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The Starmakers are vast. Stars are their seeds, supernovae their hatching. Unimaginable millennia pass before they even begin to blink at their neighbours, and they do not die, merely pass along their experiences to the next generation (unlike some cosmic beings).

Even the smallest and weakest of them has thoughts that span centuries and the most raw and primal of their reflexes take decades to unfold. They talk to one another using what they might term telepathy, but which we would recognise as the flickering of a near dead star or a minuscule shifting in the colours out of space.

In their uncountable aeons some of the Starmakers' brightest have noticed the blaring and shouting of what they call 'Short Races', beings that exist on individual planets, occasionally spreading out to a few star systems before petering out into silence.

The Starmakers wish to use their vast experience to help some of these races survive further into the long night that they thought was their birthright alone.

How can they initiate contact with such a fast lived race, and how can they engineer events such that a race with lifespans and social structures similar to humanity can remember them and (perhaps most importantly) respond in order to engage in some form of conversation?

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    $\begingroup$ Before "how", there should also be "why". You don't try to establish contact with bacteria, right? No need to, bacteria works on a scale that hardly bothers you most of the time. So, for your race, what are we? Fast lived symbiotic entities? Parasites? Something else? Why would they bother, instead of shooting us with Andromeda to get rid of us. Oh, waaaaaait. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Mar 27 '17 at 20:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Molot: You sure that isn't just the cosmic equivalent of speed dating? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 27 '17 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Mołot You mean you don't try to establish lines of communication with short-lived microfauna? Irresponsible! How can you keep your gut bacteria apprised of their legal rights and obligations under your labor code? Sounds like an OSHA case waiting to happen... $\endgroup$ – Please stop being evil Mar 27 '17 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Mołot we don't try to communicate with bacteria because it isn't sentient, not because of differences in scale. Imagine if bacteria were sentient. I'm sure there are things that scientists would love to ask it. $\endgroup$ – Charles Burge Mar 28 '17 at 1:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Charles why do you assume bacteria isn't sentient, or giant cosmic beings will use similar definition of sentience? Just little things that might be useful for this question - I didn't down or close vote it. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Mar 28 '17 at 6:51

15 Answers 15

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Middle management

If you are driving a car, you don't go straight from first gear to seventh. You have to shift up gradually, picking up speed.

Let's take an individual Starmaker, the size of a nebula. "Within" him are many, many "short-lived" star clusters. The Starmaker engineers a being whose speed of thought is slightly faster than its own - think of it as a hyper-advanced Twitter feed combined with a chatbot.

Each bot-being faces a similar problem to the Starmaker itself, just one step down. It itself creates a slightly faster intermediary - perhaps one per constellation. The constellation bot makes a star-level bot. The star-level bot makes a bot that operates on a planetary, geological scale. The planet-bot creates bots that operate in the thousand-year range, those bots create decade-range-bots, and so on and so forth until you get to synthetic human being analogues.

Heck, you can drill down even further, and create mayfly bots that, well, speak to mayflies, bacteria, even atoms and quarks. All of that gets fed up the chain of command, filtered for important information, and delivered in digest form to the master. Each bot can give commands to its underlings based on an understanding of its master's wishes. To a regular human, the response comes in real-time, but the Starmaker may not ever learn anything about that particular human, his civilization, or his solar system.

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    $\begingroup$ The Chatbots of Eternity. Sounds like an Asimov waiting to happen. Very clever! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 27 '17 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs I took a certain amount of inspiration from a Lem story where a computer tasked with a difficult task built another computer because it was easier than doing the task. That computer built another computer, and so on until the entire planet was computers. $\endgroup$ – SPavel Mar 27 '17 at 21:13
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    $\begingroup$ @cortammon I was sent from the sentience of the Pegasus arm to communicate with Worldbuilding.SE through downvotes. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Mar 28 '17 at 0:54
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    $\begingroup$ @SPavel That also sounds like the (sub)plot from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy... $\endgroup$ – Shaamaan Mar 28 '17 at 8:33
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    $\begingroup$ It's chatbots all the way down! $\endgroup$ – Pyritie Mar 28 '17 at 14:25
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Softly

In the case you mention, the differences in timescale make it pointless to try to engage in communication directly. From the sound of it, we are no more than mayflies to them. Most of us, if we talk to mayflies, are doing it because we like the sound of our own voice.

