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I’m from Special Circumstances, actually, and this briefcase here is my colleague

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posted on May, 26 2006 @ 06:13 AM
This is the perhaps the most unimaginative corner of Above Top Secret. Behold the tedious procession of evil grey mannikins and descendants of the Edenic Serpent, the endlessly regurgitated accounts of alien proctologies and secret saucer bases on the far side of the moon. Can the aliens among us really be as obvious, as inept, as obsessive as this? Why are they so compelled to live down to the expectations of ignorant humanity? Was it for this they crossed the gulf of stars? To accomplish such a journey requires immense knowledge and power; do they somehow forfeit these qualities when they enter Earth's atmosphere? Is there some terrestrial force that obliges them to behave just like stupid, squalid human beings?

Consider, by way of contrast, the agents of Special Circumstances, the dirty-tricks division of Contact, which is that aspect of the Culture specializing in transactions with alien species so primitive they have not yet achieved interstellar travel. SC agents are meddlers. Their job is to prepare their hosts for the culture shock of integration into the Culture. They take their time: decades, centuries, millennia if necessary, subtly altering the course of history on planets whose inhabitants have yet no inkling that the sky above them teems with life and thought.

The people of the Culture are largely human. That is to say, they conform to a phenotype, commonly found throughout the Galaxy, which we on earth share and term human. Details of the phenotype differ from planet to planet: some humans are blue, some have only three fingers per hand, some have gills, others sport wings. It depends on the environment in which they evolved; the phenotype is the outcome of convergent evolution, not a shared genotype. The Culture contains representatives of all these types (though none from Earth).

Whatever the details of their normal appearance, SC operatives have no difficulty in disguising themselves to fit in with the locals on the primitive planets they visit (Earth is one). The Culture can easily muster the technologies necessary to achieve the necessary outward appearance, odour, etc., and can even, at need, reverse-engineer out the genetic and prosthetic enhancements, the drug-secreting glands and neural nets that would betray them to their unwitting hosts in the event of an autopsy. The locals never suspect that there are aliens among them.

Likewise their technology. Most Culture machines are intelligent to some degree, and many are far more intelligent than the most heavily re-engineered, neurally networked Culture human could possibly be. These machines are treated as sentient beings, with the rights and legal protections common to all members of the Culture. They are equal partners with humans and other biological life-forms and many of them are SC agents. Some of them are giant starships. Others, called drones, are more human in outlook and scale (and may appear in the company of a human SC agent on some backwoods world disguised as a robot servitor or a briefcase). For protection, most SC operatives are armed with devices like the knife missile, a munition so small as to be practically invisible, yet packing a finely-calibrated punch whose effect ranges from that of a actual punch to that of a small nuclear explosion. Virus-sized surveillance devices and the like are also part of their armouries.

The Culture doesn't exist. I'd better repeat that, for the sake of the determined fantasists among you: the Culture doesn't exist. It was invented by the science fiction writer Iain M. Banks. So was everything else I've written about in the preceding four paragraphs; none of it is my work, greatly though I wish it was. But fictitious though they are, Banks's ideas are far more interesting and imaginative than anything found in the UFO/abductee subculture and also a lot more credible. If there really were aliens among us -- aliens advanced enough to cross the ocean of stars, aliens rich enough to waste the absurd amounts of energy this requires simply in order to pay attention to insignificant humanity, aliens sensitive enough to our possible reactions to want to keep themselves largely hidden -- then this, I am sure, is how they would do it. Abductees, if any, would never return to tell their tale. The mask would never slip.

So to my point. If there were indeed aliens among us, they would be like the Culture. They would disguise themselves impenetrably, their technology would be potent and invisible and their machinations entirely unsuspected until they chose to reveal them. And yet, and yet... we humans are no fools. Somewhere, somehow, there could be clues. Enigmatic, almost unnoticeable, but clues all the same.

When someone comes up with an aliens-among-us story like that, I might begin to believe it. Wake me up when one comes in.

More on the Culture

posted on May, 26 2006 @ 06:36 AM
A great post and fascinating read, heres two points I've conjured up regarding it:

- The main problem with this argument is the ideology of ET life is similar to human life. We have barely scratched the surface of life on this planet let alone the galaxy. To presume ET has correlating interests, culture and personality to humans is contraversial.

