Recently, I have been watching old episodes of the Youtube channel Vsauce. Today I saw this one - Lonely. Like every other Vsauce video, it’s a great one. In it Michael mentions Golden Record, something I have known since long but never knew it in great detail. My curiosity peaked after watching the video and there was a link in its description. I dived right down the rabbit hole.
Contents of the Voyager - The Interstellar Mission:
A golden phonograph record was attached to each of the Voyager spacecraft that were launched almost 25 years ago. One of the purposes was to send a message to extraterrestrials who might find the spacecraft as the spacecraft journeyed through interstellar space. In addition to pictures and music and sounds from earth, greetings in 55 languages were included.
I perused through the various songs, pictures, sounds, and music that were sent into space. All great choices, trying to be as encompassing as possible, trying to give as small a gist of human life on Earth as possible.
Then I read the greetings in 55 languages.
I was disappointed. Ashamed. A lot.
9 out of the 55 languages were Indian regional languages. The messages in those languages are shown below. Read them and see if you can feel the same disappointment and shamefulness.
Hello! Let there be peace everywhere.
Greetings from a human being of the Earth. Please contact.
Greetings from the inhabitants of this world.
Greetings. On behalf of Kannada-speaking people, ‘good wishes.
Greetings. The people of the Earth send their good wishes.
Greetings to the inhabitants of the universe from the third planet Earth of the star Sun.
Welcome home. It is a pleasure to receive you.
Hello to everyone. We are happy here and you be happy there.
Greetings. Best wishes from Telugu-speaking people.
Did you find anything awry in the greetings from couple of languages?
Ok. I will give you a hint. They are Kannada and Telugu.
That’s right. Those languages have
on behalf of Kannada-speaking people
from Telugu-speaking people
in their greetings.
They are the only two languages in the entire list of greetings in 55 languages that have those words.
Let that sink in. Have a ponder. Mull over it.
That is the height of self-isolating, self-pride or whatever the psychologists call it.
There are two possible ways I imagine this could have happened:
- Scholars of the language were approached by the NASA committee and told to create a short greeting using their language. The scholars would have assumed they were expected to use that type of words.
This assumption itself, the mentality, shows what is wrong. It shows how wrong they are in assuming that everyone has this myopic view of language and its supposed pride. How conservative, narcissistic, insecure would you have to be for this to be your first words when you talk to extraterrestrials?
- The other way could have been a worse case scenario where in the committee would have read the translation, got back to the scholars and pointed out the fact that the scholars were shouting out a greeting to the interstellar extraterrestrials exclusively from the people speaking a particular tongue.
“Do you understand, realise, feel how weird and self isolating this sounds?”
And to this the scholars would have replied, “Yup. But that’s what our culture is all about. And that is what we want the extraterrestrials to know about us.”
And the committee, like I am right now and possibly an alien some long time in the future, would have shook their head in disappointment as yet another chunk of faith in humanity was eroded.