Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Creating Alien Aliens, Part 16B: From Communication to Central Government…

Five decades ago, I started my college career with the intent of becoming a marine biologist. I found out I had to get a BS in biology before I could even begin work on MARINE biology; especially because there WEREN'T any marine biology programs in Minnesota.

Along the way, the science fiction stories I'd been writing since I was 13 began to grow more believable. With my BS in biology and a fascination with genetics, I started to use more science in my fiction.

After reading hard SF for the past 50 years, and writing hard SF successfully for the past 20, I've started to dig deeper into what it takes to create realistic alien life forms. In the following series, I'll be sharing some of what I've learned. I've had some of those stories published, some not...I teach a class to GT young people every summer called ALIEN WORLDS. I've learned a lot preparing for that class for the past 25 years...so...I have the opportunity to share with you what I've learned thus far. Take what you can use, leave the rest. Let me know what YOU'VE learned. If you want to know what I wrote in Communicating With Sapient Aliens? How? G
here: https://stupefyingstories.blogspot.com/2022/03/creating-alien-aliens-part-16.html

I ended Part 16A with this: "
The possibility of making a conscious self-sacrifice would also, it seems to me, to be something that sets us apart from the stuff on Earth that isn’t sapient…”

Let me expand on that and some other thoughts I’ve had regarding communicating with REALLY different aliens. For the most part, animals are not capable of making self-sacrificial decisions – and before you decide to grab me and throw me under the nearest bus, let me just assure you that we have between three and five cats, and either one or two dogs. This house has also hosted geckos, chameleons, tanks and tanks of fish, Russian box tortoise, fire newts, rats, albino African clawed frogs, snake, cockatiel, hamsters (the entirety of the divisions of the Animal Kingdom (excepting Marsupials) were represented at a single moment in time: Reptile, Fish, Amphibian, Bird, Mammal. The Plant kingdom has also been amply represented both indoors and out; and we live half a block from a park reserve and have deer, fox, coyote, Great Horned owls, hawks eagles, and countless other creatures visit our yard during the year. ALL of them communicate.

I KNOW cats and dogs communicate. Your dog will rush out and save you from traffic or attack a burglar or a murder intent on killing your family. However, I think this is more of a pack/flock/pride/school response. I don’t know how conscious the decision to save you from death is…

However, I argue against the response/behavior being a conscious decision to sacrifice his or her life to save yours. I think it’s more of an inborn response to threats. I’m certain I will be castigated for this POV, but it’s my article and I’m sticking with my interpretation.

6) We will NOT be able to use our inherent psychic powers – because there is at BEST sketchy “evidence” that Humans even HAVE psychic powers. Yet, we throw that burden onto some poor schlub of an alien species with the blithe assumption that two brains THAT EVOLVED ON TOTALLY DIFFERENT WORLDS AND HAVE TOTALLY DIFFERENT BIOLOGIES…would be able to touch hands and instantly know what the other is thinking. In colloquial English as well (the argument being that by some Telepathic Ability Organ their thoughts will reach us in a language we understand with concepts we understand), the aliens would be able to utilize the paradigms and structures of our brains to skip over our tendency to think in the language we speak, and go right to communicating complex sociopolitical concepts and non-physical ethical concepts that evolved while the Communicator evolved on their home world.

My OPINION is that this is the rankest sort of Homo sapiens sapiens-o-centric thinking. That somehow our latent psychic abilities will spring forth in order to communicate with visiting aliens. Out most likely response will be the one President Whitmore had when the hive-minded Harvesters told him that there would be “No peace.” I doubt that Whitmore would have understood ANYTHING from a being whose biology precludes making any sort of sound at all. How would they be able to communicate in words if their biology doesn’t allow for words to be spoken?

Spock in “Devil in the Dark” is another example some might flee to – he wasn’t hearing words, just feelings. Which is all very fine and good, but at the end of the episode, he was able to clearly articulate that the Mother Horta liked his pointed ears. I doubt that when we DO meet the Others, that we’ll have concepts that are that “sympatico”. At best, we might hope that aliens would find our minds…coherent. Besides, “How To Build A Warp Drive And Achieve World Peace” would be difficult to communicate via emotions, shared or not.

7) How about numbers? I read and hear repeatedly that “Mathematics is the Universal Language”. OK, let’s go with that. Joan Slonczewski created a world with a totally alien biology in her novel THE CHILDREN STAR (1999). At one point she did NOT use mental telepathy, but microscopic creatures who were sapient enmasse and could cause the girl's Human brain to understand a form of communication using flashing biological lights. The could communicate with one of the children (but only one!) who was a math savant and could intuit what they meant by the numbers they flashed.

Maybe these people are talking about the initial communication, where we flash numbers at each other and then establish that our math is the same. I have trouble with that because if Humans have developed several counting systems ranging from Base 1 (Unitary system) to Base 60 (Mesopotamian) (https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base_(mathematics)), how many OTHER counting bases might there be, and how likely are would either be able to figure out what the other is counting in? Even allowing a common base system, how might we communicate ideas like politics, emotions, faith, love, and other intangibles? The fact is that, we can’t.

In “Arrival”, even though we know we have similar mathematics, the problem lay in differing perceptions of time. How do you overcome that? Clearly, it required the work of several geniuses – Louise Banks, Ian Donelly, and General Shang to TRANSLATE the math into words. It was intuitive.

So what will it take to communicate with aliens? Language. Math. Leadership. Combined in the correct proportion and NOT some kind of “here’s our team that will translate the alien language for us”. But rather, looking at what we get, asking the question, “Based on what appears to be here, what kind of a team do we need to assemble to make sense of this so we don’t end up either killing each other…or them eradicating us?” This is perhaps the biggest weakness of the majority of our SciFi franchises – STAR TREK, STAR WARS, BABYLON 5, THE EXPANSE and countless science fiction novels and series. There’s a sense that once we learn to communicate with one alien civilization, we can just keep applying the same rules and eventually come up with a benevolent democracy where everyone works together in peace and harmony…

So, in order to create convincing, realistic, and logically illogical alien aliens, I HAVE to think things through. And I as I pointed out on personal blog, "...my problem with most of the stories I’ve tried to write about WheetAh/Human have got them thinking just like we do, only with a plantimal brain. Hmmm…I 'may' have a lot of work to do."

Which, of course, gives me an idea for the NEXT periodic post in this series: is the Federation of Planets, the Chancellor with the Republic Senate, the Interstellar Alliance, or the United Nations of Earth and Luna/Martian Congressional Republic on Mars/Outer Planets Alliance marginal governing body…a given? What alien forms of government will aliens have – or have we thought of ALL possible forms of government?

Image: https://image.shutterstock.com/image-illustration/alien-human-600w-136457129.jpg

Guy Stewart is a husband supporting his wife who is a multi-year breast cancer survivor; a father, father-in-law, grandfather, foster father, friend, writer, and recently retired teacher and school counselor who maintains a writing blog by the name of POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS (https://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/) where he showcases his opinion and offers his writing up for comment. He has 72 stories, articles, reviews, and one musical script to his credit, and the list still includes one book! He also maintains GUY'S GOTTA TALK ABOUT BREAST CANCER & ALZHEIMER'S, where he shares his thoughts and translates research papers into everyday language. In his spare time, he herds cats and a rescued dog, helps keep a house, and loves to bike, walk, and camp. He thinks out loud in print at: https://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/