However, we like to think that there's something deeper, more fundamental inside of us. It's that spark of life that drives us forward as our species mutate and evolve. That thing is believed to have been simmering for 3 billion years on our planet. That's slow enough that it's worth talking to, as we might talk to a cat, or maybe a hamster.

The trick is how do you communicate with a thing deep inside of us without ripping us apart? Clearly it's a thing that we protect so if we thought solar flares were trying to tap into our primal urges we would rebel. The communication has to be soft. So soft that we hardly notice it is there, but strong enough that we can rely on it.

The Starmakers would most certainly have to have exactly one thought for us. Any more than one thought would take too long to convey, so they'd want to be able to communicate everything without anything that you or I would call "changing their mind." They'd need to appear so reliable that we might not even be able to realize they're helping us directly. We might simply see it as part of the beauty of our own planet and it's delicate balance. We would reply back by either squandering what is given to us, or rejoicing in it and trying to pass it forward.

But even if we choose to pass it forward, we still might not even know what it is. We might just see it as "being lucky." And that's okay. That's all the Starmakers would need, if their communication was soft enough. We wouldn't be ready to hear their full voice anyways.

N = R* · fᵖ · nᵉ · fˡ · fⁱ · fᶜ · L
-Frank Drake, 1961

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    $\begingroup$ This is filling me with the vague existential dread that I'm not asking a question about a fiction... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 27 '17 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs Then you're getting the wrong message. Try tuning to the other Starmaker channel, and see if the message improves ;-) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Mar 27 '17 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ This answer should be tagged cosmic-horror. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Mar 28 '17 at 0:56
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Be less... hasty.

At the scale of the Starbuilders, they don't want to communicate to any one mayfly, but to the mayfly species. This means the starbuilders can still take their time, as long as they can communicate with at least one myfly species. They'd notice that even if one dies out, there's another one eventually taking their place, so there's no rush.

Grab their attention with an event at mayfly timescale that you can plan and set up.

Set up an incredibly, incredibly unlikely event: a mass supernova of 20 stars, which all took place in the same second, but separated by light-minutes. This would capture the mayflies attention, as it's impossible (or at least incredibly unlikely).

This gets the mayflies attention, allowing you to use some other method to transmit data at a slow bitrate. Hopefully you can capture the imagination of multiple generations of mayflies, giving enough time to at least transmit a "hello".

You could even encode data in the structure of your nebula, or in an incredibly irregular pulsar, or whatever abilities you have. Eventually one of those mayflies may come to look to see how that improbable event happened, which will allow them a chance to find your stone tablets or whatever, with your words of wisdom.

Another idea: Grab a mayfly.

Depending on your abilities, you may be able to find a large mayfly ship nearby. If you have the ability to grab it and somehow accelerate it, or move a black hole next to it, you'll be able to slow them down to your speed, enabling communication. Then, when you release them, or decelerate them, their time frame of reference will speed up again, allowing THEM to be your envoys.

