Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication reviewed in New Yorker

Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication (Download the electronic version FREE)
edited by SETI Institute Director of Interstellar Communication, Doug Vakoch
Addressing a field that has been dominated by astronomers, physicists, engineers, and computer scientists, the contributors to this collection raise questions that may have been overlooked by physical scientists about the ease of establishing meaningful communication with an extraterrestrial intelligence. These scholars are grappling with some of the enormous challenges that will face humanity if an information-rich signal emanating from another world is detected. By drawing on issues at the core of contemporary archaeology and anthropology, we can be much better prepared for contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, should that day ever come.

Originally published on the
The Man Who Speaks for Earth: The New Yorker by Joshua Rothman
Recently, at a mass in Vatican City, Pope Francis said that, if given the chance, he would baptize aliens. (“Who are we to close doors?” he asked.) Unfortunately, judging by “Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication,” a new book, about the complexities of communicating with extraterrestrials, released last month by NASA, it won’t be that simple. For a long time, the people most interested in searching for extraterrestrial intelligence came from “hard science” disciplines like astronomy or physics; to them, the main obstacles seemed technical (building radio telescopes, processing signal data). But, in recent years, the field has broadened to include people who already study other civilizations here on Earth. In these essays, they report that their jobs are hard enough as it is. Archaeologists struggled to decipher ancient Greek; deciphering a transmission from another world will be even more difficult. Even if we do manage to detect a signal, they write, fully understanding what it means may be impossible.
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