Aliens Are Just Humans with Headridges, and Why That's OK

Brenda Cass

In our last episode of d-Infinity Live the hosts were asked if they used a precursor race in their Sci-Fi settings that were responsible for seeding the universe with humans or human-like aliens as justification for similarities between races. I do not use a precursor race and I don't think they're necessary, even if Star Trek thinks they are, and I'm going to explain why I think so. It all comes down to selection biases, the limitations of verbal communication, and the probabilities of an infinite universe.

If the universe is truly infinite then the same improbable circumstances that led to human evolution are bound to repeat somewhere else, probably with slight variations, and probably multiple times. We're talking about infinite here, without end, that's just how infinite repetition works. So that alone is justification for why another humanoid race could and should exist in a Sci-Fi setting. However, the same thing is true about sentient races of all other different types, say blobs that eat rocks, so why don't those show up with equal frequency in an infinite universe? Well they would, but this is where selection biases and communication come into play, most game settings and stories aren't told from the perspective of stone eating blobs (that would no doubt seek out other blobs in space). Those races are more likely to be treated like monsters than anything else.

People are inclined to seek out others that are similar to themselves and that they can communicate with, and completely miss the sentience or intelligence in others. This is a selection bias! In that infinite universe filled with similar humanoid races, it's much more likely that a group of space adventurers is going to establish relationships with other races that have compatible forms of communication and technology than one they have to bend over backwards to accommodate. Technology which is developed to suit a humanoid shape (thanks Clint for pointing this out). Imagine an infinitely large sack of marbles, it's equally likely that any different marble could be chosen out of this sack. Now imagine that some of those marbles are cubes and that the hand picking the marble is particularly well suited to picking out cubes, theose marbles are much more likely to get chosen, right? Humanoids are cubic marbles and humanoid hands are great at picking out other cubes. This over-simplified example is a selection bias and gives us an idea of why humanoids are going to show up more often in a humanoid centric Sci-Fi setting.

Human biases will lead them to treat a race that they can see themselves in better than one that has an aberrant or even horrifying appearance. So the Hortas of the universe are going to continue to get shot at, while the humanoids are going to continue seeking out and making friends with more humanoids.