Humour: Funny things, laughing, and jokes (Earthlings 101, Episode 8)

Uploaded by ZoggFromBetelgeuse on 28.10.2012

Greetings, fellow aliens! Today, I will explain something that puzzles many alien visitors:
Funny situations, jokes, and laughing - in one word: Humour.
My videos are usually based on a mix of earthling literature, alien sources and conclusions
drawn from my own observations. Humour, however, is a tricky thing which puzzles alien and
earthling scientists alike. So, this episode is entirely based on an earthling book released
one solar cycle ago: "Inside Jokes - Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind". It provides
the most convincing theory about humour I've seen so far. You'll find a link in the description
Let's start with a typical funny situation: An earthling crosses a river, a body of hydric
acid, by walking on stones, when one of the stones turns out to be an animal. This mistake
triggers a peculiar reaction: The earthling produces strange rhythmic noises, called laughing.
The whole phenomenon is called humour.
Early alien visitors of earth thought that laughing is an artificial respiratory distress
induced by the brain, in order to punish mistakes. However, this can't be right, for earthlings
actually enjoy laughing - which is very strange.
Anyway, humour seems to be triggered by mistakes, based on false assumptions. To understand
what is going on, we have first to understand the important role of assumptions for the
earthling mind.
Earthlings are often compared to levy drones of the tax authority. Like drones, earthlings
create a model of the environment in their mind, in order to make decisions. This model
is called "mental space". Unlike drones, an Earthling is even capable of handling several
mental spaces simultaneously. For example, one mental space for the present, one for
last night, one for the near future, and one for a video game he is currently playing.
However, drones perform continuously full-spectrum scans of the environment, whereas the earthlings'
rudimentary senses provide very incomplete data. In consequence, the earthlings have
to fill the gaps by making educated guesses. In other words: Assumptions.
A second problem is time. No matter whether in an airplane or in a bar, Earthlings have
often no choice but to make decisions in a limited amount of time, based on incomplete
data. So, assumptions are unavoidable, but unfortunately, false assumptions can have
fatal consequences.
That's where humour comes in. Let's try to define what humour actually is. Humour seems
to be triggered by the discovery of a false assumption - like the assumption that the
thing in the river is a stone. But not every false assumption is funny.
For example, if the earthling is just sitting at the shore of the river, sees what might
or might not be a stone, but doesn't decide what to believe, it's not funny. He has to
commit to the false assumption; he has to take it as truth rather than a mere possibility.
Secondly, if he commits to a false assumption which leads to fatal consequences like losing
his legs, it's not funny either - at least not for him, right now. More generally, it's
not funny if the discovery of the mistake is loaded with negative emotions. So, humour
only occurs when the earthling commits to an assumption which turns out to be false,
but harmless.
Thirdly, if the earthling wonders consciously whether the thing in the river is an animal,
then decides it's a stone, it's not funny either to discover it's an animal. It's necessary
that the assumption has entered the mental space covertly. Let me explain this in a typically
earthling manner: With a metaphor.
Let's say, this is the earthling mind. Many assumptions enter the mental space by the
font-door, are examined and analyzed, before the mind accepts or refuses them. But some
assumptions enter the mind by the backdoor and establish themselves without having been
thought over. Such sneaky assumptions are vicious, if the mind trusts them, as they
can do a lot of harm.
Now we can define what humour is. It's the discovery of those sneaky false backdoor assumptions
before they can do any harm. So, humour occurs when :
A) An assumption enters the mental space covertly.
B) The mind takes it to be true.
C) The assumption is revealed as false.
D) The mistake is discovered without causing harm or strong negative emotions.
To be exact, the earthling book this episode is based upon doesn't speak of assumptions,
but of active beliefs, which is a bit more precise. But as often, I had to simplify some
things in order to keep the video accessible to anybody.
