I spend a lot of time on the internet, since that’s where my “career” (heheh) is based. I get my writing jobs there, I make contacts there, I advertise my writing services there, I do my research there, I deliver my work to clients there, and I get paid there.
I also spend a lot of time faffing about on Facebook, getting lost in the Wikipedia clicking trap (you know, where you start out looking for an explanation of the coffee-growing process and end up, 2 million clicks on links later, reading an article about a fence decorated with bras), and discovering all manner of weird and wonderful websites.
The latest of these is a site entitled “Hello From Earth“. Next week, the people behind this project are going to make contact with whoever’s living on Gliese 581 d – a planet where they’ve recently discovered it might be possible for life to exist. Now, I’m all in favour of reaching out to our interplanetary neighbours, in the hope that they turn out to be more intelligent than us and can help us to fix things up over here on Earth. But how do you go about introducing yourself, as a species, to beings from a different solar system?
Do you get the experts to come up with some kind of clever, thoughtful, useful, and serious introduction? No, of course not. Instead, you set up a website and invite members of the general public to post text messages to be sent to the foreign planet as an example of what human beings are really like. Oh, dear lord.
As a result, Earth will quite probably be invaded by the superior race living on Gliese 581 d soon after the collection of messages is received and translated. How do I know that this race is superior to ours? Well, allow me to share with you some of the messages posted so far. Messages, remember, which will be used as a first official introduction to a race that, for all we know, could wipe us out in a nanosecond. Here is how Human Beans have decided to convey their intelligence and desire to enter into mutually useful and beneficial relations with the inhabitants of another planet.
– I’m a lovely girl ,and I’m very curios about you.If you recieve this message,please remember that we live in the same university,so we have the same dream.
– Do you have the china new year?
– Please help us save our planet Earth from destruction by greedy humans. Also are there any birds on your planet?
– If your getting this, I am from earth, year 2009.What is your planet known as? Come visit Earth sometime.do u have Facebook?
– Hello from Phillip Geoghegan. If someone receives this, I am assuming your awesome. So therefore, your awesome. Cheers.
– If you don’t understand those words,don’t be worry,we’re only want you to konw that you’re not alone.
Well, that’s excellent, it really is. Oh look, the rulers of Gliese 581 d will say contemplatively, this planet is inhabited by truly bizarre-sounding creatures which have not yet learned the most basic art of communication. Let’s go over there and take over.
There are, however, some really great messages. A few of my favourites include:
– Apologies in advance for most of these messages. They are an example of our primitive humour.
– Maybe there is a ‘being’ on Gliese 581 d sitting at their communication device sending a message to Earth..to them, I say ‘Hi, what’s your favourite beer?”
– Can you please tell us what you did with Buddy Holly?
– Hi. 160 characters is a “perfectly sufficient” message length required to communicate most concepts on our planet. We’re what you might call, simple folk.
– Please ignore all spurious radio/television broadcasts you will have been receiving for the past thirty solar cycles. Note, “Seinfeld” is NOT a documentary.
Actually, to be honest, the funny messages do outnumber the embarrassing ones, but you do have to bear in mind that it’s extremely unlikely that the recipients will “get” any of the jokes. So, I think some of us have to get in on this and post messages that will really do something. Pass on clues, offer knowledge, suggest a meeting… I dunno. What do you say to an entirely foreign creature, who may or may not be able to understand, and who might have the ability to teleport over and turn you into a two-headed shellfish? According to the “What should I write?” section of the website, nobody really has any advice about this, other than “But if science fiction is anything to go by, it’s probably a good idea not to include insults or your home address.”.
What do you say in a short message to another planet? Lots of people seem to be assuming that they have all the answers, so they’re asking them to explain the meaning of life and to come and rescue us from self-destruction. But what if they’re just like us? Or – perish the thought – even more ridiculous than us?!
I can’t help but worry that this experiment could be a very big mistake…