1. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Messages:
    490
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Seattle

    How would an alien describe the human race?

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Matt E, Feb 24, 2019.

    If an alien from another planet were to describe humanity in one sentence, how would they describe us? I suppose it depends on the alien, but I'm thinking of it in these terms: if the galaxy had 300 sentient species in it, all in contact with each other, what would make humans unique? What one thing would stand out the most about humans, compared to other species?

    A few examples that come to mind:
    • Humans are the race that constantly tells stories, both to themselves and to others
    • Humans are the race that are always looking to colonize other worlds and exploit their resources
    • Humans are smelly primate descendants
    If we live on a planet of hats, what hat do we wear?
     
  2. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Contributor

    Joined:
    May 2, 2018
    Messages:
    3,874
    Likes Received:
    5,733
    Location:
    Boneless chicken ranch
    Some humans consider gambling one's money away to be illegal, some consider it legal. They all agree that it is legal to gamble away other humans money.
    If I live on a planet of hats, I live in a hat. I do not wear it.
     
    katina and Cave Troll like this.
  3. LoaDyron

    LoaDyron Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2018
    Messages:
    549
    Likes Received:
    668
    This is your answer I am afraid. You have to think about what type of aliens are in your story. You mentioned that all could contact with one another, but what if of your alien races are very closed minded? Or doesn't have contact with the outside universe?

    Now going back to your question. Instead of doing the aliens very racists, intolerant I would suggest the contrary. Maybe they see us very friendly, but some ups and downs on our arrogance. They probably see us fragile creatures of flesh, but with a strong will, they could know we live very shortly. Maybe for them, we are intelligent, but we are using it time at a time in the wrong way. Or maybe, we are a product of their own mistakes?

    I hope this helps. Keep on good work, and have fun. :superagree:
     
  4. katina

    katina Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2018
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    735
    Location:
    London
    Excellent question!

    Humans are intolerant of each other constantly destroying themselves their own natural habitat and eating their way around the animal kingdom. They are incapable of making decisions that will save them from extinction.
    In other words humans are their own worst enemy.

    If we lived on a planet of hats I think I simply would want to stand out from the crowd and so would start
    a devolution on the grounds of health and safety to let natural hair flow in the light of day to promote growth. Hats may be worn only occasionally and NEVER indoors.
     
    Some Guy likes this.
  5. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2017
    Messages:
    356
    Likes Received:
    483
    As said, the question depends heavily on the nature of your aliens, and how they are relative to us. For example, maybe by their standards we're exceptionally peaceful because the aliens repeatedly wrecked their homeworld and civilisation with WMD's as soon as they discovered them, but we simply agreed not to use weapons that were too good.

    You could also look at the traits that make humans unusual among other similar large mammals on Earth. For example--
    --Humans are tough! We can recover from injuries that would kill larger animals from shock.
    --Humans have excellent long-term endurance. There have been tribes that hunted by simply spooking an animal and then just walking after it until it collapsed from exhaustion.
    --Human infants are born in a very undeveloped and helpless state, which means we have a strong incentive to form families or groups to aid in their upbringing.
    --Humans don't have a limited mating season--we're up for it all the time, and centre a lot of our imagination and culture around those desires. It could easily be the case that humans are the most accepting and diplomatic species simply because we find the widest range of things sexy. Yes, that's including the Tentacloids of Regulus Seven.
     
    rktho, Cave Troll and Some Guy like this.
  6. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Messages:
    490
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Seattle
    Each alien species would definitely have their own unique perspective on humans. For example, looking at the Star Trek universe, the Klingons might see humans as being dishonorable, while the Vulcans might see them as being emotional. I'm wondering though, if there were enough different alien species, and enough different perspectives, whether it would be possible to zoom out and to look at the properties that are most unique to humans out of all of those species. An interesting aspect to this question is that it involves predicting what common attributes would be found in any intelligent species, then looking at humans and identifying the ones that do not have to be there.

    Thinking about evolution, and assuming that other species would also be produced through a process of evolution, aliens would also be optimized to survive. But they would be optimized to survive on a different world. And there would be different "side effects" to that process. One approach would be to look at the planet earth and think about what makes it unique. Another would be to look at our own natures and think about what properties may not be necessary for an alien species to survive.

    For example, due to how our own civilization developed, I think any other civilization would need to have some degree of curiosity, self interest, and creativity in order to develop high technology. Things like stories, art, and humor though become interesting, because those may be unique to the human experience. There isn't much justification in evolution for why those things must exist -- alien lives wouldn't be dull and spartan, but they may express themselves in truly bizarre ways that do not quality as art under human terms.

    Good points. What do you mean by gambling away other peoples' money? Taxes and such, or just general apathy for other peoples' stuff?

    Good points here. Unpacking this a bit, humans are tribal. This attribute can be traced back to pre-human primates, so it would seem to be a core feature of our evolution. But would it be necessary for any evolved species? On the face of it, I don't see a fundamental survival advantage, so other species could evolve without this trait, and see human infighting as rather silly.