There are two other species in the galaxy which have a similar sense of humour. The
difference to earthlings is that they hate it. Both species live in the Aronian system
and have been supervised by the same bio administrator. Apparently, this administrator thought it
would be a good idea to have their mind punish them for discovering false assumptions. The
result, however, was a disaster.
One of the species, the Cunctators, became obsessive with double- and triple checking
everything before making the smallest decision - even when they were, for example, chased
by a hoard of furious enemies. This way they avoided some mistakes, but they became incredibly
slow and unable to make decisions under pressure. Their world eventually became a planet of
The second species, the Schildarians, became masters of not recognizing errors. The guildhall
of the planetary capital, for example, has no windows because the builders forgot to
build them. But everybody pretends that everything is fine. The cities of the planet are full
of such architectural errors, which makes it a popular destination for tourists.
The earthling humour works much better: Instead of punishing false assumptions, it rewards
defusing those sneaky false assumptions before they can do any harm. The goal is probably
to avoid such mistakes in the future without discouraging the earthling from making assumptions.
But what about other peoples' mistakes? Well, watching someone else committing to a sneaky
false assumption is equally funny - even more if the observer discovers the mistake before
the actor falls for it. It's even funny if the mistake is harmful, as long as the observer
doesn't care.
However, death is rarely funny, except for fictional characters or people the observer
doesn't care about at all. That's because earthlings consider death as something tragic,
even when someone dies of old age. This is strange, as earthlings and virtually all creatures
on earth are biologically programmed to die some day.
Except for the microbes.
Now we understand why earthlings enjoy humour: It's a reward for defusing false sneaky backdoor
assumptions, before they can do any harm. But that doesn't explain the strange noises
earthlings make when encountering humour. Those noises are called laughing. To understand
this, we have to examine two other things which may trigger laughing: Playing and tickling.
In episode 5 we have learned that earthlings, especially earthling cubs, are used to simulate
danger situations for training purposes. This is called playing. Now, bystanders may mistake
playing for real danger, especially if the players emit alert signals such as screaming
or calling for help. That's why earthling nature developed a "false alarm" signal: Laughing.
When an earthling hears alert signals mixed with laughing, he understands that the alert
is not serious and that the danger only exists in the fictional world of the game. Odds are
that this "no danger" signal is the original purpose of laughing.
To understand tickling, we need some background information. It has to do with two feelings:
Pain and itching. Pain is a very unpleasant alert feeling following an injury. Severe
pain usually triggers screaming and calling for help. Itching is another alert feeling
indicating the presence of a parasite on the skin, it triggers scratching to remove the
parasite. Itching is less unpleasant than pain, except when lasting for a prolonged
period of time.
But what has this to do with laughing? Well, serious combat between earthlings, as well
as ritualized combat, usually has the goal to inflict pain. But playful combat, especially
between earthling cubs, aims at itching rather than pain, by touching sensible areas with
the fingers. This is called tickling, and the usual reaction is screaming mixed with
laughing, in order not to alert bystanders. Again, laughter is used as a signal that there
is no serious problem.
So initially, laughing is a communication signal, more precisely a signal that indicates
"false alarm". Now, a surprise like the animal in the river often triggers screaming before
the earthling realizes that there is no real danger, so the earthling laughs to cancel
the alarm. That's possibly the origin of laughing as reaction to humour.
Scientific advice.
If you want to examine laughing, it may prove difficult to obtain it with humour, as your
test subjects will probably be terrified by the situation. You might try out other methods
like tickling or cannabis. But the simplest way of making an earthling laugh is by making
them inhale nitrous oxide, known on earth as laughing gas.
The alarm signal of screaming is actually "infectious": Screaming earthlings may make
other earthlings scream, even if they don't know what is going on. This is called panic,
and it's a mechanism to alert a group quickly in case of imminent danger. Now, if the "false
alarm" signal of laughing has the purpose of cancelling the screaming alarm, it has
to propagate in a similar way. That's probably why laughter is also infectious.
Strategic advice.
