Giving the rock art to Aliens: Post inspired by Ted Chiang's "Story of your life" and the Arrival Film


In Ted Chiang's "Story of your life" , soon to be the upcoming movie "Arrival", humanity is visited by mysterious aliens. The main character is a linguistic tasked with learning how to communicate with the aliens.

Slowly she is able to learn the alien language, and eventually is forced by the government to start trade negotiation between humanity and the aliens. The dilemma is, what to give to an alien civilization that might be infinite superior to us human in technology and resources? The scientist and members of the government decide to give the aliens images of the Lascaux cave paintings as the alien's first gift.


To me, that highlights the value that rock art has in our human history, and most important the dire need to preserve it. We are in the Anthropocene age, where us humans, are irreversibly changing the world around us. We currently have the technology to stop this destruction, but not the will or the disciple. Future people might refer to our current time as the second dark age, as we are not enlightened enough to stop the depletion of our natural resources, and the destruction of our cultural heritage such as the rock art sites in Paraguay.


paw prints amambay

How do we set out to preserve the rock art for future generations? I think first we must learn more about the people that made it, and what the message of the rock art must be. We think about those who made the rock art, and the message they left in rock. They were people were just like us, able to come up with the same ideas and inventions, the only difference is that we now have the ability to draw resources from the millennia of people that came before us, and use the tools we created from the giant pile of experiences we have collected. Our Human knowledge is now being organized in a collaborative manner by all of us in different platforms such as wikipedia, creative commons and the noun project. This collaboration projects differ from old collaboration project, as it not centralized hierarchical knowledge, but by a collection of knowledge assembled by many people all over the world. We are happy to announce that we are able to upload a digital collection of the rock art of Paraguay in to the Noun Project.

noun project

The Noun Project is a website that aggregates and catalogs symbols that are created and uploaded by graphic designers around the world. Based in Los Angeles, the project functions both as a resource for people in search of typographic symbols and a design history of the genre.

We hope that we are able to diffuse the knowledge of Paraguayan rock art into a larger audience, and thus raise awareness of how rock art is part of shared humanity. The ancient humans who made left their imprint into the hills had to create tools from objects found on their surrounding such as using a softer rock on a harder rock to leave a motif. Now days we have more advance tools such as the Ipad Pro, and the Apple Pencil.

ipad-pro-laika With our current tools is easy to digitize that ancient knowledge and upload the images to the Noun Project. We copy the symbols, but we don't know the true meaning of this ancient rock art. Some historians believe that during the dark ages, the monks that were tasked to copy ancient books could have been illiterate themselves. They would make copies of book they did not understand. We have uploaded the images here, and hope that by our digitization efforts and making it available online we are able to preserve it for future generations.

Hopefully it will be humans in the future that will be able to decipher the message left in the hills thousands of years ago, and thus they can learn more about our shared humanity, and let it not be aliens , learning about a human race long gone, creatures that destroyed their own habitat planet.