An active catalogue of material culture artefacts and ‘messages’ in local, interplanetary and interstellar space, documenting the range of purposeful electromagnetic signals, space-time archives and other deposition activities sent off-world for various applications.
ABOUT 'A PROFILE OF HUMANITY' STUDY:
The underlying emphasis of the original ‘A Profile of Humanity’ (APOH) catalogue was to document a broad range of intentional activities that collectively contribute to the exoatmospheric archaeological record, but it’s foundation principally stems from two moral complexities raised across three papers (Billingham and Benford, 2011; Brin, 2013; Harrison, 2014). On the one hand, there are a number of fundamental ethical concerns associated with sending messages into space on behalf of humankind; of which the perennial controversy of Messaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (METI) with de novo transmission strategies perhaps best illustrates the existentialism of this discourse (Zaitsev, 2008; Musso, 2012; Brin, 2014; Korbitz, 2014; Gertz, 2016a; 2016b). The other hand presents us with a more pragmatic yet very terrestrial issue that should continue to occupy our minds regardless of how the METI debate or similar extraplanetary contamination discussions unfold; how do we ensure those unborn generations, who do not readily ‘have a say’ over our messaging activities or other techno-cultural fait accompli, are adequately informed about the inherited legacies of such decisions committed on their behalf?–often amusingly referred to as the ‘unordered pizza’ argument.
There have been some assessments performed by the SETI and METI communities (Vakoch, 2009; Zaitsev, 2012; Dumas, 2015) who responsibly document intelligible, electromagnetic envoys that intend to initiate diplomatic relations on behalf of Earth’s populace over intervals of deep time. But these accounts are not comprehensive nor do not take into account the other non-extraterrestrial messages that also constitute this growing technosignature. There are many applications that presently contribute to this intentional celestial property of our planetary system; our desires to create secure ‘eternal memory’ libraries to preserve information beyond our terrestrial environment (Guzman et al., 2015), rational communication attempts with extraterrestrial intelligences (Zaitsev, 2006), expressions within ‘SpaceArt’ (Paglen 2012), mission outreach initiatives (Sutherland, 2015), techno-colonialist propaganda objects as ideological claims in the ‘higher frontier’ (Reeves, 1994), questionable ‘lifeboat’ projects to conserve libraries of life beyond Earth and also symbolic gestures devised to impart some profound heuristic about our observed position within the universe (Schulze-Makuch, 2016). These activities clearly do not represent equivalent degrees of ‘plausible risk’ as those frequently cited for METI, but they do possess other significance for our enduring exoatmospheric archaeological record alongside our increasing ‘bio-footprints’ and other residual legacies we may still need to uncover. Technological activities seemingly far outpace ethical foresight.
The APOH catalogue was initially established as a first step within the Beyond the Earth foundation’s broader programme to preserve the memory of such ‘essential’ material legacies in order to allow distant future generations of our species to commit informed stewardship decisions on behalf of their civilisations or, in a more likely scenario, contribute insights for historical examinations of their ancestor’s material culture legacies. This particular catalogue was informally compiled and presented at the 2018 UK SETI Research Network symposium in Oxford University before being later published in the International Journal of Astrobiology (Quast, 2018). However, documenting METI is not this catalogues sole function. The range of materials now representing the populations of Earth is vast and exponentially increasing which, in addition to the startling rise in contemporary proposals for other deposits to fulfill a range of applications, inherently tells us something about ourselves, our underlying intentions, behavioural patterns, customs and frequent oversights committed in our desire to find exotic, imagined audiences.
This second edition of the APOH catalogue has been consolidated as part of a much broader study for the publication Beyond the Earth: An anthology of human messages into deep space and cosmic time (Quast et al., 2021), a volume that aims to continue to chronicle and examine the lengths we take in fabricating mnemonic artefacts of material culture which varyingly attempt to ensure our civilisation is contemplated throughout time and space–by distant, spatiotemporal observers that we may not distinctively recognise as ‘human’.
Billingham J and Benford J (2011) Costs and Difficulties of Large-Scale ‘Messaging’, and the Need for International Debate on Potential Risks. Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 67, 17–23 (JBIS Refcode: 2014.67.17).
Brin D (2013) Shouting at the Cosmos. David Brin website. Retrieved on 23 August 2016, Available at
Brin D (2014) The search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) and whether to send “messages” (METI): a case for conversation, patience and due diligence. Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 67, 8–16 (JBIS Refcode: 2014.67.8).
Dumas S (2015) Message to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence – a Historical Perspective. Researchgate. Available at
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Gertz J (2016b) Post-Detection SETI Protocols & METI: The Time Has Come To Regulate Them Both. Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 69, 263–270 (JBIS Refcode: 2016.69.263).
Guzman M, Welch C and Hein AM (2015) Eternal Memory: Long-Duration Storage Concepts for Space. Conference Paper: 66th International Astronautical Congress, Jerusalem, Israel.
Harrison AA (2014) Speaking for Earth: Projecting Cultural Values Across Deep Space and Time. In: Vakoch DA (ed) Archaeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication. Washington: The NASA History series (ISBN: 9781501081729).
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Quast PE (2018) A Profile of Humanity; The Cultural Signature of Earth’s inhabitants beyond the Atmosphere. Cambridge University Press; International Journal of Astrobiology (DOI: 10.1017/S1473550418000290).
Quast PE, Capova KA, Gillespie C, Smith K, Traphagan J (2021) Beyond the Earth: An anthology of human messages into deep space and cosmic time. London–Los Angelus: Atelier Éditions (ISBN: 9781733622035).
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