The transmission is being undertaken as part of the Doritos Broadcast Project, which invited the UK public to create a 30 second video clip that could be beamed out to the universe offering a snap shot of life on earth to anyone 'out there.' 61% of the UK public believe this is just the start of communication with ET life and that we will enter into regular communication with an alien species at some stage in the future.
The winning space-ad entitled 'Tribe' was voted for by the British public and directed by 25-year-old Matt Bowron. It will officially be entered into the Guinness Book of Records and will be aired on the more conventional medium of television on Sunday 15th June on ITV at 7:44 PM in the ad break of the final Group B game of Euro 2008.
The message is being pulsed out over a six-hour period from high-powered radars at the EISCAT European space station in the Arctic Circle. The University of Leicester has also been involved in the project from its inception.
I'd say this ad is nothing worth calling home about. It doesn't convey anything special about Doritos. So what if the chips will play while the human's away? That doesn't make me want to buy them or eat them.
The interesting point is that a "European space station" is transmitting the ad as a message to extraterrestrial life. Fortunately, it's unlikely that anyone receiving the ad would understand it. What are aliens supposed to conclude: that the Doritos are an intelligent species of Terran life? That they're pets? Toys? I'm guessing that extraterrestrials viewing this ad would come up with a dozen different theories about what it means--none of them correct.
The message to aliens
But suppose they viewed the ad and grasped its meaning. Here's a group of inanimate objects acting out a typical human rite. Namely, the sacrifice of one of their members. Apparently, human sacrifice is a fundamental part of Terran culture.
Is that really the first and only message we want to send to ET? Haven't these Leicester people read a single science fiction story? Did they miss all those broadcasts of The Twilight Zone and Star Trek? Don't they know what happens when advanced alien civilizations encounter savage humans?
Here's how aliens would inevitably react: "Monstrous! These 'humans' still kill each other to placate their supernatural beings! I never imagined a 'civilized' race could be so cruel and immoral!"
"These barbaric creatures don't deserve to have their own planet. We must eradicate them before they infect the galaxy with their evil. We'll cleanse their world of life and remake it for our own purposes."
Needless to say, this ad stereotypes "tribal" cultures as primitive and superstitious. The drumbeat suggests an American Indian or African rite. The salsa jar is reminiscent of a cauldron or volcano.
As a message to aliens, it's an incredibly stupid choice. Why would we want to highlight this aspect of human culture? About the only saving grace is that it shows Doritos rather than people performing the sacrifice.
Why stop with ads depicting religious sacrifice? Let's send pictures of the bloody carnage of World Wars I and II. Or of Jews being incinerated at Auschwitz. That ought to make ET eager to meet us.
Or if we want to stick with the "tribal" theme, let's send them a copy of Apocalypto. When they see the Europeans appearing at the end, they'll think, "This transmission is a cry for help. Human culture is sick and depraved and only a superior force can save it. Let's conquer the natives the way these outsiders did and impose our civilization on them. Most of them will die in the conquest, but the few who survive will thank us."