So, in response to my Cultural Transfers post, Mark Atwood commented thus:
I think the Eldrae cultural anthropologist equilvantes and the xenocryptobiologists would be ones to be the most delighted. After all, here is both the origin of greenlife, and also pre-redesigned origins of the Eldrae themselves.
The average Eldrae-on-the-street would be both curious and repelled, sort of how in the real world we would react to being faced with a band of pre-agriculture h.sap precursors. But the researchers, they would come and scan and analyze our history, all of our genetics and biology, and all our writing and research about ourselves (sociology, anthropology, psychology), as a compare and constrast to themselves.
I think they would immediately recognize the fumbling way we are already trying to be like them (the fumbling cultural evolution towards individual autonomy, the halting and fumbling discovery of wealth-creation economics, the few of us with classic liberal and libertarian ideals, the few of us able to focus on For Science, our deep mythology that something is seriously seriously wrong with the universe and with ourselves).
They would learn more about themselves by finding us, than they could learn about themselves without us, I think.
And, y’know, that would be a good way for it to work out.
To an extent, being something of a long-standing cynic despite trying to write to the hard-idealistic end of the spectrum and also a depressive with a leetle gap in his medications just recently, my natural bent is to speculate much more darkly. It’s what one might call the Babyeater Problem, after Three Worlds Collide:
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this, damn it! All three of our species have empathy, we have sympathy, we have a sense of fairness – the Babyeaters even tell stories like we do, they have art. Shouldn’t that be enough? Wasn’t that supposed to be enough? But all it does is put us into enough of the same reference frame that we can be horrible by each others’ standards.”
– somewhat modified by the irrational reaction that it’s worse when you’re related to them. (Well, that is, by and large we aren’t too troubled by the ugliness of chimpanzee social behavior, but I suspect we’d be a lot more troubled by it if chimpanzees were prone to invite themselves around for dinner.)
And goodness knows there is plenty of values dissonance (covered at some length here) to make us look horrible to each other1. One generally doesn’t have to watch the news for more’n five, ten minutes to become aware of the sort of things that tend to make IN cruiser captains pump down the tubes, open the mass-driver doors, and look affectionately at their Permissive Action Links.
It is black thoughts like these that are why I long ago decided that this particular First Contact story was one that I wasn’t going to touch with a bargepole, nope, no sir, not me.
But it’s not like we’re all bad, as even Values Dissonance acknowledges, and occasionally I run into something like this (via Atomic Rockets, in this case, which I was randomly reminded of this morning):
gosh but like we spent hundreds of years looking up at the stars and wondering “is there anybody out there” and hoping and guessing and imagining
because we as a species were so lonely and we wanted friends so bad, we wanted to meet other species and we wanted to talk to them and we wanted to learn from them and to stop being the only people in the universe
and we started realizing that things were maybe not going so good for us– we got scared that we were going to blow each other up, we got scared that we were going to break our planet permanently, we got scared that in a hundred years we were all going to be dead and gone and even if there were other people out there, we’d never get to meet them
we built robots?
and we gave them names and we gave them brains made out of silicon and we pretended they were people and we told them hey you wanna go exploring, and of course they did, because we had made them in our own image
and maybe in a hundred years we won’t be around any more, maybe yeah the planet will be a mess and we’ll all be dead, and if other people come from the stars we won’t be around to meet them and say hi! how are you! we’re people, too! you’re not alone any more!, maybe we’ll be gone
but we built robots, who have beat-up hulls and metal brains, and who have names; and if the other people come and say, who were these people? what were they like?
the robots can say, when they made us, they called us discovery; they called us curiosity; they called us explorer; they called us spirit. they must have thought that was important.
and they told us to tell you hello.
…which warms some of the charred Carcosan cockles of my heart with some actual hope for the whole future of hominin sophontkind, and, y’know, Idealists From Space have to respect that and nurture that and cherish that, and believe that ultimately, in the bigger picture, the better, brighter sides of everyone’s nature will win out after all.
The Flame has to be warmth and illumination and something to read by, not just a sword of avenging fire, otherwise what’s the point?
And on those days…
…on those days I like to think it could work out well after all.
(Still almost certainly not going to write about it, though, because it’s not just for that reason.)
1. There’s also, of course, the reaction of the uplift community – and, I note specifically, that while we may not, as a species, get all that hot and bothered about bad things happening to the great apes, the uplifts can not only count the generations back to their prosophont ancestors, they can literally trace their family trees back beyond the point at which the relevant part of the species name changed…
So, y’know, Canis lupus sapiens may want to have certain words with us about these things called “puppy mills”, among others. Also certain bullets. And as for the remnants of the whaling industry, nothing says “Fuck you guys!” like an uplifted orca wearing a rack of Mark Seventeen “Gigalodon” supercavitating torpedoes…