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What things about humanity might be interesting / impressive /bizarre to various other sapient species?
Ex: What might a sapient species similar to members of the order Carnivora which have intimidating natural weapons find interesting / impressive about humans?
The fact that we can eat such a wide variety of things and not die or get sick. Carnivores have to eat or scavenge meat, or else they (whether individuals or species) will die off. Sure, they're frequently stronger and faster than us, but if you take away their main source of food, they either have to adapt ridiculously fast or they'll die off. If you take away our main source of food, we just grumble and find something else to eat.
edited 11th Jan '14 11:41:03 AM by Sharysa
Shit there was an absolutely beautiful thing I saw somewhere regarding this.
Gimme a minute, I'll go try and fetch it.
Found it, interestingly enough it goes back to tumblr, odd. Anyway sorry for the text wall, I've done my best to take the non relevant funny bits out.
It’s funny how science fiction universes so often treat humans as a boring, default everyman species or even the weakest and dumbest.
I want to see a sci fi universe where we’re actually considered one of the more hideous and terrifying species.
How do we know our saliva and skin oils wouldn’t be ultra-corrosive to most other sapient races? What if we actually have the strongest vocal chords and can paralyze or kill the inhabitants of other worlds just by screaming at them? What if most sentient life in the universe turns out to be vegetable-like and lives in fear of us rare “animal” races who can move so quickly and chew shit up with our teeth?
Like that old story “they’re made of meat,” only we’re scarier.
Humans do have a number of advantages even among Terrestrial life. Our endurance, shock resistance, and ability to recover from injury is absurdly high compared to almost any other animal. We often use the phrase “healthy as a horse” to connote heartiness - but compared to a human, a horse is as fragile as spun glass. There’s mounting evidence that our primitive ancestors would hunt large prey simply by following it at a walking pace, without sleep or rest, until it died of exhaustion; it’s called pursuit predation. Basically, we’re the Terminator.
(The only other animal that can sort of keep up with us? Dogs. That’s why we use them for hunting. And even then, it’s only “sort of”.)
Now extrapolate that to a galaxy in which most sapient life did not evolve from hyper-specialised pursuit predators:
Our strength and speed is nothing to write home about, but we don’t need to overpower or outrun you. We just need to outlast you - and by any other species’ standards, we just plain don’t get tired.
Where a simple broken leg will cause most species to go into shock and die, we can recover from virtually any injury that’s not immediately fatal. Even traumatic dismemberment isn’t necessarily a career-ending injury for a human.
We heal from injuries with extreme rapidity, recovering in weeks from wounds that would take others months or years to heal. The results aren’t pretty - humans have hyperactive scar tissue, among our other survival-oriented traits - but they’re highly functional.
Speaking of scarring, look at our medical science. We developed surgery centuries before developing even the most rudimentary anesthetics or life support. In extermis, humans have been known to perform surgery on themselves - and survive. Thanks to our extreme heartiness, we regard as routine medical procedures what most other species would regard as inventive forms of murder. We even perform radical surgery on ourselves for purely cosmetic reasons.
In essence, we’d be Space Orcs.
Our jaws have too many TEETH in them, so we developed a way to WELD METAL TO OUR TEETH and FORCE THE BONES IN OUR JAW to restructure over the course of years to fit them back into shape, and then we continue to wear metal in out mouths to keep them in place.
We formed cohabitative relationships with tiny mammals and insects we keep at bay from bothering us by death, often using little analog traps.
And by god, we will eat anything.
In times of plenty, humans can take in many more kCal of energy than they need, and store it on their own bodies to save it for later. Even the most sedentary or unconditioned human can survive for a while without food, thanks to this adaptation, though humans do need water.
Humans come in many physical morphs and phenotypes, though most of them are bipedal and laterally symmetrical, which makes their physical capabilities far more variable than many animal species.
Lightweight individuals may be able to live on far less sustenance than larger specimens, and may exhibit superior climbing or stealth abilities.
Others may be endurance runners, though sprinters capable of impressive acceleration in a bipedal species exist.
Still others may have extensive protective soft tissue and fat reserves, capable of enduring extreme temperature and environmental fluctuations.
There are more color and keratin-configuration morphs than are able to be classified: suitable for any climate and ultraviolet light risk level in their planet’s usual orbital range.
Humans may also reach fairly impressive sizes, capable of feats of dexterous physical strength well-expected in the harsh and varied environment of Sol III (or ‘Earth’).
Physical mutations are extremely common, resulting in individuals with not only variant physical capabilities but variant mental states and social needs. Do not assume loner variants are less capable than pack-running individuals, or aberrant or seemingly-crippled individuals are any less capable.
