Aliens: The Anthropology of Science Fiction

By George E. Slusser; Eric S. Rabkin | Go to book overview

I
The Alien in Our Minds Larry Niven
The only universal message in science fiction is as follows: There are minds that think as well as you do, or better, but differently.They don't have to be interstellar visitors. They could be the next generation of computers or computer programs. They could be apes or dogs or dolphins after we've fiddled with their brains. They could be human beings shaped by a strange environment, or altered by genetic experiments, or mutated, or given new tools such as computer implants. I tend to concentrate on aliens, but you should remember the other possibilities.I intend to convince you that the human species is the destined ambassador to a respectable segment of the universe. There are reasons why the ETIs, the extraterrestrial intelligences, haven't come visiting. We will have to go to them.There is something out there that thinks as well as you do or better, but differently. The question is: why do you care?I'll stipulate that you as readers are not a random sample of the population. Our common interest is in aliens; and that's a remarkable thing in itself. But the entire population is interested in alien modes of thought. I'll prove it.
1. First Martian expedition. The ship lands on its fins near a canal and finds Martians waiting (this is an old story).

They discuss philosophies, technology, biology...sex. A married pair of astronauts demonstrate human reproduction'for a Martian audience.

"That was fun to watch, but where's the baby?"

"Not for a third of a Martian year."

"Then why were you in such a hurry at the end?"

2. Robert Sheckley. All computers are linked to one

-3-

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