Danger: Humans
January 10, 2014 8:23 PM   Subscribe

A Public Service announcement from the Interstellar Safety Council
posted by pjern (32 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I even hear that they're made out of meat.

[this is great]
posted by es_de_bah at 8:36 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Do humans actually want the reality of violent survivalism? It's easy enough to read the script of history and come to that conclusion, but it tastes wrong. Why art, if we're just brutes fighting to prevail against everything else in the world? Why religion? Why anything?

Do we really want to just... eat, sleep, fuck? Is that all we are?
posted by an animate objects at 8:46 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I tried to load the tumblr post in the video credits without success. Anybody have it?
posted by odinsdream at 8:49 PM on January 10


see also: Mankind 101: An Introduction

title is probably from the short story Danger - Human. Similar is Seven Views Of Olduvai Gorge, by Mike Resnick (Resnick, previously)

see also TVTropes:
Humans Are Cthulhu
Humans Are the Real Monsters
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:50 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


an animate object, religion for hive building. art for pea cocking. We're beautiful and complex, but we're not hard to place in Darwinistic terms.
posted by es_de_bah at 8:51 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Do we really want to just... eat, sleep, fuck? Is that all we are?

That's all I am.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:17 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


And never give a human your email address
posted by fallingbadgers at 9:21 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


"Humans: I want to see a sci fi universe where we're actually considered one of the more hideous and terrifying species."
Pursuit predation: FEAR ME!
posted by Zack_Replica at 9:50 PM on January 10 [7 favorites]


Do humans actually want the reality of violent survivalism?

It seemed like they weren't talking merely about humans, but all life on earth being based on violent survivalism. In other words, Darminian evolution. It's worth considering that other biosystems may not be based on survival of the fittest.


Why art, if we're just brutes fighting to prevail against everything else in the world?

Well, they DID say we're irrational, and do nonsensical things that may be against our own interest. There's your art right there. Seriously,do you think an alien being would really make sense of the expenditure of energy and time that we call art?
posted by happyroach at 10:06 PM on January 10


It's worth considering that other biosystems may not be based on survival of the fittest.

You mean a world in which those worse at survival & reproduction prevail over those better at those things?

I'm not seeing how that would work, unless it's ruled by staggering coincidences, or you ignore certain kinds of behaviors when reckoning fitness.
posted by aubilenon at 10:58 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Don't forget that fittest does not mean strongest. The fittest organism may be the most twee thing.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 11:11 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


You mean a world in which those worse at survival & reproduction prevail over those better at those things?

My assumption is that meant a system without any selection pressure. I can't really fathom it myself, other than perhaps a single organism that is the entire living. I suppose another possibility would be one where life doesn't have dna or selectable traits but is none-the-less determined to be alive.

Those ideas were just off the top of my head. I'm sure both good and bad sci-fi authors have made better attempts at the subject.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:32 PM on January 10


You mean a world in which those worse at survival & reproduction prevail over those better at those things?

I'm not seeing how that would work, unless it's ruled by staggering coincidences, or you ignore certain kinds of behaviors when reckoning fitness.


Well see, that's the problem. You're a product of a system that's the product of billions of years of that sort of competition. Its literally encoded in your gene;, it's you at a fundamental level. It's not surprising that you might not be able to even conceive of a different way of existing.

I can vaguely consider other forms of evolution based on radically different genetics. For example, maybe a feedback system. Maybe participants vote on what traits are passed on to the next generation, or maybe it works on a consensus.

Of course there's no way for me to figure out the practicalities of how that might work, I'm the product of one evolutionary path. We can't know what other choices might have been made at the start of life, what arrangements of chemicals might have resulted in radically different genetics. We have the ultimately parochial view, because we have only one data point in the universe.
posted by happyroach at 12:08 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


Its literally encoded in your gene

It's more fundamental than that. Prions are proteins which are stable and can propagate their form become increasingly prominent in the cows that eat them, and reproduce until they destroy their bovine environment. This not operating through the mechanism of DNA.

There are a lot more Mormons than Shakers, because Mormons are encouraged to reproduced and Shakers must be celibate.

In some sense this is a definitional thing - whatever strategy works counts as fitness. Being edible by people is a very successful strategy for cows and corn. In another sense, we already are in a cooperative relationship with those organisms instead of a competitive one.
posted by aubilenon at 12:51 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


In some sense this is a definitional thing - whatever strategy works counts as fitness. Being edible by people is a very successful strategy for cows and corn. In another sense, we already are in a cooperative relationship with those organisms instead of a competitive one.


Yeah, if there was one limitation of the film, it's that I was thinking through it, "Hey, evolution encourages cooperation as well". But on the other hand, that cooperation is also in the service of competition; just because you're on a football team doesn't mean the overall goal isn't competitive.

In fact, the scary mix of cooperation in service to competition explains far too much about our nature.
posted by happyroach at 1:19 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Do we really want to just... eat, sleep, fuck? Is that all we are?

Oh course not. But one could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, given that our culture is currently dedicated towards glorifying those things, and attendant similar things (like the violence our race has long used to allow for those things).

It's worth considering that other biosystems may not be based on survival of the fittest.

That is very unlikely, unless it came at the providence of a pre-existing species that already evolved that way. Scarcity isn't native to Earth but pervades the universe, the laws of thermodynamics say so and they seem to be universal. And pre-existing structures defy causation, so those are unlikely too. Anything else either directly or indirectly assumes the presence of some kind of god, whether the traditional sort or another species playing at it.