Humans are capable of bonding and forming social groups despite any physical or mental variance, forming mutually beneficial gangs that need not follow any ‘optimal’ structure. Unlike many species on their planet, reproduction is not an essential drive in forming these gangs; humans are driven to gather and survive even without the need or instinct to prolong the human species. Some forms of strong human bonding do not include sexual reproduction at all, or are sexual in nature but are not reproductive. All humans, if psychologically suitable, are capable of caring for children even if they did not produce them.
Humans are not only are sexually dimorphic but also sexually variant: while some developmental traits are common between individuals of the same physical sex, others vary so widely that there may not be significant difference between physical sexes in some individuals, or individuals may be wildly different from others in their same sex typing.
Do not classify humans or evaluate threat based on reproductive sex, coloring, body mass, length, or other biological information.
Humans traditionally engage in restrictive social codes, absolutist religions (though they may divorce absolutism from their spirituality and segregate it from their science and reasoning potentials) and other forms of social control because it is impossible for any one group to control any other group due to their variance without enforcing a taboo. They oppress each other due to a survival-coaxed need for authoritarian power structures during their early development as sapient species on a planet with forbidding terrain, poisonous plant life, dangerous animal species, and unforgiving climates. They are warlike and have experienced hatred and suffering throughout their development, at the hands of their own species far before other sapient life forms were made known to them.
As a balancing mechanism for their culturally imprinted memories of hatred and war, humans also are some of the most emphatic sapient in the galaxy and are capable of forming emotional connections with non-human, non-sapient, or even completely fictional individuals. While they are warlike, their penchant for philanthropy and self-sacrifice is legendary.
edited 11th Jan '14 11:49:48 AM by LeGarcon
The problem with having humans be special is that it requires all other alien species be the same in some way. If you want humanity's motor skills to be especially impressive, then you'll have to give all the other alien species poor motor skills. If you want humans to be seen as especially tall, you'll have to make all other alien species very short. If you want humans to be especially adaptable and quick thinkers, you'll have to make all other species slow-witted.
That works okay if there are only one or two other intelligent alien species out there, but if you've got a setting with dozens of them, you may want to have more variety.
In many of my stories Humans Are Special because we're armed to the teeth with nukes... most other advanced civilizations built only a few of these devices and banned them. But then when an alien menace invades the galaxy, Earth becomes the only safe haven.
So basically we're the God Mode Sues of the universe.
edited 11th Jan '14 4:01:01 PM by Eagal
We're insane. We believe things without evidence, and in fact embrace mental constructs on the basis on rejecting evidence. We allow ourselves to be manipulated by some of the most superficial of things. There are billions of us, far more than we can support with our environment. We can justify horrors upon our own kind, let alone others.
If I were an alien race, I'd point humanity at my enemy and go 'them! They're evil! Get em!'
And half of us would still attack you Spot the Impostor is a thing and saying someone else is evil is usually a sign that you're the evil one.
In fact, Humans Are Special is so often applied that it would be nice, for one, to see humans get categorised as a Hufflepuff House race.
edited 12th Jan '14 12:41:50 AM by MattII
Also, we're not particularly flammable.
Wood also floats, and is also not easy to burn (and humans can be flammable sometimes).
edited 12th Jan '14 10:59:47 AM by MattII
That's on Earth of course, I wouldn't count on aliens not being able to compete in javelin or archery contests.
edited 12th Jan '14 11:34:50 AM by MattII
Huh. Well, I'm completely out of ideas, then.
I'm pretty sure that humanity's tendency to throw things is fairly unique. In order to throw things as well as we do most of the human arm and part of our torso has been engineered to toss objects. We can see the maximum effectiveness of these alterations in professional athletes. We see quarter backs pass football over fifty feet with impeccable accuracy. We see pitchers toss base balls faster that a speeding car. However, our capacity to throw stuff comes down to a fluke. A slight extension of our collar bone gave us more leverage which led to more power in our overhand toss.
Humans are excellent swimmers. Now swimming isn't unusual even for mammals but not many land based animals are willing to dive beneath the surface. Alligators can match us in the water but not on land. Tigers can overwhelm us on land but they only swim on the surface. Humans are far better climbers than both of these species combined. Overall, I'd say humans are very well rounded in our mobility. We aren't well specialized but we can do anything short of crawling on ceilings or flight.
Actually tigers do dive, just not to great depths (10' maybe). Oh, and they're pretty good climbers too. Of course, tigers don't have thumbs, so, yeah...
Mind you, we're only taking about normal species here, on another Earth, with multiple sapient species, these 'unique' abilities might be nearly so unique.
Matt, have you seen a tiger climb? It's like watching a catipiller make love to a stick. No , between the lack of arm and hand dexterity and horizontal orientation prime apes make felines look absolutely clumsy climbers by comparison.