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    $\begingroup$ Engineering incredibly unlikely events and messing about with relativity? Both great ideas! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 27 '17 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ Note, to talk to a species located in only one solar system, you don't want the supernova to occur at the same time. You want the light from the supernova to reach the solar system in question at exactly the same time. That way, the local population knows both that someone is communicating through supernova, but they are communicating directly to them. $\endgroup$ – Scott Mar 28 '17 at 0:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Scott I'd probably be more terrified than curious of a being that's communicating via supernovas. $\endgroup$ – Delioth Mar 29 '17 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Scott depends on how advanced the species is. A "Babylonian" level civilization would be most impressed by supernovae appearing at the same time, but that only works for one planet (and it's unlikely they'll be building a space shuttle in the ziggurat). I'm talking to more advanced species, with radio telescopes and an understanding of relativity; they see supernovas, calculate them, and realize they all "went off" at the same time, yet they're too far away for light or any communication to have triggered them simultaneously. A mystery too cool to pass up. $\endgroup$ – Zoey Boles Mar 30 '17 at 22:29
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Might as well post the contrarian...

They can't.

Their most raw form operates on a time scale that cannot perceive the short races, let alone intervene in a coherent method.

I would liken us to them to the relationship we have with the bacteria on our eye, with an average lifespans in the 4 hour region. You can kinda perceive them (cross eyed sight?) but for the most case you are oblivious to them and their plight.

An uncontrollable action to us such as a single blink might eliminate millions of them without our knowledge. You can't assist bacteria much and if you did start a process to aid these bacteria, you would be aiding ones several generations removed from the ones you first witnessed.

If you prefer... how aware of the plight of your own cells on a daily basis are you?

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    $\begingroup$ Now all I want to do is start a culture of eye bacteria. And I'm considering how horrifying it would be if we were aware that our eye bacteria were sentient and every blink could end millions of them... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 28 '17 at 6:16
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs - I should point out that my scaling is still poor with the bacteria example. If "has thoughts that span centuries", then we are talking bacteria that die in under 1-2 seconds and not 4 hours, so our relationship will eye bacteria be 72k% longer than their relationship with us. Them proving our existence would be similiar to us proving the higgs-boson's existence. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Mar 28 '17 at 18:22
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs I am become death, destroyer of bacteria; just yesterday I smote 28 billion of your brethren with my mighty eyelids. Tremble! ? $\endgroup$ – Delioth Mar 29 '17 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs I'd hate to see the experiment that detected us. Mercury and Earth both accelerated to 98% the speed of light and smashed into each other. Humans could be detected as probabilities as we were ejected from the planet. "Proof of Short Races!" they would exclaim, "Let us smash Jupiter into Alpha Centauri in our continued search for life" $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Mar 30 '17 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ That... would be an awesome motivation for an alien race to destroy us. And bizarrely matches up really well with this answer I gave to an entirely different question. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 31 '17 at 8:30
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Forget direct communication. Too difficult, and what purpose would it serve anyway?

They want to make the short-lived species last a little longer? They don't need to communicate with them any more than a farmer needs to "talk" to his plants. All they have to do is study them enough to figure out what makes them grow, and then provide a friendly habitat...

And then harvest whatever byproduct carbon-based life-forms produce that makes these giant beings even consider the tiny ones to be worthy of notice in the first place. Muahahaha! Oh, and don't forget "weed control".

Seriously, they'd probably take to breeding, cultivating, and modifying chemical-based life the same way we do with bacteria. Food, medicine, warfare... Might be the "real" explanation for why interstellar wars are so common even though nobody ever really benefits from them. (An explanation that the majority of the population would not believe because they've been bred not to.) We are their food crops, their drug labs, their biological warfare agents. Think about it: Their bodies are made of stars and such. We are learning to produce deuterium, tritium, plutonium, and other, normally quite rare things that could have significant effect on such a creature's metabolism. The 50,000 years it took us to get to this point are just a good day's work to them. Now that they've got the elements they want, they just need to refine our species so we produce more of them, either by increasing the colony size, or increasing potency...

I suspect this is probably "darker" than you had in mind. In that case, pick an instance where, rather than a "drug lab" the people are an "ant farm". ;) There's still no real communication, but over a few millenia of record keeping people do start to notice a large number of "highly improbable coincidences" that have somehow averted their total destruction multiple times, and come to the conclusion that there must be something looking out for them. (If they're human, they'd probably start calling it "Odin" or something.)