When you invade earth, panic can be a powerful weapon. An effective way of creating panic
is to terrorize earthlings with mighty war machines. However, when you hear earthlings
laughing at their approach, your war machines might not be as terrifying as you thought.
One reason might be that you have underestimated the size of earthlings.
As mentioned before, funny situations are rewarded by pleasure. But earthlings wouldn't
be earthlings if they hadn't found ways of creating this pleasure artificially. In its
simplest form, the artificial humour is called jokes.
A joke is typically a funny story, question or remark. Most jokes feature a fool falling
for a false assumption. Sometimes the fool is in the joke. Occasionally the teller pretends
to be the fool. But more sophisticated jokes make the listener the fool, by tricking him
into making a false assumption.
An example for the fool being inside the joke:
"How do you get a Polari in a Q3 Mini Saucer?"
"Tell him 16 of his kind are already inside."
In this case, the Polari is the fool. Of course, the joke isn't funny if you don't know about
the Polari culture's obsession with the number 17. And even if I explain it, it won't get
funnier: Explaining a joke is like dissecting an earthling - few people enjoy it, and the
earthling dies.
Other examples:
"How do you get four squids in a Q3 Mini Saucer?"
"One on the pilot seat, and three on the passenger seats."
In this case, the fool is the teller who pretends not seeing that the problem is the size of
the squids, not the number of seats.
"How do you get three Andromeda lawyers in a Q3 Mini Saucer?"
"You can't, because the squids are still inside."
In this case, the listener is the fool, because he was led into assuming that the two jokes
are not connected, or in other words, that they don't share the same mental space.
"How do you get t(w)o Polaris in a Q3 Mini Saucer?"
"Via hyperspace express line 37, exit Polaris."
Again, the listener is the fool who misunderstood the question. This is a pun, a joke that plays
with the ambiguity between words - in this case between the plural of Polari, and the
star Polaris.
Now some more examples for my earthling viewers, who don't know anything about Polari culture
and hyperspace express lines.
"How do you know there is a squid in your refrigerator? "
"By the tentacle traces on the butter."
How do you know there are two squids in the refrigerator?
You can hear them giggle when the light goes out."
"How do you know there are three squids in the refrigerator? You can't quite close the
"How do you know there are four squids in the refrigerator?"
"There is an empty Q3 Mini Saucer parked outside..."
Another form of artificial humour are comedies. Comedies are full-fledged stories full of
jokes and funny situations. Like all stories, they are created in the form of novels, stage
plays, films, etc.
There is an ongoing discussion among alien scientists whether the movie "Prometheus"
is actually a comedy. On one side it follows the classical comedy formula:
"Some idiots go some place and do stupid things".
But on the other side, earthlings don't laugh when watching the movie.
My hypothesis is that Prometheus is actually a safety video for future astronauts. The
goal is to warn about stupid mistakes one can make in a space mission:
Don't hire morons!
Don't pet creepy alien creatures!
Don't smuggle alien goo on board!
Don't test alien goo on your fellow astronauts!
And, for Galaxy's sake: Don't disturb the siesta of a giant alien who wants to kill
all earthlings!!
Tips for tourists.
Usually, earthlings will be afraid when they see you. But when you visit North America
during this time of the year, odds are that you will make earthlings laugh. The reason
is an annual ritualized game where earthling cubs disguise as creatures of the night and
grown-ups pretend to be scared by them. The cubs find this funny, despite the fact that
the mistake only occurs in the make-belief world of the game. Anyway, earthlings will
probably think you are a disguised earthling cub. You might even make new friends and earn
some free glucose.
Earthlings usually think of humour as some kind of gratuitous pleasure. But from an evolutionary
point of view, it has a very specific purpose: Training to defuse those nasty false backdoor
assumptions, before they can do any harm. So, once again, it all comes down to our old
friend, the genetic imperative.
In the next episode we will learn about earthlings food:
What they eat and drink, how they prepare it, and why they love spoiled food like cheese
or wine.
Thanks for watching, and don't forget to be alien!