In a TED talk this evening, internet pioneer Vint Cerf took the stage to describe how the internet will eventually allow us to communicate with other species — even ones from another planet. The comments came as part of a group presentation, featuring the likes of musician Peter Gabriel and physicist Neil Gershenfeld, that focused on how technology is being used to communicate with animals. Cerf said that when he was designing the framework for what eventually became the internet, he realized that it was not simply a way for machines to connect — it was a way for people to interact. However, that's essentially just a starting point.
"All kinds of possible sentient beings may be interconnected."
"Now what's important about what these people are doing is that they're beginning to learn how to communicate with species that are not us — but share a common sensory environment," Cerf said of the other presenters. "We're beginning to explore what it means to communicate with something that isn't just another person." Developments like the Internet of Things will add more points of contact into the internet, and as humans discover new ways to help other species interact with it, that interspecies communication will only expand. "All kinds of possible sentient beings may be interconnected through this system," Cerf said. "I can't wait to see these experiments unfold."
Of course, such a vision is limited only be the reach of the internet itself — and Cerf pointed to projects like the "interplanetary internet" system that has allowed Curiosity to send back imagery from Mars, as well as DARPA's 100 Year Starship program, which hopes to let humans reach the nearest star within a century's time. "What that means is that what we're learning with these interactions with other species will teach us, ultimately, how we might interact with an alien from another world," he said. "I can hardly wait."