• Mark Dennis
    433
    Want to keep this pretty broad and just see where people go with it.

    The question is a simple thing to ask, how easy is it to answer?

    What is a Human like? Imagine you are speaking to an alien who has never seen a human before and they can’t see you, just hear your voice through a universal translating device.
  • Mark Dennis
    433
    @Pantagruel Care to take a shot at this one?
  • Possibility
    665
    It’s problematic - to use the phrase ‘is like’ is to describe a human’s similarity to concepts with which the alien would be familiar.

    Sharing meaning is about finding common ground in how we perceive reality. Does the alien understand what we mean by ‘eye’ or ‘skin’? Can we start with something we both recognise conceptually and go from there?

    WIthout a shared conceptual system, I don’t know if we could even begin to describe what a human is like in a way that would be understood. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but I think we’d have to build a shared conceptual system first.
  • Mark Dennis
    433
    assume that the alien can read what is currently on your mind and you have to tell them like that. What images, videos, words, feelings and people would you share? What books, gods, religions, philosophy, science and technology? Assuming you can know it is merely curious and not hostile or malignant in anyway.
  • Mark Dennis
    433
    Or if it’s easier, imagine the question was asked by a small child who will understand whatever your answer is.
  • Wayfarer
    8.8k
    ? Imagine you are speaking to an alien who has never seen a human before and they can’t see you, just hear your voice through a universal translating device.Mark Dennis

    If you were a very technologically advanced alien, you would probably be able to deduce an enormously detailed picture of the evolution of life on earth, and even the evolution of the cosmos, through an examination of a single speciment.
  • Mark Dennis
    433
    Not the detail of how humans answer the question. Tell us now, it’s the last thing we need before we vaporise your planet. This one has been sent to our zoo to live with Tupac and Edward Snowden. Also, how do we mate them? -.-
  • Pantagruel
    262
    A human is capable of great sacrifice, yet is often selfish. Great kindness, but is frequently cruel. A human is both stubbornly good and stubbornly bad.
  • staticphoton
    121
    A human is like:

    A worm, it wiggles, eats, and reproduces.

    A rock, it takes up space and reacts when kicked.

    A chunk of Uranium, after its reaches half life it isn't as hot as it used to be.

    A paperback novel, racy covers typically mean shallow content.

    A philosophical discussion, just when you think you got as good thing going, some wise guy shows up and runs his mouth.
  • Gus Lamarch
    26


    A human is an freedom searcher, that only searches for itself...
  • 180 Proof
    382
    Okay, I'll play ... :smirk:

    "I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?

    "All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the overman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape.

    "Whoever is the wisest among you is also a mere conflict and cross between plant and ghost But do I bid you become ghosts or plants?

    "Behold, I teach you the overman. The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth! I beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the earth,

    [ ... ]

    "Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman - a rope over an abyss. A dangerous across, a dangerous on-the-way, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous shuddering and stopping.

    "What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end ..."

    ~Freddy Zarathustra

    :flower:

    What is a Human like? Imagine you are speaking to an alien who has never seen a human before and they can’t see you, just hear your voice through a universal translating device.

    ↪Possibility Or if it’s easier, imagine the question was asked by a small child who will understand whatever your answer is.
    — Mark Dennis

    We humans are a motley stampede of confabulating hypocritical herd animals, ambulatory skeletons of decaying bones ungainly shrouded with nearly-hairless, rotting flesh, each of whom anxiously living out his or her days in anthropocentric denial of inexorable, ever-near, personal annihilation (& species extinction) via sacred taboos, cautionary fairytales, propitiating blood sacrifices & magic spells. We're terminally frustrated, commodity-fetishisizing, often cruel but mostly clowning, boozers & junkies, who, down the generations, are taught by inadequate neglectful-to-abusive parents to teach our own accidental, and often unwanted, broods to, in turn, become inadequate neglectful-to-abusive parents ad perniciem...

    :death:

    "Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet."

    ~Agent Smith

    :nerd:

    This (I think) is posthumanist, not (merely) misanthropic.
  • Mark Dennis
    433
    Behold, I teach you the overman. The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth! I beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the earth,180 Proof

    Wow, that’s pretty powerful. Don’t know if I’m reading my own biocentric ethical view in the meaning or not but it sounds like what I call god; the overman is.

    We humans are a motley stampede of confabulating hypocritical herd animals, ambulatory skeletons of decaying bones ungainly shrouded with nearly-hairless rotting flesh, each of whom anxiously living out his or her days in anthropocentric denial of inexorable, ever-near, personal annihilation (& species extinction) via sacred taboos, cautionary fairytales, blood sacrifices & magic spells. We're terminally frustrated, commodity-fetishisizing, often cruel but mostly clowning, boozers & junkies, who, down the generations, are taught by inadequate neglectful-to-abusive parents to teach our own accidental, and often unwanted, broods to in turn become inadequate neglectful-to-abusive parents ad perniciem...180 Proof

    So is a biocentrist not human by this standard or is a biocentrist merely a human practicing heraldry?
  • Congau
    49
    I suppose when you’re asking what something is like, you’re asking about its essential characteristics. Humans come in different colors, black, white or yellow, and never green and purple, but that’s hardly an essential observation. They are two-legged, but so are birds. They lack fur, but so do frogs.

