Which language should aliens speak?

“Machine to Machine. The Internet of Things. This is going to be big, watch it.”

You probably heard or read about this. I did. But somebody please explain to me how that’s new. I thought we had been doing that all along, all these years, that the Internet was some huge network connecting electronic machines. I thought there were, are and will be hundreds of people who are good at standardizing protocols to make machines communicate.

How about the Internet of human beings?

It seems to me that the closest humanity has come to connecting people is through religions, with global communities of people sharing a spiritual bond.

But even in this case, most of the time we are dealing with a centralized architecture, bad coverage if any, interferences, little to no roaming support and most importantly, providers do not interconnect very well with each other. Let’s rest the case on theology – not my field – and consider these ways of connecting that physics can explain. Communications, something I know a thing or two about.

Which language should aliens speak?Without looking at the network and how we could optimize its overall bandwidth or reduce its energy footprint, a big part of our communication nowadays is lost in translation.

Look at how many different languages there are. I could completely “immerse” myself in over ten different languages without flying more than one hour from where I live.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the diversity. I, for one, am a proud Alsatian, chauvinistic French, convinced European and happy globetrotter… But isn’t it time our science looks (once again) into designing a universal language for human beings instead of machines? A language optimized to convey as much information (including subtleties, emotions and cultural backgrounds) as any existing language alone could achieve? A language that would break communication barriers between people?

There are a lot of initiatives ongoing to facilitate translation, even real-time translation with online dictionaries, semantic engines and text-to-speech technologies. A group of entrepreneurs in Alcatel-Lucent are actually working on such a project. They were able to demonstrate usability in French, English and Spanish so far. Such solutions will no doubt facilitate business life and some basic interactions in the future. But what is the next step? How good can such a tool become? How can we help a US doctor that is sent to a developing country in a relief effort deliver great care to children who do not understand English?

Is speaking the same language important to communications? Is it a direction we are heading to? Is it happening slowly and naturally as we are going global?

Sometimes I think of Stephen Hawking saying we should not look forward to meeting aliens as they may be more advanced. And I would reflect that even if they came to us with friendly intentions they might end up blasting us anyway from exasperation with our squabbles over which language they should utilize to communicate with us…

But what does all of this mean for today?  What does it mean for business?

A founding member of ng Connect, Alcatel-Lucent is a global corporation that lays fiber under the seas and puts silicon in space while dealing with pretty much everything in between that is related to telecommunications. We are talking about dozens of product lines here, each carried by dedicated teams driving to excellence in their respective fields. Teams that need help from partners and developers to accelerate innovation and customer relevance, which is where ng Connect comes in. If it were not for ng Connect, each team would launch and manage their own ecosystem program depriving said ecosystems of one of the biggest benefits: access to a broad portfolio of technologies on a global scale.

Now members and Alcatel-Lucent alike can speak with one voice as they connect with one another via the ng Connect Program.

Let this voice be heard and no doubt ng Connect will soon have a visible impact on our connected world.

Vincent Weyl
Alcatel-Lucent
www.alcatel-lucent.com

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