Monday, May 29, 2017

Food Chainers Make Better Fighters

"Food" as an Alien Concept


In this excerpt, the sixth Emperor of the Empire of Earth ("E VI") is being briefed for the first time by the alien ally "Tay" and Bobby.  Tay's race evolved on a gas giant planet not unlike Jupiter. Bobby is the human "Reluctant God" of book title fame. N'Gai Toledo is E VI's genius toady.

“Perhaps I should continue the briefing,” said Bobby.

“I don’t think so,” said the emperor. Every eye in the room snapped into focus on his face. Bobby raised one eyebrow but said nothing. “I need to know a few things first. I need to know a bit more about our allies. I need to know why – as I understand it – the more senior civilizations we are associating with are apparently leaving the scene of the impending battle in great haste, leaving the confrontation with this Satan thing to a young and perhaps backward group like our little empire here.” E VI’s eyes were stoney as they zeroed in on Tay. “It looks like to me that you are using us to do the dirty work while you just do a little virtual consultation. Can you set me straight on this assumption?”

With no noticeable hesitation, Tay rumbled, “Food chain.”

“Food chain?” N’Gai Toledo practically barked. “You are saying we are lower on the food chain so we earn the position of sacrificial lamb while you run to safety?” His eyes actually bulged slightly with what was clearly honest outrage.

“A reasonable but incorrect assumption,” said Tay. It was clear to most in the room that this was an out-of-bounds comment, considering Toledo’s famous ego. But Tay continued, apparently not noticing the additional degrees of steeliness in N’Gai’s eyes. 

“The fact that your species has evolved in a food chain milieu makes you far better warriors than the likes of us, to whom food chains were incomprehensibly alien until we became spacefarers and witnessed them in various species. The inherent competitiveness of eat or be eaten in food chain creatures gives rise to far more aggressive and canny combatants. Your race is a prime example.”

E VI and Toledo were stopped cold. The Emperor was particularly struck with the “incomprehensibly alien” comment, as he realized that creatures not in a food chain were just such to him. 

“Ummm,” he said, considerably cooled. “You are saying that you … the Heglin … evolved in some way not in a food chain? You are not the top of your food chain?”

“Exactly,” said Tay. “We obtained our corporeal energy from our stars and from the gasses of our planets. There were other living creatures in our environment, but the idea of consuming them for energy or being consumed by them would have been considered ridiculous – not to mention impossible. It was actually never even contemplated. As I’m sure the briefest of analysis will convince you, we surely have radically different basic psychologies, you and us. Equally obvious should be two certainties. You make far better warriors. And Satan surely is a creature also born of food chain evolution.”

Tay stopped speaking. No one else said a word. There was a considerable span of silence.

Finally, Bobby cleared his throat and said again, “Perhaps I should continue the briefing.”

The Emperor nodded curtly.

As Jupiter data starts reeling out from NASA's Juno spacecraft, old guy sci-fi types like me just have extrapolation extravaganzas!

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Life on a Gas Giant Planet

Intelligent life on a turbulent gas giant?

One of the main characters in A Reluctant God is "Tay," a composite intelligence reflecting the combined consciousness of billions of very advanced individuals from an empire of gas giants.

Raising the question, of course, "Could intelligent life - or life at all - actually evolve on a gas giant like Jupiter?" Now that NASA's Juno spacecraft is returning stunning data on Jupiter as it swings in and out of Jupiter space, showing an incredibly turbulent upper atmosphere, the question gets ever more complicated.

Clearly I believe life can develop - in fact that life is inevitable - in the cauldron of magnetic fields, intense radiation, and hyper-energetic storms.  In Reluctant God, the living space is below the surface maelstroms. Their energy source is from the planetary chaos above. The idea of a "food chain," and all its 'eat or be eaten' implication is completely alien to them.

The Heglin 
(Imagine super-intelligent, very large Daddy Longlegs)

In this excerpt, protagonist Bobby and his spacefaring crew of Artificial Personalities (A.I.s with human personalities as operating systems) are given a brief, virtual tour of a gas giant where the Heglin evolved. They have abandoned their home planets because of the inexorable approach of Satan.

Bobby and all the APs felt as if they were transported to another reality. They vividly perceived a world, clearly a gas giant, from great altitude. The atmosphere was clear but viscous. Layers of opaque clouds shelved down into great darkness. Their point of view moved deeper into the atmosphere until across the top of one of the cloud shelves could be seen a distant moving mass like thin smoke. As the point-of-view moved closer, it was soon apparent that the smoke was a cloud of individual creatures. It was like nothing so much as a disturbed nest of Opiliones, daddy long legs. Simple pentagonal bodies with extraordinarily long multiple legs with end segments moving in treading-water motions. They tumbled over one another, legs interweaving and sliding apart with confoundedly smooth motions, like a tangled knot constantly knitting and unknitting itself as it progressed along the cloud top.

Bobby spoke. “And each of these creatures is an individual? This is not some sort of multipart creature?”

Tay laughed – his first, Feynman later told Bobby. It was a rich, delighted sound that could only be a laugh. “Individuals. This scene to us is a family portrait. The planet is typical of those we colonized. There are many gas giants in this galaxy, but only those with this particular atmospheric mix pleased us. I am showing you the atmosphere as transparent to your eyes as they are to our senses, but in reality, the gas passes no light in the spectra you see.”

“The coordination between individuals is so perfect, perhaps you have neuronal links?” asked Bobby.

“Or a form of telepathy?” asked Feynman.

“Or a lot of rehearsal,” came the voice of John Cleese, rarely heard from. He continued, “Tay, I’m sure you have observed our physical abilities make this clotting your people do quite astonishing to us.”

“Did that, John,” answered Tay. “It has been hundreds of thousands of your years since we have known the joy of weaving ourselves in a traveling flow.” There was a tinge of very human melancholy in Tay’s voice.

The scene from the past of the Heglin Empire faded and the smiling Buddha face reappeared. “Actually,” Tay continued, “I shouldn’t mourn what we have abandoned. It has been supplanted by far greater joys of total communal experiences, not the least of which is our continued existence.”

So there you go. If you believe, as I do, that life is the inevitable outcome of vast time, sufficient complexity and available energy, then it should be easy to accept gas giant lifeforms... maybe as impressive as the planets where they evolved!

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A Reluctant God free e-BOOK HERE
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