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    $\begingroup$ "Yes, the interstellar wars of short species 41b have proven a most effective anti-heliogenesis treatment, and we believe that seeding similar species will be effective in even late stage cases of runaway cluster formation." $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 28 '17 at 20:08
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For some reason, this question reminds me of "Dictionary of the Khazars" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictionary_of_the_Khazars . Anyway, in part of the book a sheitan and a human are guarding Sultan's golden hat. And they are bored so they start chatting, idle chit chat, about weather, women and finally, the nature of God and humanity etc. The human does not know that the other guard is sheitan. So the sheitan asks the human:

Do you see that moth on the hat? How would you send a message to that moth so there is no possible way it can misunderstand it?

Human guard: I do not know.

Sheitan claps hands, utterly crushing the moth: Like this. And God communicates the same way with humans.

To give a proper answer to your question, it will be very hard for the creatures to communicate with "moths" and it will have to be very, very obvious communication. Many moths might die.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! Certainly an interesting story and a nice take on the question. But I think it would be nice if you could edit your answer to differentiate it from the one Twelfth already posted, as you are both using a similar argument. If you got the time it would be good if you could have a look at the tour and the help center to learn more about how this site works. Keep it up and have fun! $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Mar 28 '17 at 12:51
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Leave messages.

This seems to me to be the only way to do it. If a Short Race's lifespan is the blink of an eye compared to a Starmaker's thoughts then there will be no opportunity for back-and forth communication, at least not unless the Starmakers succeed in their goal of increasing the Short Race's lifespan for long enough for that to happen.

So, leave a message. Encode it in the alignment of the stars, or the cosmic microwave background, or just bury it on a convenient nearby Moon*. Any form will do, as long as it can last long enough to still be there when the Short Race reaches scientific maturity and is ready for the knowledge it contains. Then, if all goes well, they can use its contents -- the great knowledge of the Starmakers -- to extend their civilization's life span to a duration that would permit a conversation.

Some work will need to be done to make the message comprehensible. The message cannot be written in the Short Race's language, since it must be written long before the Short Race even has a language. But with some care a message could be constructed that contains its own key for how it should be read. (Humans have tried this with the Arecibo message.)

This might not work the first time. Perhaps the Short Race will not understand the message, or will use it to create a terrible weapon that wipes them out in the blink of an eye, etc., but that's okay. Another Short Race will arise before long; the Starmakers can use the knowledge they've gained to improve the process next time.

Perhaps many iterations will be needed. Perhaps one Short Race will send a message saying "our Sun is dying now, but we've got this far, and we've discovered this technology that would have helped us escape if we'd had it sooner," and the Starmakers can pass that knowledge on to the next speicies. Or perhaps the sticking point is not technology but civilization itself - how can you create a society that will be stable for all that time, neither destroying itself through war or overshooting its resources? That might take a lot of trial and error. But once it's perfected, if it works, the result will be that the Short Race becomes a Long one and can finally meet their companions.

*ok, so that's basically the plot of 2001.

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It may be possible to communicate through mathematic priciples using the flickering of stars. Which essentially is communication through light.

Have a few stars nearby the short race's solar system (a couple light years or so) that flickers numbers. Example: It flickers 1 time and stops, then twice and stops, then 3 times and... well you get the point. The idea being that this star cycles the same basic numbers (up to, let say 10). This star would be to teach the numbers needed for equations.

Using another star's flashing numbers have other nearby stars (which were strategically placed by the starmakers), teach addition, subtraction division and so on. Maybe one of the stars flashes once for subtraction, twice for addition and twice really quickly for equals.

At the end of the cycle there would be a mathematic equation with no answer and a long pause before the cycle restarts. Once the civilization can achieve the technological advacements inorder to respond (in some way) with the equation's answer then a new cycle would appear. This new cycle would have more advanced mathematical equations and priciples using the same or different stars.