My assumption is that meant a system without any selection pressure. I can't really fathom it myself, other than perhaps a single organism that is the entire living.

We only know of one such organism, the biosphere of the Earth, and it's fueled by sunlight and took billions of years to develop. (Yes, it's an organism. I won't attempt to prove it to you, but it seems obvious to me. Life isn't individual but fractal, it comes in larger and smaller units, made up of other life.)

It's not surprising that you might not be able to even conceive of a different way of existing.

It's true, ideas don't arise out of the void but must be construted from pre-existing ideas. But one of the weird advantages our species has is the ability to conceptualize a much wider array of ideas, and to permute them in more interesting ways, than, it seems, other animals. Give us some credit.

We can concieve of some other ways of existing, based on the structures in our civilization. (That's an ability we've given ourselves, by having a civilization.) But we evolved based on a set of physical rules which we have reason to believe are constant throughout much of the universe, and while there is great variety within those strictures, it should tend to produce beings with certain simularities. If there are regions where there are other laws, then maybe they have other kinds of life, but it's hard to know their nature without observation.
posted by JHarris at 3:42 AM on January 11


Do we really want to just... eat, sleep, fuck?

Depends. Who's offering?
posted by flabdablet at 3:45 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


"It's worth considering that other biosystems may not be based on survival of the fittest."

I'm not seeing how that would work, unless it's ruled by staggering coincidences, or you ignore certain kinds of behaviors when reckoning fitness.


See Asimov's short story, "Green Patches".
posted by klarck at 5:09 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Do we really want to just... eat, sleep, fuck? Is that all we are?

Art is the fourth drive.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:38 AM on January 11


Fun video, but I object to using space travel as the example of human irrationality. To someone who doesn't understand the problem of getting into space, perching people on huge rockets might seem like an irrational approach. But it's really a very rational approach -- it just starts from certain assumptions that most people don't understand (or perhaps agree with).
posted by srt19170 at 5:54 AM on January 11


I haven't read it in years - I think the last time I did, I was in college, and I'm nearly 30 now - but if this kind of thing amuses you, allow me to introduce you to..

Starstrike!

Basic premise: Humans are basically the only species whose civilizing process didn't focus entirely on cooperation. When an alien needs other aliens taken out, there's nothing to do but grab some humans to use as weapons - because other intelligent species can't even comprehend 'war' well enough to engage in the necessary violence, never mind the skills involved.

(A brief scan of reviews indicates that the book isn't, um, all that great. And in particular the characters are drawn so broadly as to cause pain to a more discerning reader. But hey, it's this premise to a T!)
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:06 AM on January 11


Whenever you try to reduce the totality of human experience to a finite number of motivators, you, well, you get what you were looking for. That's how categories work.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:43 AM on January 11


The fittest organism may be the most twee thing.

So an entire planet where all the organisms are Kate Micucci?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:06 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Don't forget that fittest does not mean strongest. The fittest organism may be the most twee thing.

Le Cucaracha would fit that description.
posted by cenoxo at 9:19 AM on January 11


Before The White Man Came
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:25 AM on January 11


The More I Know Humans…the More I Love Dogs
posted by producerspot at 11:43 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Art is the fourth drive.

Show your work. Define art and show that it is one single drive. People are complicated 'ts all I'm saying.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:50 PM on January 11


I would just like to nitpick that, contrary to what the video says and common belief, Oxygen is not flammable.
posted by Pyry at 11:07 PM on January 11


^atomic or molecular?
posted by NortonDC at 6:37 AM on January 12


If these are too cheery for you, there's always You've Got A Case Of The Humans.
posted by NortonDC at 6:41 AM on January 12


The Damned Trilogy by Alan Dean foster is based on this premise:

Two major alien civilizations...have been fighting a war for several millennia.
Most of the fighting takes place on planetary surfaces, and is relatively restrained in terms of destruction, the purpose of the war being to convince and control one's opponents rather than destroy them. However, most sentient species in the galaxy have evolved to be incapable of committing violence against other sentients (violence of any sort being most un-civilized, but against another sentient being a [literally] unthinkable crime), which leaves a shortage of warriors on both sides. On a mission to find new resources and allies, a Weave scout ship discovers Earth circa late 20th/early 21st century AD ...

posted by Jakey at 5:30 PM on January 12


aubilenon: "It's worth considering that other biosystems may not be based on survival of the fittest.

You mean a world in which those worse at survival & reproduction prevail over those better at those things?

I'm not seeing how that would work, unless it's ruled by staggering coincidences, or you ignore certain kinds of behaviors when reckoning fitness.
"

Ya know, I was right there in agreement with you, until I considered the possibility of a world run by a sentient being.

A world-sized terrarium. HE likes turtles, so there are lots of them, but there aren't enough caddisflies to support them, so HE has to drop in daily bunches of Purina World-Sized Living Turtle Chow to keep them alive. Etc.

And every so often the algae gets out of hand, and HE has to make it rain an anti-algal chemical that also unfortunately kills off most turtle young. Over the eons HE has learned to reduce the world temperature by about 20 degrees Kelvin first for about a day, so the little ones will hibernate and consume less of the chemical...

But a "real" world? Absolutely Darwinian. No doubts.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:00 PM on January 14


« Older What it says on the tin....  |  "The essential aspects of demo... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments