Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Phoning Home

In anticryptography Brian McConnell discusses the possibility of communicating with an alien civilisation through computer code. In order to communicate with aliens a small set of programming instructions are first thought to the aliens by means of positive and negative examples. These instructions can then be used to produce output that displays a picture or some other message that conveys a message to the alien viewer. What could the assumptions he makes about programming tell an alien about us?

The use of variables and so the introduction of side effects may indicate to aliens that we do not really care what we leave lying around.

All computations consume energy but computations that do not destroy information use up arbitrarily low amounts of information. By sending non reversible computations we are indicating that we think we are important enough to waste the aliens energy figuring out what we have to say.

The proposed program languages make no mention of distributing the computation. This would seem to indicate a certain selfishness on our behalves. Why would we assume no one would be willing to help perform a computation?

What balance should be struck between speed of computation, shortness of program and simplicity of the program code? The last two are similar in that simple programs tend to be elegant, however many simple programs have long run times. What does our decisions on how to balance these opposing factors say about us?

What we say to aliens for instance why we sent them prime numbers rather then some other numeric sequence is interesting. However how we say something is also important.

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