In 1977, NASA launched Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, two unmanned interplanetary space probes that were sent out to explore the outer space. Aboard each was a record which intended to communicate the story of earth to potential extraterrestrials.

In order to portray the 'diversity of life on earth' the records contained 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind, thunder, birds, whales, and other animals. To this they added spoken greetings from earth-people in fifty-five languages, an eclectic 90-minute selection of music, including both Eastern and Western classics and a variety of 'ethnic music', as well as messages from President Jimmy Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim.

While we can only hope that any potential extraterrestrials are familiar with the concept of a record player, one might wonder whether the simple-mindedness of this action reflects the egocentrism of 'human nature' or 'Western Culture'. What does it reflect that we turn 'outer-space' into 'local-space' in terms of perceiving the universality of our technology not only as relevant and transferable beyond our culture, but also beyond our planet? In this day and age, our technical knowledge and abilities have gone way beyond the LP, but has our ability to contextualize and put our own technological developments into perspective?


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  • Agreed with Nokat. Summarizing humanity for another intelligence is a great artistic challenge. SETI and the Pioneer missions made compelling attempts as well. Ok maybe aliens don't have LP players, but if we (humans) found a strange data storage unit floating through space, we'd figure out a way to get its contents.

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  • I don't understand your negative view of NASA's (side) effort. It sounds like a fun project to try and design a potentially universal “plate of cookies” for neighbors who might pluck our scientific-exploration craft out of space. Can you do better?

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