As human beings, we are absolutely terrible at imaging things that don’t resemble us. Consider even the most imaginative monsters in our movies: they are symmetrical, usually have a head, torso with attached limbs, and even have eyes and mouths on their heads.
Frankly, I find myself continually disappointed by sci-fi movies. Not only are the monsters, at best, banal re-maginings of ourselves, another common theme is that humanity is usually saved by... our humanity. These little stories we like to tell ourselves are predictable: we encounter a threat from a distorted reflection of ourselves, and after a struggle, relying on a pure, ideal version of “human,” we usually prevail.
Sometimes, we even find other advanced, allied races -- for some reason, these usually look like elves, and are even more “ideal” than our current state -- telling us that our humanity is what makes us interesting, what makes us unique, what makes us special...
Oh, please. These are stories layered with hubris so thick that our inability to see it is ironic.
I’d like to see a movie with something truly alien. Something with motives that are outside our comprehension, something with perceptions that are not our own, something with reactions that cannot be explained by our pathetic little causality- and narrative-addicted brains. Something that instinctively relies on probability, doesn’t blind itself with narrative, and embraces cost-benefit analysis.
I don’t, however, expect Hollywood to give us a glimpse of what that’d be like. There isn’t a reason to look that far. No, if you want to fight ruthless, focused aliens, go no further than your brokerage account.
When we trade today, we are up against countless algorithms. One way or another, all these algos do is find a setup that has a good risk/reward return, and then... they trade it. They don’t worry about “Who’s buying up here?” They don’t get gun-shy, and they don’t get trigger-happy.
Spock won't be by to tell us how our special humanity will save us, either.
Unburdened by the layers and layers of narrative filters they put between themselves and reality, they execute as designed. They put up a trade, with a defined stop, and then take the profit -- or stop -- when they get it.
In this arena, it is do-or-die, and we’re up against things that aren’t blinded by causality, by narrative, or by silly superstition. Their instinct is to place the trade, and execute the plan. Discipline is their very nature, their DNA.
So here I sit, long and scared. And there they are, waiting for me to flinch, so they can take my money. The difference is, they don’t get scared. Or flinch. They can’t. They don’t know how.
Sometimes, it’s good to remember that.