Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Observations Based on Systems Theory

12 Pages Posted: 24 May 2019

See all articles by Bernd Pröschold

Bernd Pröschold

Forschungsnetzwerk Extraterrestrische Intelligenz

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Date Written: December 1, 2018


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Thinking about extraterrestrial intelligence is a paradoxical endeavour because it involves, of necessity, working with human assumptions about our extraterrestrial counterparts. Social systems theory provides a set of conceptual tools that enable such assumptions to be minimized to the greatest possible extent, even if they cannot be completely avoided. In particular, the concept of double contingency in systems theory is a theoretical figure which describes the human encounter with extraterrestrial intelligence at a formal, abstract level and explains how communication arises at an emergent level of order. According to this scheme, the communication of complex information requires a long process of socio-cultural evolution and must be considered unlikely upon first contact. The question that arises, then, is how communication with alien entities can be placed on a continuous, ongoing basis at all. The improbability of communicative success is offered for debate as a possible explanation of the Fermi paradox.

Keywords: Fermi Paradox, SETI, Niklas Luhmann, Double Contingency, Anthropomorphism

Suggested Citation

Pröschold, Bernd, Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Observations Based on Systems Theory (December 1, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Bernd Pröschold (Contact Author)

Forschungsnetzwerk Extraterrestrische Intelligenz ( email )


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