Ready, SETI, go: Is there a race to contact E.T.?

One can only wonder how any alien signals are going to be deciphered. No doubt this has been discussed by cryptographers, etc. But let's face it, without the Rosetta Stone we would never have been able to figure out what the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics were all about, and they were made by humans on earth. Images can only get you so far.

If we get a signal from some alien civilization, what is the strategy for"reading" it? It seems that the ability to read such signals would be at best a shot in the dark, so to say. Likely digital, but am not aware of a "universal language". It seem this could be an impenetrable barrier to understanding them. There are lots of humans who cannot understand each other, even when using the same language!

One suspects there are some working plan(s) for how this plays out. Never having studied the details, there is much more to this than meets the eye, or ear. That also assumes that all aliens rely on optical and/or auditory senses by which to communicate. For all we know, many communicate by smell, like dogs in a park, sniffing something that most of us would rather avoid.

And communicating with them is even more problematic. It assumes that A) they are listening for us, and B) that they also can decipher what we send. It is bad enough to wait many hours for the data from our spacecraft in the outer reaches of the solar system. I cannot imagine waiting to hear from an alien on a planet 50 light years from earth. It could take a number of human generations just to get the first reply back, and that assumes they understand our transmissions. Gibberish has a prime definition here:

"Unintelligible or meaningless speech or writing; nonsense." And as noted, we cannot exclude odors and other sensory mechanisms.

It would seem one would need a lot of patience to work in this area, where success, in more ways than one, truly is a shot in the dark! Perhaps that is why the folks at Berkley have done away with the WUs. They simply got tired of waiting.
May 22, 2020
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This planet has been giving off endless chatter for countless years but make no mistake. Answering a phonecall isn't always the wisest move. Better to see who is on the end of the line and China is by no means "In the lead".