NASA launched Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 into space in 1977 and their mission was to explore the outer solar system. They also contained a time-capsule with information about our species, called The Golden Record. The late astronomer Carl Sagan, a predecessor of cool scientists like Brian Cox, led the ambitious project and he hoped that music, mathematics, images, texts and a star guide to Earth would encourage alien visits.
The Golden Record consists of music by mostly Western male musicians along with a turntable and stylus for aliens wanting to disco their way through the galaxy. Also included is every human language, even ancient Sumerian — though you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who speaks it now.
Fortunately for us, the aliens, and Carl Sagan, Voyager was dispatched before the advent of social media.
If Voyager’s cargo had included a computer with a good internet connection, then instead of listening to Led Zepplin and Crosby, Stills and Nash, aliens would now be deciphering our planetary consciousness via YouTube videos, blog posts and Twitter tweets.
What would they make of hash tags on Twitter trends or teenage posts on Tumblr? Would they follow us on Facebook and trade on eBay? Or would they order the latest games and music on iTunes while they perused self-help eBooks on Amazon? Would they comment on blogs and add new entries to Wikipedia? Would they send abbreviated texts or become obsessed with Instagram?
Voyager’s contents are now technologically obsolete. This means we must send a new Voyager into space with a contemporary representation of 21st century culture.
But if we do this, would aliens still want to visit?