June 13, 2008

Message to aliens:  Conquer us

Doritos makes history with world's first extra terrestrial advertToday Doritos makes history, taking the UK's first step in communicating with aliens as they broadcast the first ever advert directed towards potential extra terrestrial life. The University of Leicester has played a key part in the success of the project.

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.
The video's poorly written but helpful description:A man arrives home with a delicious bag of Doritos, plonking them on the table he leaves to tend to something else. Whilst away a tribe of Doritos escape from the packet to perform a quick sacrifice to the God of Salsa. The man returns....Comment:  So this was the winning ad, eh? I'd hate to see what the losing ads were like.

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."

Stupid stereotypes

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."


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
What unreasoning attempts at science fiction! Aliens would not think like humans at all, no matter how advanced or even athropomorphosed they may be. Only humans think like humans. In any case, unless interstellar messages are tightly beamed at hydrogen laser frequencies, no one ever will receive them as they become unfathomable electronic noise at roughly the orbit of planetoid Pluto...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

Since we don't know any actual aliens, spare us the worthless speculation. Among hypothetical aliens (such as those in Star Trek), the vast majority value sentient life and would be appalled at wasting it. Until we learn more, this is as good a guess as any of how most aliens would react.

Apparently you didn't get much from your brief stint as a Star Trek writer. If your aliens were soulless creatures who didn't care whether others lived or died, no wonder the shows used only one of your scripts. Your failure to grasp the morality of interstellar civilizations--Isaac Asimov's Foundation, Poul Anderson's Polesotechnic League, Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth, George Lucas's Galactic Republic, Gene Roddenberry's United Federation of Planets, etc.--may explain why you're a marginal SF writer.

Rob said...

As for the question of sending messages to extraterrestrials, we're already doing it. Read about the subject and learn:


Active SETI

Active SETI (Active Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) is the attempt to send messages to intelligent aliens. Active SETI messages are usually in the form of radio signals.

Realized projects

* Arecibo Message (1974)
* Cosmic Call 1 (1999)
* Teen Age Message (2001)
* Cosmic Call 2 (2003)

These projects have targeted stars between 32 and 69 light-years from the Earth. The exception is the Arecibo message, which targeted Glob cluster M13, approximately 24000 light-years away. The first message to reach its destination will be Cosmic Call 2, which should reach Hip 4872 of Cassiopeia in April 2036.

dmarks said...

"unfathomable electronic noise at roughly the orbit of planetoid Pluto..."

If they can even make it that far, past the roaring noise from Uranus.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
writerfella was not engaging in "worthless speculation," YOU were. Science fiction also is called 'speculative fiction,' and thus YOU were speculating, not hypothesizing. Hypothesis requires facts; speculation does not. Ipso facto. And you do not realize that Isaac Asimov's FOUNDATION Trilogy and all the others you so poorly and polemically cast about are all based on Feudal Europe (even Frank Herbert's DUNE series) and reactions to the Moor invasions. Alas, uninformed young sir, you thus are claiming that European civilizations were morally sensitive societies and that I as a Native American SF writer am claiming that they were no such thing. Yes, SETI sends 'messages,' but as Maser signals at hydrogen frequencies, not radio. And once again, the gas giant dMarks is speculating, not hypothesizing...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

My speculation was worthwhile, Russ. Yours was worthless.

Every advanced civilization I named except Asimov's is suffused with alien cultures and values. According to SF writers, most well-developed alien civilizations recognize the basic tenets of morality.

Only unrealistic "monster" races--e.g., the aliens in War of the Worlds, Alien, and Independence Day--have no sense of morality. Only they would accept killing sentient beings for no reason.

If you disagree, go ahead and name all the alien races in science fiction that embrace the idea of sacrificing their own people. Good luck with your answer, mouth.

Rob said...

As for my claiming that European civilizations are "morally sensitive," how stupid can you get? I've taken an anti-Western, pro-Native stance more often than you have, with your shilling for the biased works of Mel Gibson, Dick Wolf, and Larry McMurtry. I've linked to my Evil Europeans page often enough, but read it again and relieve your profound ignorance of my views.

In case you've forgotten, I've criticized the Eurocentric vision of Gene Roddenberry and Margaret Armen (The Paradise Syndrome) repeatedly. Meanwhile, you've defended them the way you defend everyone who pays your bills. Witness your recent praise for Redskin (not Red Skin) magazine.

Rob said...

As for your bogus claims about Active SETI, you've apparently confused normal TV and radio broadcasts with the powerful transmissions used to send interstellar messages. There's every indication that these tightly-focused beams will reach their intended destinations.

Here, read about the Arecibo message, as one example, and educate yourself:


The message consisted of 1679 binary digits (equivalent to nearly 210 bytes, since 1679/8 = 209.87 [8 bits in 1 byte]) transmitted at a frequency of 2380 MHz and modulated by shifting the frequency by 10 Hz, with a power of 1000kW. The beam was extremely narrow (giving a power equivalent to 20TW if it were omnidirectional) making it the strongest man-made signal ever sent.

Rob said...

Now that you've wasted our time with your senseless sniping, why don't you address the issue I raised? Namely, is the Doritos ad a good choice for "the start of communication with ET"? Forget your worthless speculation about whether the message will get there and who, if anyone, will receive it. As a philosophical question, is the message the best one to represent humanity with?