An intresting aspect of this would be that however many lightyears away the stars are, would be how many years it will takes change to display. If your star is two years away and the flickering is changed, it will take the short races 2 years for them to see the flickering cycle change.

Eventually this would lead to complex theories, which can have a significant impact on the survival of a intellectual species. Maybe eventually it will lead somekind of word like communication.

Altough it would be challenging for these two differing beings to share a language due to major differences in environment and perspective. For example: time would be percived quite different if at all. It would probably be a rather basic language which would make it difficult to help a species survive extinction.

May be a lot of leg work but im sure a solution can be achieved in this manor.

Best of luck.

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  • $\begingroup$ How would the short races respond in a manner the Starmakers would understand? $\endgroup$ – sphennings Mar 28 '17 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ It seems the starmakers are aware of the short race traveling to and inhabiting different planets, so it should not be too difficult. Maybe a flashing beacon or space probe assuming they are advanced now. If they are not advanced they can reflect light to a specific region in space using mirror like devices. How about the short races turn the tables and make a crop circle to message them. $\endgroup$ – AstroMax Mar 28 '17 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ @ sphennings I may have misunderstood your question, my mistake. By responding with a flashing light, if the answer were 42, you could flash 4 times, long pause, then another 2 times. In a crop circle you can draw 4 circle beside 2. Just a couple examples. $\endgroup$ – AstroMax Mar 28 '17 at 19:56
  • $\begingroup$ What sort of light that we emit is going to be noticed by a being that speaks in the spin variation of a pulsar? $\endgroup$ – sphennings Mar 28 '17 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ This is all based on the assumtion that these starmakers are able to percieve them in some way. If the starmakers are aware of the species as the OP stated, then they must be able to see/ percieve them somehow. If they could see them then there shouldn't be an issue in seeing a light they created. $\endgroup$ – AstroMax Mar 28 '17 at 21:22
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How can they initiate contact with such a fast lived race, and how can they engineer events such that a race with lifespans and social structures similar to humanity can remember them and (perhaps most importantly) respond in order to engage in some form of conversation?

The same way you already communicate with hyper fast entities to whom human language is unintelligible: with a compiler!

What's a compiler? It's a computer program for translating thoughts expressed in human language into machine language.

Bear with me here - you often instruct your computer to do things on your behalf. Compared to computers, you and I think at a positively glacial pace; let's say you subvocalize at a rate of approximately 300 words per minute. Thus, the upper bound at which you personally can process, say, a tweet (140 characters = 28 words) would be

$$\dfrac{\frac{300 \text{ words }}{\text{min}}}{\frac{28 \text{ words }}{ \text{tweet}}} \approx \dfrac{10 \text{ tweets}}{\text{min}}$$ (or 6 seconds per tweet).

So you can process tweets at a rate of $\frac{1}{6}\mathit{hz}$. By comparison, a single CPU computer can run machine-level instructions at a rate of $4\mathit{ghz} = \text{4,000,000,000}\mathit{hz}$! Even if you assume it takes 100,000 instructions for a computer to process a single tweet, a single CPU is still processing tweets 250,000 times faster than you can. By analogy, an entity that processes a tweet 250,000 times slower than you would take 17.36 days to process a single tweet.

So in the same way that people have been able to create compilers that transform thoughts expressed in human languages at human speeds into machine instructions operating at computer speeds without ever having gained the ability to directly work at computer speeds, these ancient and wizened creatures will need to specify their messages at their own plodding speed and then compile it down to a message that is broadcast at the much higher experiential speed of the youngling species.

