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New protocol will help us to communicate with our galactic cousins

Three researchers, two from the United States and one from France, recently published a paper introducing a new protocol to communicate with intelligent beings on other planets. It seems the lack of such a protocol prevents us from maximizing the probability of an effective communication of our messages.

In other words, we have been sending messages to the cosmos since the beginning of radio transmissions, and since 1974 we use the radio telescope in Arecibo to do the same, but we still lack proper guidelines to say “Hello” to our galactic cousins.

For that reason, Dimitra Atri, of the University of Kansas; Julia DeMarines, of the International Space University in France; and Jacob Haqq-Misra, of the Pennsylvania State University, decided to present a list of the steps to be taken to develop a protocol to talk with intelligent extraterrestrial beings.

According to these three researches, there is an urgent need for this kind of project because scientists are discovering a growing number of planets similar to Earth orbiting around other stars. Those are the right planets to be inhabited by intelligent entities.

“An Earth-like planet that shows spectroscopic indications of biological processes has a higher probability of housing intelligent life that has developed communicative technology. If (or perhaps, when) we find planets like this, they will be the best known targets for sending a message to extraterrestrials,” says the report (page 3).

For practical purposes, according to the three researchers, an “intelligent civilization” is defined as “any society capable of radio transmission so that interstellar communication is possible.”  That means that our own civilization has been “intelligent” for around 100 years.

The paradox of this project for talking with ETs is that we humans need to use the only intelligence we know –ours– and that is relatively new to develop and test the protocol to talk with ETs.

“Once developed, the protocol will be released for testing on different human groups worldwide and across cultural boundaries,” says the paper.

“An effective message to extraterrestrials should at least be understandable by humans, and releasing the protocol for testing will allow us to improve the protocol and develop potential messages,” it adds.

In my opinion, that’s the root of the problem. In spite of all our technology, and perhaps because of that, we are still unable to overcome the cultural and language barriers separating us.

In other words, if we can’t even talk among ourselves, how are we going to be able to send a meaningful message to intelligent beings on other planets?

Obviously, Atri, DeMarines y Haqq-Misra anticipated the problem, explaining that the new protocol will help to provide “better cross-cultural communication” and also “foster international collaboration.”

Those are noble goals and we should all support them. But before we talk with other beings, I would like to see a protocol to foster the dialogue and understanding between couples, between parents and children, among people of different languages, cultures, and religions, and even between voters and those elected to represent them.

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