Culture

Experts Concerned We’ve Sent Sexist Messages to Space

We're not doing enough to promote diversity to aliens.

During the British Science Festival, a group of experts pondered whether or not some of the images we have sent into space might be too sexist and too white — which would clearly be sending the wrong message to any aliens out there.

Yes, seriously.

Dr. Jill Stuart, considered an expert on the “politics” of space, expressed particular concern about a plaque on the 1972 Pioneer 10 spacecraft that featured a naked man and woman.

“The plaque shows a man raising his hand in a very manly fashion while a woman stands behind him, appearing all meek and submissive,” Stuart said, according to an article in the Guardian.

“We really need to rethink that with any messages we are sending out now. Attitudes have changed so much in just 40 years,” she continued.

Even worse: The man and the woman were both white. (Ewwwww!)

Detail of Pioneer 10’s plaque

“I would be uncomfortable with sending out any images or messages that include Western-dominated material,” Stuart said.

Thursday’s discussion featured the astronomers and philosophers of the U.K research division of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), which has agreed to enter a Breakthrough Initiative contest to compose a message to send to space on behalf of Earth.

#share#The contest winner will receive a $1 million prize. Despite this incentive, about half of SETI thought it would be a bad idea to send out a message at all, according to network-member Anders Sandberg of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford.

“The silence in the skies might be because alien civilizations are hiding from us, and that it might be stupid to attract attention,” Sandberg said.

Sandberg also expressed some logistical concerns about the project.

#related#“We don’t know is if any aliens out there have eyes, so pictures might not work,” he said.

Whoa. Great point! But actually, it would probably be a good thing, right? After all, we have no idea what kind of terrible impact having to see a naked, white heterosexual couple might have on the aliens’ culture — and I’d hate to think that we humans could play any role in turning them into misogynist white supremacists.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review.         

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