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Cambridge Language Sciences

Interdisciplinary Research Centre
Eight burst nebula Cambridge Insitute for Eco-Language meeting Saturday 22 October 2022

What would intelligent beings from other planets be like? It seems highly unlikely that beings capable of developing a technological civilisation could do so without a "language", i.e. a means to generate, store, and communicate information. Languages are based on grammars: systems of procedures and primitives, somehow encoded in cognitive mechanisms that determine the possible structural properties of languages. The connections among language, cognition and intelligence are close and complex in humans. Would this also be true of alien intelligence? 

The goal of this initial meeting is to begin to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration on fundamental questions regarding the relations between intelligence, language and cognition in humans, machines and possible or conceivable exo-beings. Bringing together linguists, philosophers, mathematicians, physicists, cosmologists, biologists, anthropologists, and extra-academic researchers, we aim to consider the nature of exo-language by addressing, from a variety of perspectives, questions such as the following:

  • How might we communicate with intelligent exo-beings?
  • How different could alien language and intelligence be from ours?
  • Are human language and cognition merely the contingent results of natural selection?
  • What are the constraints on the embodiment of intelligence and language?

The is a hybrid (online & in person) event open to University of Cambridge researchers and guests, and registration is free. 

Doors will open at 10am and the first presentation will start at 10.30am. 

REGISTER HERE - registration closes 18 October (23:30 BST)

Please note: In person places for this event are now full, but please join the waiting list if you would like to attend this event. Everyone on the waiting list will be able to join the event online. You will receive joining instructions by Thursday 20 October. If a place to attend in person becomes available, we will contact you with further instructions on how to register.


10.00    Coffee 
10.30    Doug Vakoch (METI International): 'From Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence to Xenolinguistics'
11.30    Coffee
12.00    Raymond Hickey (University of Limerick)  'A possible roadmap to exobeings and exolanguage'
13.00    Lunch
14.00    Arik Kershembaum (Dept. of Zoology) 'Evolutionary constraints on communication: might alien language be more (or less) familiar than we expect?'
15.00    Jeffrey Watumull (Chief Philosophy Officer and Director of AI Research, Oceanit) 'Life, Information, Language, Intelligence.'
16.00    Panel discussion

Image credit: image by SAIF 4 from Pixabay


Saturday, 22 October, 2022 - 10:00 to 17:30
Event location: 
English Faculty Building, ground floor (GR04), University of Cambridge

What we do

Cambridge Language Sciences is an Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge. Our virtual network connects researchers from five schools across the university as well as other world-leading research institutions. Our aim is to strengthen research collaborations and knowledge transfer across disciplines in order to address large-scale multi-disciplinary research challenges relating to language research.