A Stranger on Earth

…life has no point (or purpose more profound) other than to reproduce.

us_and_them

They were all around me now. This was a real unhappy ending. They’d gone crazy. I observed a little fear and a lot of pleasure in their eyes. Fearful because I was different; excited because. as a mob, they were together attacking me. ‘Sort.3’ and ‘Sort.4’ were screaming words like, “Ayyb ilich” and, “Surrender, we’ve called Special Forces.” Some were throwing their shoes at me, I observed that mostly they are of animal skin or a shiny sort of plastic, others were throwing donuts and half eaten hot dogs. I already had my samples of their staple energy sources so I didn’t collect more, I just unwillingly played dodge-ball (‘Sort.1’ and ‘Sort.2’ did not participate in this gang violence, they continued to preen and peck, to prowl and purr.) “Bugger it all” I said to myself and then pressed my ‘Evaporate to Repatriate’ button: “Mission Control,” I said to my soul – I report by thought – “I’m coming back to base, they don’t have the answer to the question we want answered… on a scale of -42 to +42” I continued dejectedly, “I’d place their intelligence-cum-tolerance levels at around 0 [zero]”

The pervious afternoon somewhere far away, a group of beings in a kiosk called ‘Mission Control’ had detected yet another blue-green globe. Up there, expert philosophers, psychologists and political perfectionists only wanted an answer for this: how it all began, how it was destined to end and what exactly was the purpose of life (3 into 1). They elected to investigate this one (circling a tiny star called A-B2956) because it was sending out odd sounds and peculiar metal objects. What made them curious was three recent offerings – a non-breathing furry object (a Russian dog called Laika) another similar object with a cheeky expression (an American monkey called Ham the Chimp) and then a dummy in a cherry red car that wouldn’t talk and like just one song. Were these signs and symbols of friendship or threat? Were these signs of deep intelligence or the polar opposite? The Mission Control captain asked an eager one to zip on over, and beam back a report about this globe’s life forms and cognitive reasoning abilities. Stella, who had a hunger for escape, volunteered to make the trip. She was be no means unique, whilst carrying out her duties on A-B2956-3, a million and one others from her classification were investigating other globes of interest across the mega multiverse. She dared to dream though: might the mysterious senders of dogs and monkeys finally answer the question that no sentient being had yet answered?

At the crack of dawn this morning, I opened my eyes and asked myself, ‘where am I?’ It was a rhetorical question because I knew I’d been scanned to A-B2956-3. I began my observations. My thoughts were being transferred to my plasma capsule inserted under my skin. This capsule then beamed my observations, GPS locations and all other diagnostics (the seven senses) to the boffin-dorks up at the kiosk. I was happy to observe that I’d appeared on dry land in a sea of sand (liquids and I had a complicated relationship). I found myself in a walled enclosure with a variety of buildings. The wall was quite high and I saw low quality fixed observation cameras were everywhere. Each building had words upon them in two languages, some were rock, some were metal some were glass.
Soon after A-B2956 rose I became surrounded by moving objects – well, four sorts of carbon-based living beings. The littlest floated in the air, the next smallest were on four legs then, the larger two were quite different. Sort.3 and Sort.4 were similar in their size. Sort.3 mostly had black gowns and a few were what we’d call fashionistas. Almost all walked slowly with active plasma capsules in their hands, almost all coloured their faces. Sort.4 were more whitey-pink or whitey-red in complexion, they carried bags of paper, walked more quickly and few held or even had plasma capsules.

I followed as quietly as I could a number of Sort.3s and a single Sort.4 into a funny little room. To get here we passed through invisible walls, when I got close it seemed to be as hard as crystal, but somehow it just opened up and the heat became chill. Somewhere silent slaves were opening and cooling vents. In the room the Sort.4 was making lots of noise, waving paper in frustration at the relaxed looking Sort.3s and saying something like “missing deadlines results in zeros.” He then got angry with the antiquated interactive display. When the class began (a being who seemed a combination of Sort.3 and Sort.4 had come in and pressed an on button), the Sort.3s watched him quietly, just moving their heads (i.e., nodding) some seemed to copy what he said onto their own paper but I saw many doing activites on their plasma creations under the desks. Some were swiping pictures right and left, some watching video recordings while others still were moving candy-eating animations with their fingers along never ending pathways. I was confused because if the Sort.4 came close, they quickly hid their plasma creations.

I followed in a secretive way large numbers of Sort.3s into some sort of energy station. It was noisy here. It was on two stages. All around energy was being exchanged. Exchange was with little bits of tin or colourful paper; it was too funny! The place was smelling not too good, I saw a black hole in the ground and went in. The water was dull grey but was wonderful. I covered my body in this peculiar perfume. When I got out, the Sort.3s seem shocked and moved away. I then started taking samples of energy and then the screaming began. I thought to myself can they see me? Many Sort.3s were wearing solar glasses even though the rays of A-B2956 were not getting into this building. I experimented and began removing their solar glasses but this caused the screaming to increase and some sudden laying down to happen. Maybe the beautiful smelling liquid had made my invisibility suit stop working.

