Failure to Communicate by Ben Coppin

Failure to Communicate
Ben Coppin

They vivisected the first envoy. The second human to visit the alien ship was a professor of Linguistics. She spent a year alone with the aliens, and when she returned, she bore a message.

The message described a vast Universe-spanning civilization, populated entirely by robots. It also proposed a meeting.

The aliens sent a floating robotic representative to Mbandaka, in central Africa. The Earth sent its greatest philosophers, scientists and political thinkers armed with questions. Seven billion people watched and waited to discover what the aliens might tell us.

The visitor did not bother with diplomatic niceties, but began with a question, which appeared to emanate from a speaker that protruded from its body: “Where did we come from?”

After some discussion, a prominent politician stood and addressed the robot: “Our apologies; We do not understand your question.”

The alien explained that for millennia its civilization had been haunted by a set of unanswerable questions: where did robotic life come from? How was it created? Why is there so much of it in the Universe? Now that they had found an altogether different form of life, they were hoping for answers.

It did not take long for both sides to realize that the discussion would not bear fruit. The human participants had no answers for the robot’s questions and the alien robot had no interest in answering the humans’ questions.

The robot retracted its external speaker and returned to its ship. Before anyone on Earth realized what was happening, the ship had disappeared.

After a few months of navel-gazing, things went back, more or less, to normal. People continued with their lives, paying little attention to anything beyond a very short radius, and the Universe went back to ignoring them all.


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