    What distinguishes humans from any other creature is their rationality. That’s the one essential feature. If something is rational, it’s a human.

    However, small infants are hardly rational, but are called humans. Well, they have the potentiality for rationality. But then, what about severally mentally handicapped… humans?

    I could suggest this definition: A human is a rational creature or the offspring of rational creatures.
    (If I were talking to an alien who was also rational, I would have to add: …and an inhabitant of planet earth.)

    But is that really how we think about humans? While walking around town today, I saw many humans, and quite frankly I don’t know for sure if any of them were rational. Still, by looking at them I jumped to the conclusion that they were humans. That means, it’s not rationality that makes us identify something as human. Nevertheless, rationality remains the essential feature, if only we can focus on what is essential…
  • Mark Dennis
    433
    What distinguishes humans from any other creature is their rationality. That’s the one essential feature. If something is rational, it’s a human.Congau

    I’d disagree. Crows have the capacity for rational thought, in that it has some powerful skills we’d call intelligent problem solving skills. The New Caledonia Crow can complete 3 stage tool based problems in order to get food. Crows have the ability to remember human faces better than we do, and recognise the face for up to two years after first seeing them. It was an experiment I saw on a documentary (just YouTube crow documentary) where researchers wore masks and then built a negative association to them with mask on so the crows would learn to fear the mask. When the researchers donned the masks again some time later the crows they were tracking recognised them, scalding and swooping at the researchers. Not only that, they taught their offspring to do the same when they ran the experiment later with the young adult offspring.

    Many animals also pass the self awareness test by recognising themselves in the mirror. For example apes pass the self awareness test but not monkeys.

    Other than that it was a really interesting answer :) What is rationality the Alien asks you?
  • Mark Dennis
    433
    Personally, I think non-philosophical rational thought isn’t something unique to humans. There is what is rational in relation to being say a crow or any animal really.

    I think our ability for Philosophical-thought and Philosophical-feeling which may make us unique, however we don’t know if other animals don’t ask questions of existence in their own way. As far as we know, we are philosophical which is certainly different from our perspective.

    That’s not to say our rationality isn’t of a better quality than other species in terms of tools, but that isn’t the same as other species not having forms of weak relational rationality.
  • 180 Proof
    382
    So is a biocentrist not human by this standard or is a biocentrist merely a human practicing heraldry? — Mark Dennis

    I'm not following. "Biocentrist"? "Practicing heraldry"? Say more plainly (or paraphrase) what you mean.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    If it's just a matter of getting the categorization straight, I'd concentrate on showing the alien differences between humans and other species, especially closely-related species.

    If it's a matter of the alien wanting to understand the gist of human traits, I'd focus on presenting a wide variety of biological and behavioral expressions, with both a concentration on some of the most common traits and various outliers, especially on the extremes. It would be more difficult with more time or content limitations, and if there are too many time or content limitations, it just wouldn't be possible to summarize characteristics in any reasonable way. The broader/more varied the picture you can present the more on-target it would be.
  • Congau
    49

    We may question if the behavior of crows and other animals can really be called rational, and if it can, it may be possible to construct an alternative definition of rationality that only includes the human kind of rationality.

    Rationality, or intelligence, deals with the recognition of patterns. The ability to recognize two objects as identical, may not be based on pattern recognition at all, but just the ability to spot the plain reappearance of an object. Maybe the crows identified a distinct smell or sound for example, and that made the masks irrelevant.

    The crows’ problem-solving ability, if it’s reality that and not an instinct, is probably of a very specific kind that cannot be transferred to many areas. The pattern recognition is very limited, whereas for humans, even stupid humans, recognition can be applied to a vast area. Now, is this an essential distinction or just a matter of degree?

    If the capacity for “philosophical thought” is the distinctive feature, the term must be interpreted very liberally so that it includes all humans. There may for example be a human “philosophical” sense of self-awareness that goes beyond the mere recognition of oneself in the mirror.

    The extended sense of purpose, of seeing one’s own life in perspective, may be another such “philosophical” ability that the most simpleminded human has, but not a crow.

    This “philosophical” ability is also pattern recognition above the crow level, and if you think it’s an essential difference (not just by degree), we could call it rationality proper and maintain that that is the distinctive feature of human beings.
  • Tim Martin
    7
    A human is an ultimate challenge in the form of intricate complexities and experiences that are so complex that they are actually simple. Humans have a very difficult time living in the balance between everything because everything has good and bad to them, when normally humans can only see one of the sides which causes them to interpret their own meaning to the idea, which is not wrong or right. Humans have formed the diverse art form of life into our own individual ways that are very unique and complex when witnessed from an individuals story. But when witnessed from an outside perspective who only see's pieces to everyone else stories that surround this one human and construct the life around him, then this art form is very repetitive and simple. And to me this is what makes the challenge itself so beautiful, while this is only a couple of different ways that humans can be viewed out of infinite ways.
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