Earth can be considered a good yard stick for what life might look like. Life evolved on earth in certain ways for certain reasons. If life came from an earth like world it's likely that it would resemble a form of earth based life. If life came from a world decidedly not like earth then it's probably so alien that we couldn't have meaningful interaction to begin with. Short of blowing them up, anyway.
Have you seen a tiger 'climb' a 12' tree? it's up in seconds.
As for earth being a yardstick, maybe, but then again maybe not, a duller sun, a smaller (or larger) world, more distant from 9or closer to) the sun, how often it gets hit with a cataclysmic event, change any one of those (or any of 1,000+ other variables) and you change the whole structure of life.
The things we do with our nether parts? Freaky.
Our young are born with giant heads and take years to become even slightly non-helpless. Births can be swift or take a full day, even longer. Both sexes are nearly constantly fertile for decades, but the frequent female ovulation is basically invisible to fellow humans. In addition to reproduction, copulation is a form of entertainment, as well as a form of social currency — so powerful in fact that it has created new types of both positive and negative currencies merely alluding to it. Just think of the time humans spend on superfluous sexuality.
So, we're the best grenadiers of the Universe? Seems handy as a tactical advantage, even as a reason to enslave us instead of consumption.
Most of the variance between "species" in my setting is psychological. Humans are one of the most technologically-advanced, but that's the product of a confluence of other traits, and for the most part they're neither exceptional nor average in any of them. What humans are known for is a sort of "social vanity", above and beyond simple affability and responsiveness to social pressures that are prerequisites for a stable society, to the point that most races think of humans as pathological narcissists. Any species that cares so much about honour and reputation that "fame and fortune" is idiomatic for a successful life must be profoundly unhealthy - even if many of their achievements as a species can be credited to it in some way or another.
In my main "Harry Long Season" verse, humans are the only intelligent species in the Milky Way. They've never found any evidence of extinct alien civilizations. They have found invertebrate life on other planets, but over thousands of years the scientific community eventually realizes that the quirks and random chances of evolution on Earth produced a spinal column and a huge neocrotex, and no where else did this happen. As one character remarks, "If you like worms, the galaxy's full of them." There's planets famous for breeding specific worms to be harvested into edible protein stock.
Although intelligence is possible without a backbone (think of the Octopus, the most intelligent vertebrate), most "alien" life isn't much advanced beyond the level of early, early prehistoric Earth life (think of all those critters in the Burgess Shale).
edited 23rd Jan '14 4:37:57 AM by fulltimeD
For my current GURPS setting I went with a very RPG-mechanics-ish explanation: Humans are special because they aren't. Humans are jacks of all trades with no particular weaknesses. Tesah and Firra are a lot faster (a fairly average Tesah will outrun all but the best of human sprinters, and the Firra evolved from savannah pack hunters) but pay for that advantage with physical frailty (Tesah are about 3 feet tall on average and struggle to lift weights that human children can handle) and limited diet (Firra are obligate carnivores, and they need a lot of meat to fuel their metabolism), respectively. Humans don't have the sheer toughness of the Trassak or Droak but move significantly faster than both species. Humans are less phenotypically variable than the T!lek but the human baseline is, on average, more adaptable than any T!lek non-specialist breed.
In game terms, humans are the only species to start without any inherent advantages and disadvantages. In story terms, they have been able to consistently outmaneuver other species by capitalizing on their competitors' weaknesses. The only alien polities that can match the humans are both groups of several species working together closely, either voluntarily (the Coalition) or under a strict imperial hierarchy (the Core Hegemony) to compensate their weaknesses and pool their strengths.
After watching a cool documentary on dark matter and the edge of the observable universe, I'd say that humans are special because of their drive to learn even when the discoveries don't have immediately apparent applications. They'll investigate the most far-fetched mysteries just because they can, and put time and effort into developing new methods when existing ones aren't sufficient.
In effect, we've managed to learn a hell of a lot about places that we've never been to, and will either not be visiting soon (planets of the solar system, exoplanets, etc.) or will most likely never visit (superclusters that are billions of light years away). And we've done it on a budget that's chump change compared to our other expenditures.
In one of my planned stories, the differences in scientific philosophies between humans and the "researcher" aliens are quite apparent - the aliens have FTL ships, as well as the most extensive database of species in our part of the galaxy, but their telescopes are specifically made to detect exoplanets. To them, the humans' paths of research are contrary to the "tiers" of exploration, particularly our attempts at finding a theory of everything before even having ventured beyond our home planet's satellite.
edited 22nd Jan '14 12:18:38 PM by VolatileChills
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