In order to communicate with super intelligent beings (in this context, extraterrestrials that have figured out how travel many light years to reach our planet) we should first start with something we all share. A fundamental starting point – that is, pure consciousness.
Why consciousness? What can we learn from evolutionary biology?
There are many forces of nature that can act as selection pressure on evolving organisms. For example for the bat the main way of navigation is the use of sonar, high frequency wave lengths transmitted through the earths air. On the human level and many other species we can find the semicircular canals of the cochlea responsible for detecting gravity giving us balance, one of the four basic forces of the universe. Humans also use air, like the bat, not for navigation, but mostly for communicating with each other. The vocal cords give rise to vibrations in the air which can communicate written and subjective information from one mind to another.
A species from another planet through Darwinian evolution might have detected another force like that of radio waves in their galaxy which is used for communication. This would drastically reduce our capability of communicating with an extraterrestrial. Not only would they have to learn our language before communicating, they would have to transmit their information over radios.
We should not assume that a species that has the capability to travel millions of light years to reach us has the technology to decode and understand our languages at all. Understanding the universe and how it works is not the same as understanding social constructions of reality.
From evolution to technology back to simple evolution?
I propose a method of communication that first relies on the assumption that they have consciousness. Even if extraterrestrials cannot see us or talk with us, innately, they probably have created technology to detect vividly photons, and other forms of radiation and atmospheric and environmental density changes and wavelengths. A stone thrown into any dense atmospheric and environmental conditions will create waves. We should assume the same thing happens throughout the universe. Whales for example can communicate over miles through the density of water on our planet, and we must assume also that other planets have a gravitational pull similar to that of the earth, moon, or even Jupiter.
The starting point of life on other planets, as important as it is, is not the concern of this essay. This essay assumes that selection pressure, mutation and genetic drift, and other forms of natural selection have taken place on other planets outside our solar system.
Intelligent life, if they evolved into complex philosophical zombies, what yearning for exploration would they have? Intentionality of consciousness* is a major important factor in both our species and any extraterrestrial life with the yearning for exploration.
However, as stated above, we do not know what kind of communication they would utilize. We cannot assume that on other planets with atmospheres like ours that vocal cords would evolve the same way, the same with other sensory and communication organs.
This leads us back to how to deal with a first encounter. The assumption of a “first” encounter, in my view also leads to what we know first about ourselves. We first know our own consciousness.
Buddhists and phenomenologists as of 2013, have the best understanding of pure consciousness. Therefore I would like to explore different ways to communicate Buddhist meditation and phenomenological reduction. If we share with extraterrestrial life the starting point of consciousness, we must communicate with them that we are not zombies, and that we have the same ability to reduce down to the ultimate level of conscious experience.
Why go from intelligence to phenomenological reduction?
On first contact, instead of being afraid, or weary of their existence, phenomenological reduction offers the “peacefulness” of Buddhist meditation.
It would show that we share something fundamental in common
Phenomenological reduction is an action that only a calm, collective, and peaceful individual or group can perform. The act of phenomenological reduction is very hard to do in times of extreme ciaos. (However we have all seen the image of the Buddhist Monk setting themselves on fire during protest, this image, as horrible and gruesome as it is, communicates a message to us of both action and the power of phenomenological reduction.)
Phenomenological reduction, once reached in a peaceful manner, can then be slowly reversed.
The reversion of phenomenological reduction.
If we communicate with extraterrestrials that we have the capability of phenomenological reduction in a peaceful way, we can then move from pure consciousness to those aspects of the universe that phenomenologists refer to as “given” to our “consciousness.” First comes awareness, then comes awareness of body, then simple mathematical, societal, and scientific theories. We then move to more complex theories.
First contact should then be carried out by not only a person who understands phenomenological reduction, but also complex mathematical, societal, and scientific theories. Extraterrestrial life, would probably rather have a very peaceful, slowish process of communication to make sure we are on the “same page”.
This article is a rough draft about “first contact”. I am very interested in your opinion whether or not you think I may be on to something, given what we know about intelligence and evolution, from the starting point of pure consciousness up to complex theories of science.
*Intentionality is the power of minds to be about, to represent, or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs. The puzzles of intentionality lie at the interface between the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language. The word itself, which is of medieval Scholastic origin, was rehabilitated by the philosopher Franz Brentano towards the end of the nineteenth century. ‘Intentionality’ is a philosopher's word. It derives from the Latin word intentio, which in turn derives from the verb intendere, which means being directed towards some goal or thing... Edmund Husserl (1900, 1913), who was both the founder of phenomenology and a student of Brentano's, the point of the phenomenological analysis has been to show that the essential property of intentionality of being directed onto something is not contingent upon whether some real physical target exists independently of the intentional act itself. To achieve this goal, two concepts have been central to Husserl's internalist interpretation of intentionality: the concept of a noema (plural noemata) and the concept of epoche (i.e., bracketing) or phenomenological reduction. By the word ‘noema,’ Husserl refers to the internal structure of mental acts. The phenomenological reduction is meant to help get at the essence of mental acts by suspending all naive presuppositions about the difference between real and fictitious entities (on these complex phenomenological concepts, see the papers by Føllesdal and others conveniently gathered in Dreyfus (1982). - http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/intentionality/
Note: Next I will look at the following scenarios:φ
A. Extraterrestrials send supercomputer to earth, communication is thus between humans and an extraterrestrial computer.
B. Humans, 20 years from now or beyond decide that communication during first contact should be done by a supercomputer with living conscious extraterrestrials.
C. Human made supercomputers and extraterrestrial supercomputers are decided on for first contact if the first contact is with a supercomputer
D. Posthumans (humans that have merged with technology, our next evolutionary step) communicate during first contact. This may also assume that extraterrestrial life has also merged with their technology, etc.
φ: In all cases where a "supercomputer" is utilized the question of whether or not the computer has consciousness may be of major importance.