the “thumbs up” gesture is a somewhat ubiquitous sign of approval in America, but it’s a derogatory statement in places like Iraq (http://www.slate.com/id/2080812). The man holding up his hand on the Pioneer Plaque (below) could actually be communicating some ancient alien curse. Plus, both of them are naked, and that is kind of rude. How would you feel if some complete stranger showed you a naked picture of himself and some woman? I wouldn’t know what to think. Anyways, is there art that can be universally appreciated?
Pioneer Plaque
I think that there is, and that Richard Clar is right on the mark. We can’t really send written or spoken messages, because the possibility that they could be translated without any context is probably close to nil. We’d have to send something like his Space Flight Dolphin. It shows that we have some really cool things to share, and that we are capable of creative thought. I think that a lot of conflict comes from simple misunderstandings, and if we can present a message that can be understood by everyone, then there would be a lot less fighting.

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