by JS O’Brien
Report Summary on First Contact Suitability
Ten stigus ago, the Council commissioned a task force of sociologists, anthropologists, historians, linguists, inter-species ethnologists, and first-contact psychologists to study the newly found sentient species of Batâ€™algah 3. The task force was given a mandate to make a recommendation regarding contact with this species that calls itself â€œHomoâ€™sapiens. â€This is the task forceâ€™s report.
After many millions of stigus of study, the basic psychology of sentient races is well-known. All successful and surviving sentient races have two characteristics:
1: They have a psychological mechanism that allows them to take action even in the face of conflicting data. Without these psychological mechanisms, cognitive indecision would lead to paralysis and, ultimately, the death of the species. The most famous example of this phenomenon known through the tri-galaxies by all school young is the notorious death of the Chargans. The Chargans developed in a manner that made them unable to react to danger stimuli without first analyzing the probability of actual danger. As a result, they were eaten by the co-sentient race: the Garangs. The psychological mechanism that defeats this paralysis is known among tri-galaxy psychologists as the â€œUndue Certainty Adjustment,â€ or UCA. UCA allows a sentient being to feel certainty when none is warranted by existing data. This certainty defeats paralysis and forces action. Action, even when the wrong action, is a higher-probability survival mechanism than paralysis.
2: They have a second psychological mechanism that allows them to cope with the recognition of their own mortality. Tri-Galactic archives are full of the names of sentient races that committed mass suicide. Absent a coping mechanism known as the â€œHope Reflex,â€ the despair of facing a life in which the sentient being sees meaninglessness and ultimate oblivion as his fate, suicide becomes a highly attractive and rational alternative. This second coping mechanism sometimes manifests itself as philosophy and sometimes as belief in a much larger meaning to the universe.
It is also well known that these two mechanisms tend to manifest themselves in degrees of strength. Some surviving species have weak mechanisms and others strong ones. In instances where the mechanisms are too strong, however, sentient species either do not survive their midtech eras or, worse, do survive those eras to become plagues to other sentients. The Tchallah Wars are the most hideous examples of such a situation, though there are thousands of other examples in Tri-Galactic history.
It is our opinion that the sentients of Batâ€™algah 3 have an excess of the two coping mechanisms.
Our detailed observations are contained in the thousands of pages attached to this summary. Broken down, we have observed these troubling aspects:
1: Unlike most sentient beings, the Homoâ€™sapiens reverse the degree-of-certainty equation. As you know, most sentients are less certain if the data are conflicting or if there are few data. Homoâ€™sapiens, on the other hand, appears to become more certain the fewer the data and the more conflicting the data available. In fact, becoming more certain the fewer the data is considered a virtue, as in the flattering statement, â€œHe has great faith.â€
2: Like most omnivorous/pack sentients, Homoâ€™sapiens has tended to engage in both inter-individual and inter-pack violence. In their earlytech period, such violence tended to center on conflict over property and as a means of increasing individual and pack territory and esteem. As they moved into the midtech era, however, conflict became increasingly centered on degree of certainty. Packs and individuals would fight to the death over concepts that were and in many cases) still are unproven and unprovable.
3: Homoâ€™sapiens appears to have a highly developed Hope Reflex, so their suicide levels are below those of most sentients. Unfortunately, their Undue Certainty Adjustment is so strong that whatever they invest their hope in, whether it be religion, philosophy, or even political or economic systems, tends to become absolute truth to them.
4: The unfortunate convergence of the strong Hope Reflex and Undue Certainty Adjustment is that Homoâ€™sapiens tends to fight to the death over unproven religious, philosophical, political, and economic concepts. For instance, various monotheistic religions and splinters from those religions grew from a single religion founded in a small, arid region on the eastern coast of an inland sea. Though the adherents of these religions all claim to worship the same all-powerful being, they have repeatedly killed each other in large numbers over minor variances in worshiping this being. Adherents of an unproven economic-political philosophy called â€œCommunismâ€ killed tens of millions who did not agree with them. As a percentage of population, these numbers far outstrip the damage of the Tchallah Wars.
5: Homoâ€™sapiens also has another trait that exacerbates this unfortunate convergence of the Hope Reflex and Undue Certainty Adjustment: the ability to blind themselves to the fact that those they are killing, torturing, or otherwise oppressing are sentient beings. My linguists have spent much time on Attachment 14, which details Homoâ€™sapienâ€™s ability to use words linguistic symbols) that give them psychological cover from the horror of killing other sentients, especially sentients of their own species. Those opposing them are not called â€œpersonsâ€ or â€œsoulsâ€ or even â€œsentients,â€ but â€œthe enemy,â€ â€œgooks,â€ â€œinfidels,â€ â€œheathens,â€ or a number of other words that do not translate well but are, nevertheless, words used to depict an opponent as a non-sentient who is not worthy of the right to life.
There is reason for hope. There are packs of Homoâ€™sapiens that have developed rational systems of behavior that, for a time and in some places, reduced their more bloodthirsty instincts. Some of their religions would tend to do that, as well, if those who claimed to adhere to those religions actually followed the precepts. Homoâ€™sapiens is not completely unaware of the contradictions of its nature, and as long as awareness exists, hope for the future of these sentients exists.
Unfortunately, there are many converging trends that are likely to tip Homoâ€™sapiens into extinction. As usual with midtech societies, they are in the process of depleting their resources while simultaneously damaging their environment. Population pressures, which are normally relieved by rational controls in the histories of other sentient races, are often prohibited by religious custom. The coming survival pressures, coupled with Homoâ€™sapiensâ€™ strong Undue Certainty Adjustment and Hope Reflex, are quite likely to destroy them before they reach the hightech phase and begin emigrating from the home world.
Homoâ€™sapiens does possess a pack nation-state that holds out some hope. It is currently the most powerful economic and military pack, and it was founded in one of those rare ages and times of rationalism, so its traditions, laws, and institutions have tended to avoid the worst excesses of the Undue Certainty Adjustment. Unfortunately, the rationalists there are under attack by the religionists, and it is the judgment of the sociologists on the team that the rationalists will probably lose.
It has been customary for the Tri-Galactic Council to make one of two decisions when discovering sentients at the midtech level. One is to make contact and introduce clean and cheap energy technologies. The other is to do nothing and let the sentient civilization take its course. We recommend a third alternative.
We recommend that we quarantine this star system and keep it under quarantine until such time as Homoâ€™sapiens demonstrates an ability to overcome its psychological shortcomings. We do not feel this will ever happen. It is likely that Homoâ€™sapiens will self-destruct very shortly. In the event they avoid this fate, however, Tri-Galactic civilization must be sheltered from them until they can demonstrate that they would be a rational and welcome addition.
We recommend that an observation team be left in outer stellar orbit. The observation team would have two purposes. The first would be to call in military assets should it become necessary to destroy an interstellar attempt on Homoâ€™sapiensâ€™ part. The second would be to call in mining assets in the likely event Homoâ€™sapiens destroys itself. The Batâ€™algah system has many elemental assets that would add great value to the tri-galaxiesâ€™ economy.
[Note: This is an actual message intercept from an alien fleet. We owe a great debt to Ms. Margaret Wiggins’ second period Tri-Galactic Standard class, which did a superb job of translating the slightly Grakoid dialect. No aliens were harmed in the making of this entry. ]