Image: Launch of EchoStar XVI. Credit: Space Systems Loral/International Launch Services.

The Last Pictures: Contemporary Pessimism and Hope for the Future


Sending messages into the galaxy normally goes under the rubric of METI – Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence. In its electromagnetic form, the sending of directed signals to nearby star systems, it has proven more than a little controversial, as the work of Alexander Zaitsev at Evpatoria attests. But sending a message into space in the form of an artifact like the ‘Golden Record’ on the Voyager probes is also a form of METI, and one that excites as much introspection as passion. Larry Klaes has been looking at Trevor Paglen’s Pictures from Earth project, which sends images of our world not to the stars but into a stable orbit near our planet. Who will eventually find these images and what will they make of them? What should we be thinking about when we represent ourselves to the universe?

By Larry Klaes

In the history of humanity, there have been a select number of key events which define the moments when our species became truly intelligent in terms of a self-aware consciousness. One of the relatively more recent milestones is when we perceived a true sense of the future and endeavored to preserve representations of ourselves, along with more direct information, for the appreciation and edification of our distant descendants.

Of course when one attempts to send a message to future recipients, more than just mere illumination is involved: Often enough the creators and senders of the messages into deep time want to show their remote children (or in certain cases, as we shall see, the remote offspring of other intelligences) that they and their society had something of importance to say and offer, that they mattered as much to and in their era as the recipients likely consider themselves to be of value in their own time and place.

Read more: The Last Pictures: Contemporary Pessimism and Hope for the Future — Centauri Dreams.

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