Author: Jennifer Thomas

“Friends of space, how are you all? Have you eaten yet? Come visit us if you have time.”
—Greeting in Amoy, one of 55 languages on the “Golden Record” sent toward interstellar space on Voyager 2, 1977 CE

[Transcript: Testimony of Android 32XX, International Academy of Sciences, March 9, 2072]

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What? Oh, sorry!

Gentle Humans,

Thank you for bringing me here today. As you know, NASA launched the Voyager spacecrafts in 1977, hoping for contact with extraterrestrial life. However, it would take the ships 40,000 years to reach another planetary system. Some of you were too impatient to wait that long. [Laughter]

So in 2032, a team of smart, discreet women…What? Oops, pardon! A crackerjack team of scientists deployed my spacecraft using an Alcubierre warp drive. The team had solved the not-insignificant engineering challenges involved, while restricting travel to sub-lightspeeds to avoid pesky causality paradoxes. They kept this work double top secret, to prevent misuse by the morally deficient.

At 95 percent of lightspeed, I reached your closest star, Proxima Centauri, in five years. From there, the sky was the limit. I tooled around for another three years, returning just last week. Forty years have passed on Earth. I see some of you—a tad worse for wear—who saw me off back then! [Cheers]
My mission was simple: to make friends on your behalf.

In Year 1, my ship was intercepted by beings in a craft using Antimatter-Matter Annihilation Propulsion. What? It would still take you 100 billion years to produce one gram of antihydrogen? Later, I’ll share how they quickly produce the antimatter they need.

Anyway, the beings boarded my ship, like pirates. But they weren’t out for plunder, they just wanted to talk. And when they talked, butterflyish creatures, not sounds, fluttered out of their mouths! That was when they were in a good mood, which was most of the time. If one was cranky or sad, slug-like things crawled out. I tried to talk to these beings in various ways: beeps, zaps, flashes, and so on. We couldn’t understand each other at all, but our attempts kept us amused and we parted on good terms.

In Year 2, I landed on a planet inhabited by slow-moving silicon-based beings. The sounds they made were not words, but numbers! They were a bit stiff and awkward. You might have graduate students like this. [Laughter] Since they perceive the universe entirely in mathematical terms, they long ago solved the Collatz Conjecture and the Goldbach Hypothesis. Huh? Yes, I’ll give you these solutions, and more. Some of you will be out of a job! [Nervous laughter.]

In Year 3, I met lifeforms who sang eerie, whale-like songs on a planet that seemed to be dying. They showed intense interest in Earth and intend to visit soon. I’ve stored their contact info so you can coordinate.

But Gentlepeople, I must continue later; I’m experiencing crushing fatigue. I’m grateful for your attention today. To quote from the Bard:

If this Android has offended,
think but this, and all is mended:

My capacity for change is limited; indeed, I’m approaching my expiry date. But you have transformed Earth! Frankly, I didn’t expect to return to a healthy planet without sociopaths in charge.

And I hear you wrested control of the space program from your oligarchs, so it serves the people—but the fight got ugly! [Angry shouting]. What? The top-secret design specs for me were destroyed? Oh no… So tired…Urgent need of repair…So much more to tell you…goodblbyezxIrisbuihod sssssssssssssssssss [Commotion in the hall]

[End of transcript]