I came across some thoughts I wrote down a number of years ago. They are amazingly consistent with thoughts I have today, about the possibility of reaching out to my older brother and actually communicating. Mike is my older brother, who is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal.
June 19, 2001
I’m sitting in Mike’s room at his group home. The staff asked me if I had any pictures of him they could have, to hang on his wall. I should really give them one or more of the ones from my exhibition; ‘Brother from Another Planet’ comes to mind, because of the slinky.
Mike showed some kind of recognition at my show, when he and his housemates came up for a private showing. I wonder what it would be like for him if he had a picture of himself on his wall.
As I think about concepts of recognition, cognition, my brother’s inner life, I wonder if there is a way to communicate with an alien life form. When I think about extra-terrestrials as portrayed in science fiction, I think of smart aliens. They are clever; they know the universal language of mathematics. But what if we encounter a stupid alien? Ever think of that? We would probably have to use behaviorist techniques. “Good alien, here’s your life-sustaining oxygen.” Or “Bad alien, no oxygen for you.” A little one-sided, though; forget about two-way communication of any complexity. Even with a well-designed protocol, there are a limited number of possible responses: 1) the alien dies; 2) the alien escapes to another dimension; 3) the alien gets pissed of and atomizes us with a death ray.
Communication is frustrating enough, even with a familiar life form, and an alien mind.