Accepted paper:

Anthropology of "first contact"


Daiji Kimura

Paper short abstract:

The contact with extraterrestrial intelligence appearing in SF is considered, from the perspective of anthropology. First, the contact based on "rationality" or on "embodiment" is examined, and second, the existence of another layer called "intentional stance of understanding" is investigated.

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers contact with extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), the so-called "first contact," from the perspective of anthropology and communication theory. Science fiction has conducted various thought experiments regarding how such kind of mutual understanding is realized. For example, Leinster's novel "First Contact" describes the encounter between two spaceships, one human and one alien. Lem's "Solaris" represents one planet's oceanic surface as some kind of intelligence. However, every attempt by human researchers to communicate with it ends in failure. Also in some philosophical discussions, such as Wittgenstein's "Philosophical Investigations," and Bateson's "Mind and Nature," Martian as ETI plays an important role. In these discussions, Martian represents some intelligent existence, yet lacking common clue of understanding with human being. The way of understanding in first contact can be classified into two categories. One possibility is to use rationality, such as represented by mathematics. Objective truth appearing in physics is also frequently used. Another possible basis is "similarity of body." In this case, if an aliens' body is similar to a human body, understanding becomes possible. Finally, we discuss the existence of another layer above these "ways of understanding," that we call "intentional stance of understanding (ISU)" Whether ETI is peaceful or hostile, the understanding in broader sense is accomplished. On the other hand, like "Solaris," ETI may discard ISU from the start. Any living body attributed "self-replication" must be similar to others. If it is universal, ISU might emerge naturally, and then first contact with ETI will be successfully achieved.

panel P089
Challenges of space anthropology