Want to communicate with aliens? Start with the earth creature!

Aliens may not be the same as the Earth, and may not even be as good as the orangutans on Earth. To communicate with aliens, it is better to learn to communicate with Earth creatures. This is first to understand how the animals on Earth communicate.

The birth of the Dolphin Society

In 1961, the Greenbank Observatory in West Virginia, USA, was a stalwart. Twelve top talents from different fields gathered here to discuss topics such as science, art, and metaphysics (such as aliens). Among the participants were three Nobel Prize winners; the famous astronomer Karl Sagan, who was now a dead man, was a hairy guy; and an alternative neuroscientist, John Lilly, who was good at talking with dolphins. Famous for talking.

At the party, Lili suggested that if human beings could not communicate with the animals on the earth who had gone through most of the evolutionary history with themselves, then what about talking to aliens and talking about “identifying the signals from the wisdom of distant planets?” This view won the unanimous praise of everyone. Everyone agrees that in order to communicate with aliens, in order to identify signals that may come from aliens in a large amount of meaningless noise, we must first study how to communicate with animals on the earth, hope they can give We are useful in inspiring and teaching us how to talk to aliens.

So, the Dolphin Institute was born.

Can the sound of dolphins communicate as a language?

Since then, the study of the Dolphin Institute has followed the rise and fall of SETI (seeking the wisdom of life outside the earth), and was once praised as “great!”, and was once again “too ridiculous!” After several ups and downs, today thanks to advances in information technology, it has revived.

In 1999, Lawrence Doyle, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in the United States, suggested that information theory could be used to analyze animal communication, especially the whistle of bottlenose dolphins.

Since the initial experiment by Lilly, researchers have discovered that the methods used by several animals in communication are close to human language in complexity. As to whether the exchange between animals can be called “language”, this issue is still controversial. The focus of the controversy is how to define “language”?

According to linguists, most human languages ​​can talk about abstract or non-existing things; and as a language, there are always more rules, namely grammar. Most researchers believe that the snoring and whistling of dolphins lacks these two characteristics.

But Doyle argues that the dolphins’ communication signals are not as complex as human language, but they are by no means meaningless noise. Many studies have shown that dolphin communication signals correspond to certain things or situations in the environment (such as danger), even if these things are not close at hand; the signals of dolphins can even convey their emotions, gender or age. Information; all this shows that dolphins can also express and communicate certain abstract content.

The remaining question is: Do you have rules for dolphins?

Judging the “Zepuf’s Law” of noise and language

To prove that the dolphin’s signal is not random noise, Doyle cites Harvard linguist George Zepf’s research. Zepf discovered in the 1930s that all kinds of human languages ​​have a distinctive feature: in most languages, the frequency of the most commonly used words appears twice as frequently as the second most commonly used words. Three times the frequency of words, four times the fourth common word… and so on. For example, the most commonly used word in English is “the”, followed by “of”, which appears in 7% and 3.5% of all words, respectively, and the former is exactly twice as large as the latter.

Such as the frequency of the most commonly used words (get 1, 1/2, 1/4, …, etc.), and take the base 2 logarithm (get 0, -1, -2, …, etc. As the vertical axis, and the word frequency is ranked as the horizontal axis, a straight line with a slope of -1 can be drawn. Zepf found that in most of the written and spoken language from Spanish to Chinese, this straight line with a slope of -1 is established. This law is today called “Zepuf’s Law”.

With such a formula, researchers can distinguish meaningful signals from random noise. As long as the slope is not -1, it is far from the human language (the language with grammatical rules). For example, if a sound sequence has no meaning (ie, noise), its distribution is a horizontal line with a slope of 0, because in this case, each “word” appears exactly the same frequency and is completely random.

It seems that “dolphin” may have grammar

Earlier research showed that dolphins use a wide range of signals, but scientists are not sure whether they can be compared to human language. If so, then these signals should at least conform to Zepf’s law.

To test this hypothesis, Doyle and his colleagues examined the communication systems of several other species, including squirrel monkeys and cotton plants in addition to dolphins.

The hardest part of this work is to disassemble the AC signals of each species into units that can be analyzed. For dolphins, the researchers are looking for a natural interruption of the signal, which is the pause in the call, and the sound between the two pauses as an analysis unit. Then they used Zepf’s law to test the frequency of these units. If a dolphin can communicate meaningfully close to human complexity, its signal should reproduce a straight line with a slope of -1.

Doyle and colleagues chose a group of captive bottlenose dolphins that have been placed under human observation from infant to adulthood. Doyle et al. plotted their sound recordings and calculated a slope of -0.95. This shows that “dolphin” may be grammatical!

Why does “dolphin” have grammar? Of course, we must consider whether it is more conducive to survival.

First of all, dolphins are a group of animals, and communication is very important for their survival. If there is no rule in the exchange of “language”, at this time and at that time, this place and the place are very different, it will make everyone inexplicable. This is of course not conducive to communication and is not conducive to survival.

Secondly, the existence of grammar has an important function, that is, it can restore the correct meaning in the case of error in language transmission, and this is also beneficial to survival. Using the human example to compare, if there is a manuscript that transcribes scribbled, in some places, although the handwriting is illegible, we can still decipher it according to the spelling rules and read the meaning.

Let me give you an example. “I an here!”. This sentence has no problem with its grammar. The subject and the guest are in the correct position, but obviously “n” is the mistake of “m” spelling. However, this does not affect our understanding. On the contrary, if there is no grammar “Ihere an!”, we can hardly understand what it means.

Looking for aliens, start with earth creatures

Compared with dolphins, the Zepf slope of squirrel monkeys has never been lower than -0.6; cotton plants communicate with each other by emitting chemicals, and their signal distribution slope is close to -1.6; both are far from -1, showing their communication. Both lack grammar.

Dow et al.’s research shows that inter-biological communication is diverse and they constitute a complex pedigree. Using mathematical tools, astronomers can determine whether the intercepted cosmic noise contains linguistic features as a first step in screening intelligent creatures. As pointed out by the Dolphin Society, looking for extraterrestrial intelligence, it is best to start with the existing creatures on our planet. Otherwise, even if an alien sends a star greeting, it may be ignored as a meaningless noise.