If aliens are truly alien to us, how can we possibly communicate with them?

Imagine aliens. Now stop. The aliens you picture are probably humanoid. Maybe big black eyes.

But what about a truly alien species? Something that looks like an octopus. Or something that has parts in a different dimension? Something that is so damn horrible looking that fear is the only thing you can feel. Even though they want to be friendly.

What do we do then?

Is communication even possible? Seriously. How do you communicate with the horrible unknown?

The first step is just establishing that the truly alien thing is even intelligent and capable of communication, which is going to be a pretty serious issue in and of itself.

I remember dimly a sci fi book I read years ago (maybe someone can help me pin down the title) that involved a species of large, squid-like ice creatures. They were sentient, but because of their environment everything about the operated on an enormously elongated timeline relative to us - it’d take them a week to speak the equivalent of a word. Even noticing that something like that is intelligent would require the kind of intensive study it might not get if it were one among many study-able lifeforms.

I gots a Casio keyboard right here.

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.

Just flap your meat at them.

I often find it challenging communicating with my own species, Lord knows how we would do so with something beyond our imagining. I do know that I would want Amy Adams on my team to try. Wink

If they’re so advanced and intelligent as to be capable of interstellar travel and have been here for some time I’m betting it’s likely they’ll have figured out how to communicate with us through our own language.

See: Arrival. Perhaps they’ll send beings specifically to teach us how to communicate with them.

We’ve already encountered millions of species like these, and we didn’t even need to leave Planet Earth to do that. If we struggle to communicate with another species history has shown that we will either enslave or eradicate it.

You’ve been reading Blindsight again, haven’t you, @RichVR ?

If he hasn’t been, he should be.

I think about this with my dog, Simon. Does he truly understand that his name is Simon? Or does he recognize that as the sound that comes out of me when I want him to do something? Does he think “Simon” is the human-to-dog equivalent of “hey” as a starting exclamation?

Conversely it’s nothing short of amazing to me that it’s possible to teach a gorilla sign language and carry on a meaningful (if basic) conversation with it. Sure, they’re relatively close to us evolutionary, but that’s one of the few examples of bridging this sort of gap we’ve got.

Simon may not think of “Simon” as his identity, but he understands that it refers specifically to him, and that when humans say that word they are talking to him or about him. And he knows that other people and animals he is familiar with also have words associated with them.

I didn’t understand your question.

Mostly for the “Alan!” bit.

I’m reading it, thanks to you all.

Not recently, but several times. Maybe it’s time again. :)

why should we talk to them? If they come here, they have to start the conversation… pff If they are ugly and scary, they shouldn’t bother coming here…