A boy who is fascinated by science fiction films presents a newly designed interstellar message in pure Korean on Hangeul Day in 2020. Why does he put a message in the space? A message that is delivered to an extraterrestrial intelligence that may exist somewhere and at the same time a message that is like an echo that returns to our humanity.
Q. The interstellar message was released on Hangeul Day.
A. The <A note between the stars written in Korean> is the ‘interstellar message’ newly designed by Unhappy Circuit, assuming the existence of extraterrestrial life that utilizes radio communication, and to communicate with them. It is also the first interstellar message to apply Hangul script and Korean grammar as an attempt to deliver the Earth’s natural language to extraterrestrial intelligence. This is why it was first released through the website on Hangeul Day, October 9th. The overall structure was established based on the “Cosmic Call” designed in 1999 and 2003, and the contents were generally revised and new contents were added. Above all, it is significant as the first attempt to expand the interstellar message, which was previously studied mainly on the expression of the Roman alphabet and mathematical symbols, and to combine it with the Earth’s natural language and writing system.
Q. What is the content and composition of the message? Can extraterrestrial life understand it?
A. It is composed in a way that starts with the binary system ‘binary counts’ and the decimal system ‘decimal counts’, and defines various concepts for basic mathematics and science step by step. If you understand the previous content, the next content is made into a structure that can be understood naturally, so it will be fully understood if extraterrestrial scientists and linguists follow the message step by step in order.
Q. It would have been difficult to work only in pure Korean.
A. It is true that it was not easy to express in pure Korean because most of the mathematical and scientific terms follow the Chinese character expression. I putted deep thoughts into whether it would be appropriate to be based on the prescribed notation of terms, and whether it would be better to propose a new one to reveal the charm of Hangul. Is it okay to use Chinese character expressions? I also wanted to ask such a question. It was decided that it was important to give imagination as an artist, so I boldly devised it in pure Korean. Pure Korean expression is very effective as an interstellar message because it can convey the meaning of the term more easily and clearly. On the other hand, writing it down in pure Korean made it seem even unfamiliar to us. It was expressed as an interesting element that everyone, both foreigners and Koreans, feels like alien characters.
Q. How did you start sending messages to extraterrestrial civilizations?
A. The fundamental reason is that it has been a field I have been interested in since I was a child who enjoyed sci-fi movies. In particular, I was greatly influenced by the movie ‘Contact’, starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey, which was released in 1997. This film is based on a novel written by Carl Sagan, an American astronomer representing the 20th century, and he played a key role in the “SETI Project,” searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. As in the movie, I have been wondering about finding extraterrestrial life with a radio telescope since I was a child, so it took quite a long time to lead to the actual work.
Q. You have been working on the work centering on the fusion of science and art, and now it has led to extraterrestrial life.
A. Unhappy Circuit is a multidisciplinary and new media artist. In fact, looking back on past works, all of them have continued in a similar context. All of them had ‘language’ as their subject matter; works such as <Music of Memories> digitized human characters into Morse code and expressed them with light and music, and <A Synthetic Song beyond the Sea> synthesized the cry of a blue whales and human music using artificial intelligence. <A Letter across the Stars>, introduced in 2019, is a work implemented so that the data received from SETI’s radio wave detection project can be sensed with light and sound. If this is based on the collected data, <The Interstellar Notes written in Korean> is a work that is exported to space on the contrary. I come to a thought that I have been practicing to explore the unknown in order to complete this ‘Interstellar Message’. Now, it seems that I have entered the flow of work to find extraterrestrial intelligence in earnest.
Q. Is the interstellar message actually going to be sent to the space?
A. Yes, that is the final goal. I set an ambitious goal to send it to the space within this year, but it took quite a while to create the message. I want to continue the follow-up work next year. The contents will be revised and supplemented, and the completeness will be improved by researching and containing stories that could not be covered this year. The final goal is to launch the ‘Interstellar Message’ in Korean into space, and this <A note between the stars written in Korean> is the first step towards that goal.
Q. Why did you mention the global warming in the major last paragraph?
A. The interstellar message is a dialogue between civilizations. In the last paragraph, the message ‘The temperature of our planet has risen by 1.15°C over the past 139 years’ in the intention to truthfully convey the way our planet is. Doesn’t this global warming problem that we’ve been in since we were a child still have the potential to destroy us without being resolved? This is the most urgent global problem right now. Extraterrestrial life may have similar concerns, may have already overcome, or may not have suffered yet. It doesn’t have any purpose to ask them for an answer, but because it is a sentence that reflects our current state well. While asking ‘Why would you like to tell the story of global warming to extraterrestrial life’, wouldn’t it be an opportunity for us to think about the seriousness of this problem once more?
Q. Why constantly search for non-human beings.
A. I am always thinking about what to do to make art valuable. I hope that my work has some meaning to the world, and I want to be of any help to benefit humanity. It is said that if we look at our attitude toward life like animals, we can understand what kind of human we are on the contrary. The journey to search for extraterrestrial intelligence is ultimately the same as finding the answer to the question, ‘What kind of beings are we humans?’ In the process of exploring things outside of us, we will rather light up ourselves. Unhappy Circuit seeks to discover the true form of human beings by exploring non-human beings. Through this, we dream of seeking together for the future direction for mankind to leap forward. Just like <A note between the stars written in Korean> is both a human message thrown toward a distant universe and a very necessary message for ourselves.