Pic of the day: In this imaginary scenario, a human male (the radially symmetric biped) is shown feeding a newly hatched larva with a synthetic fluid. The object in front of the male is not a female, but a synthetic repository for immobile larvae. (Somehow our simulation of human behavior has been leaked to the natives and is known as The Sims...)
The alien letters, 1
College of interplanetary studies,
Our studies of Tellus has revealed one of the most interesting species yet known, at least from a psychological viewpoint. As expected, the planet has fairly recently become home to one, and only one, technological species, the human. You can get the details on their physiology and technology by searching on this keyword in the files of xenobiology and xenotechnology respectively, but we will sum up briefly here.
The planet is largely covered by water and has an oxygen-rich atmosphere (ca 1/5). The energy cycle of nearly all life forms is based on oxidation of carbon and hydrogen. A subgroup of organisms ("plants") release oxygen and bind carbon and hydrogen, using solar energy. Most of the rest live as parasites on the plants, or on other parasites. Mobile parasites ("animals") encompass all intelligent life forms and many more. All life forms on the planet seem to descend from one original form, and have many structures in common.
Animals and many plants are diploid, that is, they have two sets of genes which in combination determine the form and function of the organism. As usual in diploids, there are two sexes. In many animals, the two sexes contribute very unequally to procreation: One form ("female") supplies more of the offspring's body mass than the other ("male"). This is particularly glaring in mammals, the animal group which sports most of the intelligent species and the only species with technology and sentience. We ask you to pay special attention to this feature, as it is fundamental to human psychology. In almost all mammals, the larvae develop inside the female body, while the female is still active and perform most of its normal functions! Indeed, the larvae live as parasites and get nourishment and oxygen directly from the bloodstream of their female parent ("mother"). They grow quite large, and only when the mother's mobility is markedly compromised do the offspring ("child") emerge from the mother's body. In humans this is a traumatic process which poses a certain level of danger to both mother and child.
Even after the child emerges, it continues to receive nourishment from the mother, in the form of a rich fluid secreted from special glands on the female body. The newly hatched child is completely helpless, and the mother must feed it and protect it for a fairly long time. Social structures have been developed to deal with this. Indeed it is possible that the unusually high intelligence of mammals, and humans in particular, has emerged to compensate for the drawbacks of their unusual procreation. On average, mammals are disproportionately more intelligent than other animals on the planet. Humans are among the most intelligent of these again, only superceded by some aquatic mammals which by body design are unable to develop advanced technology. Human is also the only species with a compounded self-awareness.
It is generally accepted that awareness can be defined into 3 distinct forms: Basic awareness, in which the organism is aware of its senses and the objects that are represented through the senses, including its own body. Self-awareness, in which the organism is aware of its body being separate from the surroundings and under its control. And sentience, or compounded self-awareness, in which the organism is aware of its self- awareness. Once an organism has reached this stage, it will generally be aware also of its sentience, establishing an unlimited awareness loop which can be adjusted to the depth necessary for each situation.
With sentience we become able to observe ourselves in the same objective and detached manner in which we view others. This allows us to make rational decisions and act on them, and reason replaces instinct as the guiding factor in our behavior. Or this was how we viewed sentience until we met the humans.
Unique among known species, the humans are able to make rational decisions about their own lives, but unable to carry them through. The instincts are disturbed by reason and no longer function fluently in guiding humans through life's situations. But reason is also disturbed by instinct, and is equally unable to provide a coherent guidance. The most common pattern seems to be the one seen in organisms just before achieving sentience: Instinct provides the motivation, reason provides the means to satisfy the instinct. But humans are able to watch this happen, like a higher life form being carried or carted by a lower but only partially able to control it.
Our best guess is that humans somehow achieved sentience too early, before their reason was ready for the task of replacing instinct. Intriguingly, there are separate human traditions that claim that this happened due to external influence, and that humans have been exposed to more advanced beings in the past. However, given the current unreliable state of human memory and their tendency to distort events for personal purposes, these traditions should only be taken as a possible starting point for further exploration.
We should be able to provide you with far more details on this unusual semi-sentient species in a later report. We continue to monitor humans closely, while taking care not to be observed by their still fairly primitive technology.
I hope to be back to work tomorrow.
Warm and mostly sunny.
Visit the Diary Farm for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.