Because any given individual observing these messages won't live long enough to see the Old Ones compose a reply, the "Hello Universe" message the Old Ones choose needs to convey a lot of information up front. At a minimum, it needs to:

  • Indicate to whichever young species may be listening that it is a signal devised and sent by another intelligence.
  • Indicate the time scale on which a reply from the Old Ones should be anticipated. Failing to communicate how slow this conversation will be will likely lead the speedier races to assume the artifact they picked up the broadcast from was a relic of a disappeared species. You want some sort of galactic timescale hourglass here.
  • Make evident how the recipient can respond. If there is a physical artifact broadcasting the message, maybe it just has a switch that can be flipped by the young whippersnappers which will indicate "somebody found the thing and flipped the switch to say hi". It should be evident on the timescale of both species that the thing is calling home to report contact.
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    $\begingroup$ Now you've got me thinking about what such huge creatures would see as computation... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 31 '17 at 8:32
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One significant problem is that with a lifeform that is so dagblasted slow, there's a limit on how much information they can transmit before we can't understand it anymore.

Suppose they succeed in getting into contact with us and even learning to speak our language and communicate it to us in a way that we can receive. We ask them a question. Centuries later, when they come up with an answer, it comes in dialog from a time centuries gone, looking like The Caturbury Tales:

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of engelond to caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

But that's also an extremely bold supposition. If they couldn't even answer a question fast enough for the language to still be the same, how can they learn an entire language before it expires?

On the other hand, us short races don't have a hope of learning their methods of communication either, since we'll only ever receive a few transmissions in all of our existence.

This is impossible without help. Perhaps there is an intermediary lifeform (or several tiers of them) which can learn to communicate with both the starmakers and the short races.

This is actually a rather amusing scenario, where aliens come from outer space speaking anything from Shakespeare to Old English, wanting to learn how the kids talk these days. Then in a few hundred years, they come back from outer space twerking and we all die a little inside.

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In attempting to communicate with the Short Races, the Starmakers are about to discover something that will revolutionise their own society as much as it will that of the short races they contact.

The fact is that the short races are in fact a crucial part of the Starmakers' own lifecycle. It is no co-incidence that it was the brightest of the Starmakers who have noticed the short races, because it is the existence and development of the short races that can spur their local Starmaker into a brighter state.

The key is that the short race needs to develop to a technology level that is routinely generating wormholes for their spacecraft. These wormholes allow FTL travel for the short race, but at the same time they provide a short-cut for the neural pathways of the Starmaker, allowing its thought processes, which are normally constrained by light speed, to accelerate. After a while, the Starmaker learns to harvest these wormholes; keeping them open even after the spacecraft has discarded them, thus unleashing the full potential of the Starmaker's vast intellect.

This is the point at which they become capable of communicating with the short races. As more and more wormholes are created, the speed at which the Starmaker is able to think increases.

At first the Starmakers do not realise what is happening. They simply believe that some of their number are smarter than the others. But when they finally take the time to observe things at this tiny scale and see what is happening, they realise that is it in their interest to not only encourage these tiny civilisations to grow, but to help them to avoid destroying themselves.

Once they have understood this, they know they need to make contact.

There are many ways they could do this, but the most direct way would be to use the short race's own communication equipment. The short races communications are easy to read once they begin to use radio waves and other long-distance communications. The Starmakers are able to use these to learn the languages and in time will be able to send a response capable of being picked up by the short race's hardware.

It will take aeons before they achieve successful communication. Many short races will rise and fall without having any idea that there is something out there trying to talk to them. Many others will receive the communications but will fail to understand it. But eventually one race will arise that will make contact...

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There is an older scifi story (Asimov or Niven, maybe?) that touches on something like this.

The immense being is normally widely dispersed and thinks on a scale relative to the distance between its parts. On a regular cycle (many, many years), this being contracts into a much more compact form, which greatly speeds up its cognitive functions to a rate that it can actually communicate at a real time rate with humans and other beings. People make pilgrimages to where this being is contracting to talk to it.

I think there was some way for some to accompany it (perhaps some kind of merging) when it again expanded to its slowing thinking state.

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How can they initiate contact with such a fast lived race, and how can they engineer events such that a race with lifespans and social structures similar to humanity can remember them and (perhaps most importantly) respond in order to engage in some form of conversation?

