Imagination: Games, dreams and stories (Earthlings 101, Episode 5)

Uploaded by ZoggFromBetelgeuse on 04.07.2012

Hello, fellow aliens! Welcome to the fifth episode of Earthlings 101. Today we will talk
about games, stories and dreams.
As mentioned in the first episode, earthlings don't have the tools and instincts animals
have to survive. Instead, nature gave them a brain and the capacity to learn and to create
tools. Now, learning to survive, is kind of problematic, because you can't learn from
experience. As soon as you experience how not to survive, you may be smarter, but you
are also dead.
The solution evolution found was something called imagination. Basically, earthlings
create a simplified model of reality in their head and use it to predict the outcome of
different actions. It's kind of a reality simulator, and it's very flexible, powerful
and fast.
However, sometimes it's not fast enough. When the earthling is in immediate danger, for
example, there is no time to imagine - the earthling has to decide immediately or die.
So, it would be great to be prepared for all kinds of dangerous situations, by some kind
of training exercise. Earthlings have actually developped three mechanisms which might serve
for exactly that purpose : Dreams, games, and stories.
Dreams happen usually at night, during sleep.
Earthlings are used to sleep every night. Sleeping means putting the body at rest and
shutting down both voluntary movements and sensory system. Nobody knows the purpose of
sleep, but sure is that the brain uses a part of this time to dream.
Dreams are somewhat similar to those propaganda implants used in the Union of Galactic Communist
Republics. A propaganda implant activates itself during torpidity or hibernation and
creates interactive propaganda hallucinations. To do so, it taps into both the sensory input
and the motory output to make the brain believe that the hallucination is actually happening.
Dreams are more or less the same, but without the propaganda implant. They are somewhat
chaotic simulations of physical danger, social conflicts and other critical situations, created
by the beast and thrown at the ego during sleep.
Dreams are typically random series of threatening situations. For example, the dreamer runs
down a hallway because he is late for work, and he is pursued by a predator, then he suddenly
falls down a trap and finds himself unprepared in a final school exam, during a zombie attack,
and the examiner is his mother, and everything happens on a sinking ship, and then he realizes
that he is naked.
All those situations are either physical or social danger situations, mixed randomly together
by the beast. They may be actual concerns like being late for work, past fears like
his mother or his final exam, as well as fears dating back to prehistoric times like being
chased by a predator.
The actual problems occurring in dreams can say a lot about the dreamer's unconscious
fears. Human brain-doctors are trained to question patients about their dreams, to analyze
the underlying fears, and then to come invariantly to the conclusion that the patient wants to
kill his father and to have sex with his mother. This is called psychiatry.
Scientific advice: When you abduct humans to experiment on them, you don't need an expensive
memory erasing machine. Simply abduct humans in their sleep and put them back into their
beds when you are done. Even if they remember the experiments, they will probably believe
that it was just a bad dream, and forget it.
The second survival training mechanism is called games. Doing a game is called playing.
Like dreams, games are interactive danger simulations. But unlike dreams, games are
played when the earthlings are awake, they can be shared, and the earthlings know that
there is no real danger.
Games are usually based on a set of more or less strict rules which fix the playing ground,
the equipment, the allowed actions and the conditions for winning the game. Games are
also full of symbols and rituals - something we will learn about in a forthcoming episode.
They are many different kinds of games, but they are all made of four basic ingredients:
Challenge, chance, make-believe and vertigo.
Challenge means that the players compete with each other , or with the game itself, to maximize
their score. This usually means to outrun, outjump, outsmart or out-wut-ever the other
players, or the game itself. This is the game variant of the evolutionary principle "survival
of the fittest".
Chance means that many games include some side of random elements. In most cases, the
outcome is not completely random, as chance is combined with challenge. Those games are
essentially training exercises for dealing with random events.
The third ingredient is make-believe. The players pretend to be somebody else, and the
game equipment symbolizes things in real life. This allows simulating all kinds of situations
without need for realistic equipment. Earthling imagination can transform cardboard boxes
into castles and ships, a house plant into a weapon of mass destruction, sticks and brooms
into swords and lances, and a living room into the theater of epic battles.
