Dominique Lestel, Ph.D., is Associate Professor at the École normale supérieure (ENS).
A founding member of the Department of Cognitive Science at ENS, Dr. Lestel is also a member of its Department of Philosophy. Since 1998, he also has been a researcher at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, where he became the Director of the Ethoecology and Cognitive Ethology Research Group of the Laboratory of Eco-anthropology and Ethnobiology. Dr. Lestel is developing a philosophical anthropology that maintains, first, that to be human is to establish particularly strong connections to other animals and, second, that new technologies could significantly improve these connections. His books include L’animal singulier (2004), and Les grandes singes: L’humanité au fond des yeux (2005), Les animaux sont-ils intelligents? (2006), Les origines animales de la culture (2009), L’animal est l’avenir de l’homme (2010), and Apologie du carnivore (2011).
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) raises profound philosophical questions that demand serious discussion. Our attempts to establish contact with alien civilizations compel us, for example, to define exactly what we mean by communication. In the past, anthropologists have categorized contacts with new cultures as either ethnological or ethological. In this paper I will argue that interactions with ETIs will constitute a third type of contact since they will be located at the intersection of ethnology on the one hand and ethology on the other. Because humans have had no experience with this type of contact, communicating with extraterrestrials will pose complex new challenges.