- For me there is no such thing as perfection, thus like all life especially sentinent beings everything makes some form of mistakes. Technological superiority doesnt go hand in hand with perfection.

Perhaps it is of ET wishes to reveal their identity through abductees, thus preparing human life for the eventual integration with them.

[edit on 26-5-2006 by kolo_heights]

posted on May, 26 2006 @ 08:18 AM
An individual alien could in fact be a bumbling fool. Particularly if the 'hive' or 'collective' mentality is a factor in their cognitive functions.

Far to often you see a tendency to anthropomorphize alien cultures. That tendency is probably strengthened by the general description of aliens as basically sharing our structure (two legs on bottom, arms with hands, etc.). That's odd, considering the diversity of forms on this planet, aside from humans of course. I don't think anyone has ever reported contact with a creature sporting multiple tentacles.

I think any attempt to attribute any behaviors, tendencies, traits, etc. on alien life is simply jumping the gun.

posted on May, 26 2006 @ 10:17 AM
From what I can see, your rather cynical post was a back door attempt to insult the common poster and/or the topics they write about. I will not deny that the average IQ attached to the fingertips of said posters is less than stellar but I do believe that you are handicapping yourself via the opinion conveyed.

A contemptive attitude makes an otherwise enjoyable visit to the forum restrictive in that some good solid subjects (admittedly few but present none the less) are passed over based on peripheral attitude alone. Furthermore, there are more than a few very intelligent and interesting posters introducing subject matter seeded in reality. Many of which are quite spectacular and thought provoking.

While I will admit that there are far too many 'reptilians rule the earth' style subjects being discussed with pavlovian voracity, if you pass on too many... may miss the one you've been waiting for my friend.

[edit on 26-5-2006 by jbondo]

posted on May, 27 2006 @ 01:03 AM
1. While life-forms and their thinking equipment may differ, intelligence, I humbly submit, is always the same everywhere. We can infer this by observation, because human beings are not the only creatures on earth with intelligence; we are only the most intelligent. Do you find it hard to figure out why dogs and cats do the things they do? Or even beehives and ant colonies? Of course not. Why? Because intelligence must submit to the physical restrictions imposed on it by the laws of nature, which oblige it to be a particular, recognizable thing and act in a particular, recognizable way.

2. I agree wholeheartedly that this forum needs more tentacles, but life-forms on Earth are not really so different from one another, you know. Any zoomorph bigger than a bacterium is symmetrical about a central axis, has a mouth at one end (the same end that contains the brain or main ganglion and most of the sensory apparatus), vents for waste at the other, and limbs arranged in pairs or multiples of pairs in between. Cut them open and you'll find many more such similarities. This is obviously because they evolved from a common ancestor; beings from other planets certainly need not conform to this general arrangement. However, the arrangement has been so massively successful on Earth that it would probably evolve on other planets (earthlike ones, at least). Symmetry, for example, confers strong evolutionary advantages, so the symmetrical would devour the asymmetrical very early on.

Having said all that, I would qualify it by quoting J.B.S. Haldane's famous maxim: the universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.

3. I wouldn't have thought it needed to be pointed out, but evidently it is: Iain M. Banks' Culture is a literary invention, created for literary purposes. It is naive to assume that science-fiction writers always believe that their fictions are guesses at the nature of how things really are Out There. If Banks does have a point to make, it's a political one: namely, that given a sufficiently advanced technology, the Socialist Utopia can actually be made real. To which my own reply would be a corollary to Clarke's Third Law (any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic). The corollary being: yep, it would take a society of magicians to make Socialism work.

And now, dear friends, it is my reluctant duty...

Originally posted by jbondo
From what I can see, your rather cynical post was a back door attempt to insult the common poster and/or the topics they write about.

No, it's an attempt to raise the imaginative tone a little bit, to make things nicer for people who aren't necessarily true believers: to promote the creation a few gourmet treats for those of us who are weary of eating hamburger.

A contemptive attitude makes an otherwise enjoyable visit to the forum restrictive.

I prefer to think of it as a mental pollutant filter, the sort of thing that prevents the mind from filling up with reconstituted potato paste. But you're free to call it as you see it.

pavlovian voracity

Is this a conditioned impulse to devour large quantities of a sugary meringue dessert topped with fruits, or am I missing something really important?

[edit on 27-5-2006 by Astyanax]


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