For around 60 years humanity has hoped for a beacon from deep space. A signal like no other. A signal that made it’s indifferent way through the vast unknown of space to humanity’s doorstep. We hope for a pleasant introduction when we finally do get a message from the stars. At least a friendly piss off you primate bozos. You know some kind of understandable statement. A point in fact in which to ponder. But, what if the message is so vague, so full of possible misinterpretations, so full of exactly what humanity needs to commit suicide. A helping hand.
36,400,000. That is the expected number of intelligent civilizations in our galaxy, according to Drake’s famous equation. For the last 78 years, we had been broadcasting everything about us – our radio, our television, our history, our greatest discoveries, and our serial killers – to the rest of the galaxy. We had been shouting our existence at the top of our lungs to the rest of the universe, wondering if we were alone. 36 million civilizations, yet in almost a century of listening, we hadn’t heard a thing. We were alone.
That was, until about 5 minutes ago.
The transmission came on every transcendental multiple of hydrogen’s frequency that we were listening to. Transcendental harmonics – things like hydrogen’s frequency times pi – don’t appear in nature, so I knew it had to be artificial. The signal pulsed on and off very quickly with incredibly uniform amplitudes; my initial reaction was that this was some sort of binary transmission. I measured 1679 pulses in the one minute that the transmission was active. After that, the silence resumed.
The numbers didn’t make any sense at first. They just seemed to be a random jumble of noise. But the pulses were so perfectly uniform, and on a frequency that was always so silent; they had to come from an artificial source. I looked over the transmission again, and my heart skipped a beat. 1679 – that was the exact length of the Arecibo message sent out 40 years ago. I excitedly started arranging the bits in the original 73×23 rectangle. I didn’t get more than halfway through before my hopes were confirmed. This was the exact same message. The numbers in binary, from 1 to 10. The atomic numbers of the elements that make up life. The formulas for our DNA nucleotides. Someone had been listening to us and wanted us to know they were there.
Then it came to me – this original message was transmitted only 40 years ago. This means that life must be at most 20 light years away. A civilization within hailing distance? This would revolutionize every field I have ever worked in – astrophysics, astrobiology, astro-
The signal is beeping again.
This time, it is slow. Deliberate, even. It lasts just under 5 minutes, with a new bit coming in once per second. Though the computers are of course recording it, I start writing them down. 0. 1. 0. 1. 0. 1. 0. 0… I knew immediately this wasn’t the same message as before. My mind races through the possibilities of what this could be. The transmission ends, having transmitted 248 bits. Surely this is too small for a meaningful message. What great message to another civilization can you possibly send with only 248 bits of information? On a computer, the only files that small would be limited to…
Was it possible? Were they really sending a message to us in our own language? Come to think of it, it’s not that out of the question – we had been transmitting pretty much every language on earth for the last 70 years… I begin to decipher with the first encoding scheme I could think of – ASCII. 0. 1. 0. 1. 0. 1. 0. 0. That’s S… 0. 1. 1 0. 0. 1. 0. 1. I…
As I finish piecing together the message, my stomach sinks like an anchor. The words before me answer everything.
“SILENCE OR THEY WILL HEAR YOU”
The world skips a beat. Flatlines while all the possibilities and paradoxes are realized.
What does “SILENCE” mean? Who are “THEY“. HEAR what? “YOU“…who is “YOU“. Do they mean me? Do they mean humanity, or are they addressing our radio technology directly like a sentient being? Who is the sender of this apparent warning? There is only one thing that can be inferred on the surface. That is that 3 different parties are involved in this scenario. Us, Whoever “THEY” are, and the sender of the message. Out of the 3 beings, we can only anticipate one of them. Trust none of them.
If humanity is to receive the above message, the following will happen:
- Governments hold off on announcing the message for the time being as they discuss frantically among themselves to understand what just happened.
- The transmission did not go unnoticed, however, and soon enough it made global headlines.
- The initial excitement will be over the confirmation of life out there. Then the ominous nature of the message starts to set in.
- A portion of society figured out that the government tried to cover up, and some started to form conspiracies over why.
- Meanwhile, doomsday prophets start popping up everywhere.
- Meanwhile, government leaders and representatives meet to discuss the situation: what does it mean to have received this message? How significant is it? Why do whoever is out there tell them this? Why do they want to tell us? Is it telling the truth?
- The public clamours for truth. They want to know what’s out there, why we should “SILENCE”.
- Eventually, governments realize that it will be decades before a response to any questions could be received anyway, so the message isn’t really relevant.
- The message is discarded by the political arena, though the scientific circles continue to study and analyze the message to understand and possibly locate the aliens. Meanwhile, society continues to debate about the confirmed existence of extra-terrestrial life. People also start to question religions as we know them.
- Many, many years later, we finally colonized Mars and the Moon. Actual cities start to be formed. Asteroid mining begins.
- Harvesting stations are deployed into the gas giants.
- We finally colonized Pluto with a scientific outpost.
- Does humanity look beyond the Kuiper Belt: What’s out there? Is it the next frontier?
- Eventually, the serious debate begins over whether to send manned missions beyond the Kuiper Belt and when.
- Some in the media raise concerns over the message received so many years ago.
- These concerns are heard only by a few, and many politicians would argue to their voters, “we’ve jumped ahead so far since all those years ago. We are ready! Let us go make humanity great again?
- By democratic vote, the world passes the motion to construct a number of relay broadcast stations starting at Pluto, reaching spaceports located right at the edge of the Kuiper Belt.
- The first manned mission leaves the Kuiper Belt.
- The mission returned with no news. More manned missions are sent. A nearby hospitable planet, in the believed direction of the extra-terrestrial messenger, was selected for the first human colony beyond the solar system.
- Humanity constructs the most powerful radio transmission ever. Blasts a message to the originating location of the message. Cosmos that we are here, look at all we have done, all we have made. Behold humanity at its greatest.
232 days later… The Solar System is successfully annexed as a new addition to the local sector of the Galactic Empire.
The annexation and inevitable anatomical inversion of all sentient life in the solar system is only one possible outcome. But without the message in all its vagaries would we have blasted a high energy signal at that exact spot. It is infinitesimal in the extreme that we would have.
The ONLY way humanity should deal with pleas, threats, or any message from the dark is to forget them completely. If the first person to hear the message does the right thing, they should immediately forget about it. Destroy any records of it. Never think of it again.
If a truly advanced culture has hostile intentions against a less developed one, perhaps all sense of human hostility will not do. All that is required might be 248 bits of information. Why put tentacles on the ground or launch a salvo of relativistic missiles when you can get your enemy to destroy themselves. The right message is all that it would take. Tell us hard-headed humans not to do something guarantees it will get done. We are funny that way. What do most people do when you tell them “Whatever you do, don’t press that shiny red button!” and then leave the room? That button gets pressed.
If humanity zigs because of the message when it was going to zag on its own. We have altered our future due to an outside unknown force. At that point, we are done. Our trajectory has been altered. Our future is not our own. An advanced intelligence could play us like violins to yield whatever song they want. Our psychology is primitive even to us.
Knowledge of the message can only influence us in our decisions. Without any meaning established, without any descriptions of the parties involved, us humans will fill in the voids with fear, anger, and anthropomorphic nightmares. Logically we can never trust anything coming from a truly alien source. Our collective ability to detect lies and deceit is wholly based on being from Earth. Anything else will forever be untrustworthy by design. If humanity runs heads held high directly into a vivisection crazy alien intelligence, we must do it by our will alone.
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