Stoically I continued on my quest trying my best to understand and observe these peculiar beings. There was a white Sort.4 with a smile on his face, sitting in the corner of the energy station building. With excitement he held his mug to drink black liquid, I got close and before his tongue touched the substance I drank some, he looked in my direction with fear and fright. I don’t know why but seconds later he dropped the liquid over his clothes, screamed and ran away (he didn’t get far at all because he then fell over a laying Sort.3 which cause even more screaming and two or three more sudden lay downs). Well that was liquid. Now I needed some solid evidence. I saw one big Sort.3 lady about to bite a huge burger, but I got to it first and took three-quarters of it in a single bite. She screamed, “Jinny, Jinny.”

The third venue I investigated had this written on it, “Hamman/Bathroom.” I saw transparent liquid with an awful smell. The strange Sort.3s were covering their hands with it. By now I was being followed. The boffin-dorks said that the grey body perfume was letting them know my GPS. I’d broken Rule Number 1 of alien observation: Don’t get seen. But what could I do? The perfumed water was nice, I was not going to remove it and the chaps up there agreed, if they could coat themselves in it they’d not remove it for love or for money (the sample I’d beamed back and named ‘eau de égout’ was the talk of the kiosk). Inside this room were small little rooms with chairs. These chairs were filled with this transparent liquid. And a button caused a water fall of it to come out. They were unbelievable, they carried their colour with them. They face their reflection and start to dab more colour onto their faces, when I got close to them I felt dizzy, with each movement strong perfume radiated from their bodies. When some removed the black gown from their head, something billowing puffed out. Then I observed them applying false hair onto their eye lids, I mean ‘why?’ Why would they do that? They were like wings, maybe they helped their eyes to fly to the sky. Several had nails like claws, long and pointy – for what possible purpose I could not imagine. Many, I noted, keep extra eyes in small boxes with colourless liquid that tasted sour (I tried a few samples), then they placed these on to their brown eyes. It was when I tried to collect samples of the puffy fluffy cloud-like stuff above their heads that they went berserk. ‘Stranger!’ ‘Foreigner!’ they began to chant.

Stella didn’t like the thought she was having. Maybe her A.I. soulmate, Ricardo Lime (version 12.6 of the intergalactic best selling Real Logarithm™ iMate series), was right and the boffin-dorks were wrong. RL’s answer wasn’t neither poetic nor romantic, it was basically, this: we are here by chance of a random chemical reaction. Since then and until now, life has no point (or purpose more profound) other than to reproduce.


Inspirations and/or Recommended Readings

Anderson, B. (2006). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.

Malkin, B. (2018, 7 Feb). “SpaceX oddity: how Elon Musk sent a car towards Mars.” The Guardian. Retreived from, theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/07/space-oddity

Huntington, S. (1997). The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. London: Penguin.

Miming My Meme

The essence of life is statistical improbability on a colossal scale.

Meme
/miːm/ [noun]

1.

an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means.

2.

an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.

This word originated in the 1970s and derives from the Greek word mimēma ‘that which is imitated.’ The word was coined by Richard Dawkins and can be found in the following books:

covers

covers__2

A meme then is an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. (Think of genes, think of viruses.) Memes aim to convey (spread) a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning. (The meme may do this intentionally or unintentiinaly…)

A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another mind. This transmission process may occur e.g.,  through writing, speech, gestures, or rituals.

Those that support this notion see memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures. This video may help better explain memes and/or the concept of cultural evolution:

We are what we are because of genes; we are who we are because of memes. Philosopher Daniel Dennett muses on an idea put forward by Richard Dawkins in 1976.


Big-Think-Edge-Logo

p.s. “Cultural evolution” is a theory that states that human cultural change (changes in socially transmitted beliefs, knowledge, customs, skills, attitudes, languages, etc.) can be described as a Darwinian evolutionary process that is similar (but not identical) to biological and/or genetic evolution.

Biological Evolution Cultural Evolution
Traits can be transmitted to a person only from parents. Culture traits can be transmitted to a person by many unrelated people.
Transmission can only occur from one generation to the next. Transmission can be within or between generations and can be widely separated in time and space.
Occurs at a slow pace, with many generation needed to spread a trait widely through a population. Occurs at a fast pace, may involve immediate learning and does not require inheritance.
Traits acquired in a lifetime cannot be transmitted via genetic inheritance. Culture trails can be transmitted within a lifetime via teaching or imitation.
People cannot choose which genetic traits they will inherit. People can choose to accept or reject some cultural traits.
Data transmitted is encoded by genetic material (DNA). Data transmitted can assume the form of written or spoken language.

 

Secret-of-our-Success

Numbers

statistics---yes

“Lies, damned lies, and statistics”

…is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. It is also sometimes colloquially used to doubt statistics used to prove an opponent’s point. The phrase was popularised by Mark Twain, who attributed it to the former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli who allegedly said…

“There are three kinds of liesliesdamned lies, and statistics.”