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“To search expectantly for a radio signal from an extraterrestrial source is probably as culture-bound a presumption as to search the galaxy for a good Italian restaurant.” Ever since I first grokked this insight from Terence McKenna, I’ve made it a mission to try and think outside the anthropomorphic box when it comes to the question of what intelligent aliens might be like.

So I thought the Aeon video below was worth posting, along with the asking for your thoughts on what form ETI might take?

When we look for aliens, why do we always find ourselves staring back?

Humans have long imagined beings in other worlds or on other planets whose emotions, motivations and physiologies closely mirror our own. Science fiction in its many forms tends toward a human-inflected conception of non-human life out in the Universe. This view of aliens as rather like us is fine for ancient myths and Hollywood blockbusters, but even modern scientists can’t seem to shake the notion that extraterrestrials’ decisions and behaviour would follow logic and patterns akin to our own. Many of the major scientific projects seeking life elsewhere in the cosmos still rely on assumptions that reflect, above all, ideas about how we would do something if we were aliens.

We in fact already know what non-primate intelligence, of varying degrees, looks like: corvids, cetaceans, horses, even bees.

But what does it take to become an interplanetary species? A major topic, I think, has to be the ability to get yourself off the planet. Is it necessary to be able to construct complex devices, as we have with rockets? Or are there other ways – for example constructing hardy lightweight ‘transports’, such as mushroom spores, that could escape the planet on the explosion caused by an asteroid impact? Or are we even so primitive that we think interstellar travel requires fighting against the power of our gravity well, when advanced species simply transfer their consciousness or slip between dimensions?

Is this a question you’ve pondered? Would love to hear your ideas for what form an interplanetary alien species might be like, and what their transport technology they might use to travel.