Have you, like every other American I know, wondered what it might be like if we were to make contact with an alien life form? How will they think? How might we speak together? Will they be benevolent or violent? What will we learn?
Well, I’d like to turn your attention Earthwards: if you think about it, every species on Earth is an alien species. We are surrounded by life-forms that are entirely different from us: they exist, they thrive—they think, even—differently than we do. Their bodies and minds have been shaped by evolutionary histories that were different from ours. So, what is the experience of life like for a chimpanzee? For a dolphin? Or, even more alien, for a sparrow? A spider? A mouse?
I want to spend my days studying animal cognition so that we may attain a better understanding of the inner lives of these familiar alien life-forms. A shark can sense the electrical impulses of your heart. A bat can hear the shape of you. The parrots I am studying now can see the ultraviolet colors of your clothing. What other superpowers does life on Earth have? What else will we discover?