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Pregled bibliografske jedinice broj: 169305

Empathy, Altruism, and Interstellar Communication

Janović, Tomislav
Empathy, Altruism, and Interstellar Communication // The Bremen Workshop on Altruism and Interstellar Communication
Bremen, Njemačka, 2003. (pozvano predavanje, međunarodna recenzija, neobjavljeni rad, znanstveni)

Empathy, Altruism, and Interstellar Communication

Janović, Tomislav

Vrsta, podvrsta i kategorija rada
Sažeci sa skupova, neobjavljeni rad, znanstveni

The Bremen Workshop on Altruism and Interstellar Communication

Mjesto i datum
Bremen, Njemačka, 27.-28.09.2003.

Vrsta sudjelovanja
Pozvano predavanje

Vrsta recenzije
Međunarodna recenzija

Ključne riječi
Empathy; altruism; communication; interstellar message; intention; shared context

If we consider a potential addressee of an interstellar message (AIM), would it be endowed with the empathic ability needed to understand our communicative intent? Consider the following speculation: if AIM has the technology to receive an interstellar message, then it is then highly probable that its society would be based on, and its achievements the result of, a reasonably high degree of cooperation among its members. Cooperation, in turn, is hardly conceivable without an ability to recognize and express emotions and intentions. However, even if my speculation about AIM’ s alleged empathic skills is sound, why should we suppose that our message would fulfill its purpose? After all, where there is no common code, the bodily signs conveyed through direct visual or tactile contact with an empathizing agent seem to be the only means of making an intention known. Can the message itself somehow indicate the presence of an empathizing mind when such direct contact is lacking, as in interstellar communication via electromagnetic radiation? What is the minimal shared context to be anticipated in the case of an interstellar communication? Surely three-dimensional space, the direction of time flow, physical laws, chemical elements and compounds, items of the macro-world (planets, stars, galaxies), and gravity and its consequences are all sufficiently universal to be good candidates for salient features of our shared context. One might even add biological and social features to the list, such as embodiment, mortality, producing and rearing offspring, and living in groups. But what are the chances that AIM would mentally represent these features in the same way that we represent them? For if they do not, it seems that any shared context simply cannot do its job. Lacking any clue how to forestall this difficulty, I come to my concluding proposal. In some specific cases of behavior classified as communication, there is no other content of the message besides the very intention to communicate that it is a message. My point is that for understanding such a reduced message, the requirements regarding the cognitive capacities of the receiver may be much less demanding than for understanding messages with a genuine representational content. It is not only that a successful transmission of a rich representational content requires a rich representational system (code). Such a transmission also requires a common context in the sense of a psychological construct consisting of an unidentifiable supply of background assumptions necessary for figuring out the implicatures of the explicit (directly decodable) part of the message. Being short of this context, we should satisfy ourselves with a message that would simply reveal the fact that we are beings capable of expressing and recognizing intentions. In such a case, revealing our communicative intention would in effect be identical to a natural sign (indication) - in the sense of Grice’ s "natural meaning" of altruism towards another being (in this case, an extraterrestrial). The only requirement for understanding such a message would be a minimum of empathic abilities on the part of our unknown addressee.

Izvorni jezik

Znanstvena područja
Etnologija i antropologija


Projekt / tema

Institut za antropologiju

Autor s matičnim brojem:
Tomislav Janović, (200803)