Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Message is the Medical Medium

Was reading an interesting article about exocommunications. Started a train of thought - we assume that aliens will want to communicate using some kind of a language. Speech, sound, symbolism. Pictures. Mathematics. 
And they will come in person, holding their placards and speaking through mikes, or telepathically, or via stylistic dance and sign language, or broadcasting from a transmitter in orbit or somewhere in the system via radio / laser pulse. 

How ethnocentric is that?

The're alien. We can't speak to dolphins and dogs. We can barely communicate with chimps. 
We know nothing about them, what they breathe, how many legs they have, are they carbon-based, silicon-based, liquid metal, supercooled helium.

Here's what I think. They're already trying to talk to us. We just don't see it as communications at all. 

Here's the alien civilization, studying us from far, far away.  
They see this planet. 
There's... something on it, something that replicates and evolves, adapts to environment, interacts with others. This something has developed a language, a means of communication. It has a memory and a population spread in billions across the globe, just beginning to venture into space. 

So they send a message, in a form and format suited to this life-form. Maybe they send several variations, for the several variations of the life-form, if they have difficulty in telling which is the dominant one. 
The message's content may not be immediately understandable, but it sees that the life-forms are interacting with it, responding to it. 

The dominant life-form, as defined by an ability to learn from experience, adapt to environment, interact and grow and evolve, and develop a sophisticated support system to sustain itself - this defines DNA, doesn't it? 
Our bodies are just the vehicles that allow it to propagate. 
So here comes the message, in the form of protein chains, a 4-character code from space that interacts with the double helix of code in protein molecules that dominates the planet. 
It enters the support system - our bodies - and interfaces with the DNA. Sometimes it just appends; sometimes it edits, changes. The DNA responds. Sometimes directly, sometimes via manipulation of its support systems, sometimes from outside the support system altogether. 
We call the message viruses, and we call the interaction disease. 
Every time we create an antiviral, we're sending a message. Every time a disease evolves, it's responding. 
A conversation has been underway for thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe a million years. 

We're just making the simple ethnocentric mistake of assuming that when we think about 'us', its the flesh and blood body carrying a brain that defines our identity. We're just a walking lump of code inside an organic machine, and it's our code that's been doing the talking.

We might already be a part of a galactic civilization, and we'll never know. 


Post a Comment