The answer is in your own question:

The Starmakers wish to use their vast experience to help some of these races survive further into the long night that they thought was their birthright alone.

But...

In their uncountable aeons some of the Starmakers' brightest have noticed the blaring and shouting of what they call 'Short Races', beings that exist on individual planets, occasionally spreading out to a few star systems before petering out into silence.

So basically what the Starmakers have to do is prevent the Short Races from petering out into silence. This should be easy enough for the Starmakers, since they are powerful enough to influence cosmic events. Not only can they cooperate to ensure cosmic events generated by them do not harm the Short Races, they can also engineer as many cosmic events as are needed to keep the Short Races alive. An example of the latter is the Starmakers engineering a cosmic event that extinguishes Earth's global warming.

Once that foundation is in place, the Starmakers can start leaving a trail of messages for the Short Races — see Nathaniel's answer. The Short Races should eventually advance enough to get to the point where those messages begin to make sense to them.

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Through minions. The same way the angelic hierarchy of the Catholic Church is structured -- God talks to the archangels, who talk to the Angels beneath them, and so on, until some minor angelic being tasked with following us whispers it in our ears.

When you call Staples to ask about a copy job, you're not going to get the CEO. You're going to get the clerk, department leader, or manager of that store, who might escalate your query up the ladder. So it would work the same in reverse.

So they could have star stuff minions who would whisper in our ears.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding, I hope you will enjoy your stay. A note on your answer: I can't help but link to this compulsory Dilbert strip on the subject. $\endgroup$ – Mrkvička Mar 28 '17 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! If you have the time please take the tour and visit the help center. While this answer is valid at first glance I can't see a big difference between yours and the one from SPavel. Could you elaborate in which ways your answer differs from the existing one? There is a little edit-button at the end of your text with which you can edit your answer and you can ping users with @<Username> if you got questions. $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Mar 29 '17 at 7:19
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They figured out how to make stars. Why can't the just learn the peoples language and leave messages on walls? I'm sure they can make the calculations necessary to carve with lasers from a long way away.

They could always just train their version of cockroaches to do it. Cockroaches can do a lot. Just move some current to the right muscles in their body and they'll do whatever you want.

Don't these starmakers have faster than light travel?

Edit: Now that I understand what starmakers actually are I think it would be best for them to send messages to the planets using the electromagnetic spectrum or do something using quantum entanglement, and then hope that the short races figure out that they're being spoken to. It might take a few thousand short races before the starmakers find ones that figure it out, but the starmakers have time right?

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    $\begingroup$ I think you might have misunderstood. Stars are a part of their life cycle (like ridiculously huge eggs). Can you learn the language of mitochondria and just leave a message on a cell wall, or would it take a bit more planning? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 28 '17 at 6:14
  • $\begingroup$ Also, while you (the starmaker) have been learning the language, deciding what message to send, and configuring your lasers to carve the right pattern so that they will be able to read the message, those short-life beings have gone extinct. $\endgroup$ – Dan Henderson Mar 28 '17 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ @DanHenderson only if you're really slow. A second to a star is still basically a second to ants. Bacteria do not experience time differently than us, they just have less of it. $\endgroup$ – user32463 Mar 28 '17 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs if the mitochondria is as clear as us then yes. By the way mitochondria speak in chemicals in case you were wondering. $\endgroup$ – user32463 Mar 28 '17 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Steve From OP: "Even the smallest and weakest of them has thoughts that span centuries and the most raw and primal of their reflexes take decades to unfold." So in this scenario, yes, you are really slow. Also consider how size correlates inversely with speed: a rodent's paws move through dozens of cycles per second to dig, a dog might do 4-5 per second, and a human would move just 2 or 3 scoops of dirt per second by hand. Heart rates also tend to follow this trend. It's not totally unreasonable to imagine that the perception of time would scale similarly with the size of the perceiver. $\endgroup$ – Dan Henderson Mar 29 '17 at 17:37

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