The following was issued today by
Hamilton College:

The first Voyager mission included pictures, music, earth sounds and
spoken greetings in the event that the Voyager crew made contact with
intelligent life.
Many science fiction movies and books assume that we’ll be
able to communicate with aliens when or if we ever encounter them.
Raybeck, Ph.D., professor of anthropology at Hamilton College in his
presentation at CONTACT 2000 in Santa Clara California, March 3-5, says
communicating with extraterrestrials will be more difficult to resolve than
has been envisioned so far.

“There must be some commonality between the sender and receiver in order
for communication to occur.
We have no evidence that we’ll have a way of
decoding the information they send our way should we encounter
extraterrestrials,” says Raybeck.

Based on his research in cross-species communication, Raybeck concludes
that difficulties in communicating with extraterrestrials are both basic and
He explains that language is part of human evolution and is “hard
wired” to specific neural structures in our brain as well as tied to cultural
backgrounds and experiences.
This gives humans great flexibility yet distinct
biological limits on capacity for language and thought.

“It seems fair to think that any life form we may encounter will also be
shaped by a specific evolutionary past,” says Raybeck.
“Its’ capabilities and
intelligence will be shaped by the environment of its planet of origin.”
would mean that intelligent species might exhibit significant differences in
aspects of perception, cognition and behavior.

The solution?
Computer technology.
Raybeck believes the common ground
(which is essential for communication) may be as minimal as the ability to
process information.
Computers could provide a solution, if they can receive
and generate complex messages in a human language and could be programmed to
create a common language.
Given their learning capabilities, computers should
refine and improve the process over time.

Raybeck says, “Counter to the body of scientific work, it is ridiculous to
think that all we need to communicate with extraterrestrials is an open mind
and time to exchange simple messages.
I think technology may provide the
answers we need.”

Douglas Raybeck may be reached at the CONTACT 2000 conference March 2-5 at
the Biltmore Hotel in Santa Clara, California, 408-988-8411.
annual interdisciplinary conference which brings together international social
and space scientists, science fiction writers and artists to exchange ideas,
stimulate new perspectives and encourage serious, creative speculation about
humanity’s future on earth and in space.