    Short sighted vs. long sighted vision is an interesting angle to look at. Would humans have a particular inability to think in long term goals? I don't think I'm equipped to answer that. Though tribalism may be one piece to this puzzle -- it makes it difficult for us to unite towards common solutions to obvious problems.

    We're definitely good at these, but I think some other large mammals have us beat on pure survivability. Thinking of mammals of comparable size -- bears, tigers, horses -- they have us beat in raw strength. Though our intelligence gives us the ultimate advantage.

    These are good points. It's hard to say how other alien species would reproduce. Sexual reproduction as seen on Earth was probably developed on earth, which means that other aliens would reproduce through potentially different means that can still trigger the same effect of iterative improvement that we see in evolution.
     
    LoaDyron likes this.
  7. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Contributor

    Joined:
    May 2, 2018
    Messages:
    3,874
    Likes Received:
    5,733
    Location:
    Boneless chicken ranch
    Stock Market.
     
    Cave Troll and Matt E like this.
  8. J.D. Ray

    J.D. Ray Member Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2018
    Messages:
    314
    Likes Received:
    218
    Location:
    Portland, Oregon, USA
    Humans have the amazing ability to hold onto a concept in the face of volumes of evidence that it is false. The origin of life on their planet, and for that matter the mere shape of their planet (they have this "Flat Earth Society" thing that's mind-boggling); biological mechanisms like their own reproductivity systems; the idea that the color of one's skin has some indicator of their worth in society; all of these things some fraction of their population has misunderstood at some point, and hold onto the idea to the point of criticality. For reference, go to their Internet thing and research the term "Holy War". But be sure you have all your pods secured, because you'll tip over while reading it.
     
    Tom Mazur and Some Guy like this.
  9. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2017
    Messages:
    356
    Likes Received:
    483
    I don't think it can go anywhere until you establish what the aliens are like.


    It's easy to overlook, but in some ways, Earth is a really hostile place to live. The first mass extinction was caused by an excess of oxygen, which we now think of as being a vital part of what makes the world habitable.


    Actually, I'd say being tribal is very useful in a marginal survival situation. Loyalty to those close to you. Distrust of the the risky and unknown, and suspicion of those you don't know (who are likely to be your competitors, either through hostility or just taking the resources you need). A sense of community and common cause that enables complex organisation and leadership, and lets people put the group's welfare ahead of their own.

    Tribalism isn't as useful for us now that we don't spend our time struggling against nature and other tribes for the basics of survival, but it's a hell of a tool for lasting long enough to develop civilisation. Of course, you could have a species that's overcome the negative effects of tribalism--just try not to veer into Better-Than-You Hippy Space Elf territory. :)


    I meant that in terms of stamina, recuperation and ability to recover from injuries or stresses that would kill other creatures from shock, we're actually considerably above average. That could hold true for comparisons with aliens.
     
    Some Guy likes this.
  10. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Messages:
    490
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Seattle
    Interesting points here. Rational thinking is not a requirement for survival, at least under the conditions that we evolved under. Ancient humans survived perfectly well thinking that the Earth was flat, which means we never evolved any strong instincts to prevent us from holding those kind of delusions. Instead we have an instinct to find and follow heuristics. Basic instructions like “do not touch a hot stove” — we learn these lessons the first time we make the mistake. But these rules apply on a more visceral level and do not lead to rational thinking.

    Assuming other alien species evolved under similar circumstances, they might not actually have an ingrained instinct towards rationality either. Though some may have evolved under circumstances that made them exceptional in regard. Such as on a planet with particularly clever predators.

    Good points about tribalism. Other species may have developed it in a way that promotes more inter-tribe cooperation. If tribes could instinctively cooperate together, that could provide a mutual survival advantage to them all.

    I agree that humans are above average in survivability for mammals. An alien species that succeeds in creating an advanced civilization may also be above average on their planet though. It’s difficult to say how survivable they would be. Since we’re the descendants of primates, I think our most specialized physical attributes would be dexterity, climbing ability, versatility.
     
    J.D. Ray likes this.
  11. Reece

    Reece Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2019
    Messages:
    359
    Likes Received:
    572
    The breeders. Unsure where this story takes place in terms of time, but certainly by then we will have completely overpopulated the Earth, have to ride on each other's shoulders to save space, and have buildings that go up, up, up.
     
  12. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2017
    Messages:
    356
    Likes Received:
    483
    If this thread is anything to go by, you could add "full of jaded, mopey self-loathing" to your list too.
     
  13. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    36,120
    Likes Received:
    2,653
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Any alien would describe humans it terms of their own self-perception; how humans differ from them, and what they hold in common. When anyone defines another person or group, they are also revealing their view of themselves and their values.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2019
    J.D. Ray likes this.
  14. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    1,541
    Likes Received:
    1,596
    Our cities are just fungus pushing up against the edge of the petri dish
     
    Zombie Among Us and Some Guy like this.
  15. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Lively Fred

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2016
    Messages:
    470
    Likes Received:
    348
    Location:
    Somewhere Over the Rainbow
    Okay fair warning, the angle of this question hits a massive peeve of mine when it comes to these alien/human type of relationships.

