By Lisa Denenmark June 16, 2014


In his latest blog post, "The Man Who Speaks for Earth," New Yorker author Joshua Redman interviews Clinical Psychology Professor Dr. Douglas Vakoch about his new book, Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication. 

The book, edited by Vakoch and released in May 2014 by NASA, raises questions and addresses complexities that may have been overlooked by physical scientists about the ease of establishing meaningful communication with an extraterrestrial intelligence. The blog, "New Ideas From the Arts and Sciences," is a new feature launched at The New Yorker in early June. It aims to "bring together ideas of all kinds, from artists, writers, philosophers, historians, technologists, and scientists (social and natural)," says Redman. "I'll be interviewing researchers, reviewing their books, and trying to find and explain what fascinates them most."

In addition to his core faculty position at CIIS, Dr. Vakoch is the Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute, as well as the only social scientist employed by a SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) organization. Dr. Vakoch researches ways that different civilizations might create messages that could be transmitted across interstellar space, allowing communication between humans and extraterrestrials even without face-to-face contact. He is particularly interested in how we might compose messages that would begin to express what it's like to be human.

He is the editor of several books, including Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Civilizations Beyond Earth: Extraterrestrial Life and Society, Psychology of Space Exploration: Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective, and Ecofeminism and Rhetoric: Critical Perspectives on Sex, Technology, and Discourse. His work has been featured in newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times, Nature, Science, and Der Spiegel. As a spokesman on the cultural aspects of SETI, Vakoch has been interviewed on radio and TV, including the BBC, NPR, ABC, The Learning Channel, and The Discovery Channel.

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