New Voyager Spacecraft

The Daily Prompt notes: NASA is building a new Voyager spacecraft that will carry the best of modern human culture. What belongs onboard?

NASA Voyager Status Update on Voyager 1 Location
Voyager 1

Why describe who and what we are?
Why send the innermost secrets of how we are formed? (genetic make-up)
Why send anything?

After all we’ve been transmitting radio and TV for over 100 years, so there’s a bubble 200 light years across and growing. That’s probably 15,000 stars. Life bearing planets? Unknown. If there’s anything out there, it could already know we’re here. If it knows we’re here, it knows exactly where we are – how hard can it be to work out the centre of a bubble?*

But we’re all alone in the universe, aren’t we?
Possibly, but it’s less and less likely. Scientists have concluded that meteorites have compounds relevant to organic based life; life bearing compounds from outer space which are billions of years old. If it’s out there, it’s on other planets… follow this thought and you conclude that ‘all alone in the universe’ is ready to join ‘Earth is the centre of the universe’ and ‘flat Earth’ in the rubbish bin.

So? Any life out there would be primitive, wouldn’t it?
On the contrary, our development as a technological species is barely a blink of the eye compared the age of the universe. The odds are that intelligent life will be thousands or millions of years ahead of us.

Does it matter if we’re not alone?
That depends which side of the debate you’re on. To return to radio and TV, the human mind-set is: broadcasting fulfils a money-making / social / political agenda. That’s it. The unwritten narrative of this is: The universe is a big, noisy place so who cares what we broadcast?

Now let’s guess at an alien mind-set.
If they’re there, they’ve had a long time to practise deciphering. It’ll begin with noticing a new upstart race, us, blithely broadcasting radio signals. As soon as they get to this point, they’ll fill in the rest of the blanks for Upstart Alien Race Development; television signals, radioactive emissions, things we haven’t got to yet….
The key in this is content. What do we say about ourselves?
btw the meme: ‘we’re alone in the universe’ is handy for an observer; it does a good job of neutralising the observer effect#.
But what content could aliens unpick from our transmissions? Think of all the nonsense put out; entertainment, propaganda… as self-advertisement it’s not great. In fact it would be hard to pick out any endearing qualities.* Their starting point would be ‘What’s all this nonsense?’ Their answer would be: ‘We don’t want that out here. Stay trapped on your small muddy rock.’

Isn’t that a little harsh?
Not really. It might be harsher. Think of our bubble of transmissions as a baby alarm, except in this case the baby is an all devouring monster and the monster is us. How might we treat an isolated infection outbreak that could become an epidemic? Keep it isolated, treat and terminate.

We haven’t been terminated yet. This suggests a number of possibilities **
0) The default state of affairs: There’s nothing else in this universe at all; just ourselves.
and the alternative
1) We’re not alone.

We’re not alone sub-divides into
1.0) Our signal is too attenuated to pick up
1.1) We haven’t been noticed yet
1.2) We’ve been noticed and ignored
1.3) We’ve been noticed and something’s on its way

It’s interesting to note here the scramble to shift from Medium Wave / Long Wave to FM and now, digital. This will weaken the wave front of our transmission bubble.

As far as the final point is concerned, much may rest on whether the speed of light is the limiting factor we believe it to be.
What could come?
An embassy?
An ending?

As advertisement, Voyager will be millennia out of date before it hits the next star system. So what is it?
A testament?
A gravestone?

# Where the observer affects that which is observed.
* I develop these arguments in A Guide to First Contact (ASIN B00EUI42U2)
** A topic explored in A Guide to First Contact (self plug)

About Terence Park

Board games, US Comic books, SF Paperbacks, Vinyl records; I've plenty of them all. I write SF (the serious sort). I also do spreadsheets.
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