    Basically, the way I see it, is that people are going to be people. Alien, human, or not. I like to have what physiological differences there are come from a rooting in biology. So for example, one of my fantasy races sees more in heat vision than 'color' vision. Thus they really don't have the capability to have a written language, not like we normal humans do. So what would they do different from humanity because of that? Could scorn what they can't have, mock the humans for needing to rely on storage outside of their own minds, good memories are prized, and so on.

    Also someone else said this, but how humans are seen as 'different' should also vary from alien to alien. And there might be other alien races that have that similarity! So the Zorpards from Bertan 4 think two armed creatures are hideous, thus they don't like the Klarta, the Gesunthites, and the humans, among others.
     
  16. Raven484

    Raven484 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2016
    Messages:
    582
    Likes Received:
    318
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Humans are nothing but a destructive virus, they should be exterminated without prejudice.
    If they saw us any other way, I would question their intelligence.
     
    Cave Troll and Some Guy like this.
  17. blurred-lines

    blurred-lines New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2019
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    South East England
    Humans choose the making of money over the ground they walk on?
     
  18. paperbackwriter

    paperbackwriter Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2018
    Messages:
    596
    Likes Received:
    1,458
    Location:
    uluru australia
    These humans sure seem stressed. and so competitive!
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2019
  19. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Messages:
    490
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Seattle
    Biological differences should definitely be the root here. Even society has its origins in biology: after all, society consists of people, and people are living beings with genes that tell them what to do.

    The fact that a particular species’ own unique perspective would influence their perception of humanity is something that I totally take as a given. That would be the case for every species, and is the most important factor when analyzing the relations of two different species with each other. But if we think about a Galaxy with hundreds of species, the average perception is hugely important. It could mean the difference between humanity being generally regarded as a leader in our galaxy (as in Star Wars), or generally regarded as an existential threat to gallactic peace (as in some of the replies here). Such averages could determine whether the species survives diplomatically.
     
  20. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2017
    Messages:
    4,289
    Likes Received:
    7,017
    Location:
    The great white north.
    "They're remarkably like these chimps over here, but with anxiety."
     
  21. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Lively Fred

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2016
    Messages:
    470
    Likes Received:
    348
    Location:
    Somewhere Over the Rainbow
    Okay I think I misunderstood the angle then, this makes a lot more sense and doesn't hit my peeved buttons so much.

    As for the average perception- I'd say that'd still depend on the other aliens in play. Humans could be one of the more peaceful, or one of the more war-mongering. When it comes right down to it, I think this might work best as being up to your human culture/society more so than a 'humanity as a whole' thing. So what works best for your story?
     
  22. Malisky

    Malisky Mercury Retroblade Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2012
    Messages:
    1,129
    Likes Received:
    1,500
    Location:
    The Middle of Nowhere The Center of Everywhere
    "Petty" comes in mind.
     
    Zombie Among Us and Matt E like this.
  23. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Messages:
    490
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Seattle
    There are definitely a lot of different angles on how peaceful or warlike our galaxy may be. I guess I’m interested in what some of these angles might be, and whether there are any reasonable arguments for which are more realistic. “It depends on the story” is also something that I’m taking as implicitly true here, since there are obviously a lot of different ways to look at the problem. But I think we can discuss some of those different ways and how feasible or compelling they are for use in a story.
     
  24. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Lively Fred

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2016
    Messages:
    470
    Likes Received:
    348
    Location:
    Somewhere Over the Rainbow
    Honestly the way I see it- humanity is so varied that a solid argument could be made for just about any angle. But from my perspective here's a few thoughts:
    Look at the most successful societies on Earth. The people most likely to be capable of building the tech to get out into space. What are they like? Ones like the USA, Russia, China, they're fairly militaristic without being war-mongering (I think- I don't pay attention to politics). Could figure out some commonalities and go from there?
     
    Matt E likes this.
  25. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Messages:
    490
    Likes Received:
    494
    Location:
    Seattle
    In regards to militarism, I think a good candidate for the "uniquely human approach" might be the empire. Empires have had a substantial impact on world history, ranging from the Romans to the Chinese and the British. Empires have spread ideas across the world, allowing cultures to mix with each other. At the core of the empire is the idea of a percent. Humans like to insert themselves into economic activities and take a percent. Taxes, stock transactions, investments, interest -- percentages are a cornerstone of our economy. Empires typically do not destroy cultures, but instead kind of set themselves up as the ones in charge and take a percentage off the top. It's an effective way to govern civilizations that are culturally diverse, because it allows a large empire to maintain itself without inciting too much revolution. Would an alien species operate in these terms? I'm not sure, but it's possible that their psychology may be completely different, and that their economic systems wouldn't fall along the capitalist lines that promote this idea of taking a percentage.
     

Share This Page