The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy describes the Earth simply as “Mostly harmless.” Before Ford Prefect’s research trip, it just said “Harmless.” Over the course of Douglas Adams’ inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy, mankind in general and Arthur Dent in particular are the universe’s punching bag, cast adrift on the cosmos from one ridiculous indignity to the next. Far be it from me to question the wisdom of the Guide, but it seems that another galactic entity would disagree with Prefect’s assessment. The above video from the Interstellar Safety Council paints a very different picture of humanity.
Yes, it turns out our way of life is pretty, well, alien to the rest of the galaxy’s inhabitants. In fact, their detailed warning about the dangers of humanity reveals that ours is the only planet in the galaxy where species evolve through “survival of the fittest.” (Of course, that raises serious questions about how the evolution of all the aliens out there worked, but we’ll ignore that for the sake of the joke.) Not only does Earth reward such “brutal, violent competition,” but apparently we’re the only ones in the cosmos who survive by eating other life forms. I guess the rest of the universe can photosynthesize?
We also apparently have an edge up on the other life forms out there because we can multitask, act impulsively, and possess “a high capacity for aspiration, kinship, compassion, and a ridiculous tolerance of adversity.” Taking all that into account. the ISC warns that humans are extremely dangerous and are “likely to take over a significant part of the galaxy in a very short time.” Can I get a high five from my fellow shaved apes?
The video was inspired by a discussion thread that posed the following challenge:
It’s funny how science fiction universes so often treat humans as a boring, default everyman species or even the weakest and dumbest.
I want to see a sci fi universe where we’re actually considered one of the more hideous and terrifying species.
How do we know our saliva and skin oils wouldn’t be ultra-corrosive to most other sapient races? What if we actually have the strongest vocal chords and can paralyze or kill the inhabitants of other worlds just by screaming at them? What if most sentient life in the universe turns out to be vegetable-like and lives in fear of us rare “animal” races who can move so quickly and chew shit up with our teeth?
Like that old story ‘they’re made of meat,’ only we’re scarier.
The “old story” being referred to is a Nebula Award-nominated short story by Terry Bisson, which you can read in full right here. It’s called, appropriately enough, “They’re Made Out of Meat.”
The video is funny, but also an interesting experiment in trying to imagine what humanity — crazy, complicated, self-defeating, self-contradictory humanity — might look like to a visitor outside. Maybe this is why we haven’t been contacted by any extraterrestrials yet. Then again, maybe they’ve just been watching some of our movies…
Bisson’s short story has also been adapted into a short film, and you can watch it below.