The fourth, somewhat surprising element of games is vertigo. This means disrupting the
stability of perception to create some kind of voluptuous panic. The disruption can come
from high altitude, the thrill of speed, spinning around, horror, or other factors. The evolutionary
goal is possibly to train the earthling to keep a clear mind in stress situations.
Vertigo in the larger sense includes other forms of dizziness, such as the thrill of
high stakes, blood lust, drunkenness or even sexual arousal.
Not all games features all four ingredients, challenge, chance, make-believe and vertigo.
But every game involves at least one of those ingredients.
A popular kind of games are physical games, also known as sports. They involve, for example,
sprinting, running after objects in teams, throwing things, and combat. Most sports are
rather obvious training exercises for melee combat, hunting, and running from predators.
The funny thing is that all these abilities are somewhat outdated, as modern earthlings
buy their meet at the butcher, fight with firearms and have locked away all kinds of
dangerous creatures into zoos.
Except for the microbes.
Tips for tourists. If you want to observe the variety of games, visit an amusement park.
Here you'll find it all: Challenge and chance, make-believe, and huge machines uniquely dedicated
to vertigo.
For the alien observer, games look unpleasant - like forced training exercises for mercenary
slaves: Combat training, tactical exercises, centrifuge training and so on. But the difference
is that earthlings actually like playing, as their brains are programmed to enjoy games.
Now to the third mechanism : Stories. In a nutshell, stories are made-up accounts on
people in dangerous situations. Unlike dreams and games, stories are not interactive, but
they make the audience think: "What would I do in this situation?".
Stories are transmitted in various ways : They are told, played on stage, sung, written,
drawn or filmed - to name just some media.
Stories are often passed on from generation to generation. Some famous stories are thousands
of years old and were transmitted through various media and translated into many languages.
Many stories share a common structure. Earthlings call this structure "the hero's journey",
or "the mono myth". It goes like this: An earthling, called "hero", lives his ordinary
life, when he is suddenly called to adventure - often in form of a mighty enemy threatening
his world. He first refuses the call, but after a bit of encouragement, he accepts it.
He meets a mentor who gives him advice and useful artefacts, and then enters an unknown
world, encounters foes, passes trials and finds allies. Eventually he intrudes into
the enemy's lair, gets into the heart of the lair, faces the enemy and defeats him. Then
he gets the enemy's treasure and makes his way back to his world, often chased by foes.
At the end of the journey, he lives a final moment of danger, death and rebirth, and finally
returns home, richer than before and master of the two worlds.
Not all stories stick strictly to this structure, though. There are, for example, stories called
tragedies where the hero ultimately fails. But there is one point all stories have in
common: Conflict. So, odds are that preparing for conflicts is the whole point of stories.
Strategic advice. If you are planning to attack earth, with a giant bioengineered dinosaur,
stay clear from an island called Japan. Japanese stories have prepared the Japanese for exactly
this kind of attack since half a century, so they know to defend against such a monster.
Better attack America, they are only prepared against zombie attacks.
Besides being instructions for dangerous situations, stories have another, deeper aspect: Most
of them feature myths and archetypes, ancient ideas deeply anchored in the human mind. We
will learn about myths in another episode.
Earthling cubs, also called children, spend most of their time sleeping, playing games,
and listening to stories. Childhood is a phase of life where earthlings are still learning
how to get along in the world. This is another hint that the purpose of dreams, stories and
games might be actually: learning.
Anthropologists have a lot of theories about the origin and purpose of games dreams and
stories. But fact is, all three mechanisms are all about dangerous situations. So, when
an earthling encounters a dangerous situation, odds are that he already experienced this
kind of situation in a dream, a game or a story - so he will know what to do. So it's
not that far fetched to hypothesise that games dreams and stories have all three developed
for the same purpose: Learning to survive.
So, once again, it all comes down to the most powerful force on earth, the genetic imperative.
As a rule of thumb, whenever earthlings enjoy something, you can be pretty sure that the
genetic imperative is behind it.
In the next episode we will learn about estetics: What is beauty, what is art, and why are humans
so crazy about it. Thanks for watching, and, as they say on Betelgeuse: Don't forget to
be alien!