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How Often Do Humans Legitimately Win? - Printable Version

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How Often Do Humans Legitimately Win? - Drashner1 - 04-26-2021

This has been kicking around in my head for a bit after someone on the Discord posted a link to another forum where members were talking about comic book/cartoon characters and whether or not they could defeat the archai (a topic that apparently never gets old in some quarters).

OAs insistence that transapients and archai can virtually always defeat human level beings (and apparently baseline humans in particular) seems to really hit a nerve with some people and trigger a reaction that almost sums up as 'Heresy!!!'.

This got me thinking about the way that most SF (and Fantasy and to a lesser extent Drama) treats human beings (or the story protagonists in general) in conflict with various aliens, AI, magical forces, etc. and why they win so much that a lot of the SF community seems to take it as a given that of course humans must always win. Note that the below primarily applies to TV and film rather than literature (although it's in play a lot there as well).

The main conclusions I think I've reached are:

1) Humans/protagonists win because - at its core - the plot (or even the genre) demands it. At least if the story is to be classed as 'science fiction' (or whatever) rather than 'horror' - which is the one genre where the antagonist (often non-human) can win by the end of the story and everyone is generally 'happy' about it.

There are also issues - particularly in TV and film - of needing to keep the protagonists alive for future episodes or sequels. While there are a few exceptions to this, usually when an actor is leaving a show or if the writers/director are feeling like being particularly adventurous/dramatic, by and large you can go into most shows/films with the expectation that the heroes will all still be around by the end. The trick in most cases is to get the audience to forget (or at least not focus on) that for the duration of the show/film. And we the audience are usually willing to do that.

2) Most shows/films rely on a few tropes to accomplish '1' above (using the terminology from TV Tropes.com):

a) Conservation of Ninjutsu - The antagonist(s) may beat up on the heroes in early/initial encounters, but somewhere along the line is suddenly going to become much less effective, often for no clear reason. They may all suddenly graduate from the Stormtrooper School of Aiming, or seem to forget they have abilities they used earlier, or something else. But they will be less effective than initially depicted one way or another. Unless of course they are Star Wars Imperial Stormtroopers in which case they won't be able to hit the broad side of a barn from the start. Tongue

b) Juggling the Idiot Ball (often combined with Bond Villain Stupidity) - This covers everything from the traditional 'the antagonist exposits their plan all over the place before setting up an overly elaborate way of killing the heroes' to the antagonists being too clever or arrogant for their own good (e.g, in SG-1 when the Ori try to manipulate humanity and the Jaffa into powering up their world crushing force field for them instead of just sending through the needed energy sources using the stargate - something they demonstrated themselves perfectly able to do in a later episode.). Details vary, but in the end this lets the heroes (usually human) prevail when they otherwise wouldn't have.

c) Deus Ex Machina - For no apparent reason, or strictly as a matter of coincidence, the antagonist will suddenly be revealed to have a weakness or limitation that has apparently never been encountered before (by the antogonist or anyone it has ever encountered before) and the protagonists will be able to use this to defeat the 'Big Bad'. It may be a disease, a bug in the system, an invention one of the protagonists just happens to come up with, or whatever. But it will hit the antagonist(s) out of left field and they will have no real defense or even idea of what could be happening to them in most cases - even if they are explicitly stated to have been engaging in combat with other races for thousands of years. Apparently only humanity had ever figured out Thing X - even if Thing X is fairly obvious as something worth exploring.

For all of the above - and the variants and combinations - OA explicitly tries to avoid this kind of thing. Which puts us at odds with how most SF presents things and what most people are used to - at least outside of a horror genre (and sometimes even there). So it seems likely that OA is creating a certain degree of cognitive dissonance (which some find painful) in how it does things. But in and of itself that doesn't invalidate how OA does things, nor does it really justify people believing that 'humans always win' is a real or viable thing vs a dramatic device. But apparently a lot of people do it anyway.

Anyway - just wanted to get this off my chest. So may or may not qualify as more of a rant than much else.

Thoughts?

Todd


RE: How Often Do Humans Legitimately Win? - Vitto - 04-26-2021

Quote:This got me thinking about the way that most SF (and Fantasy and to a lesser extent Drama) treats human beings (or the story protagonists in general) in conflict with various aliens, AI, magical forces, etc. and why they win so much that a lot of the SF community seems to take it as a given that of course humans must always win. Note that the below primarily applies to TV and film rather than literature (although it's in play a lot there as well).



You won't get funds for long if you get your whole audience depressed, realism or not Tongue

IMHO hard sci-fi is less prone on this one, with even example where mankind is  more or less wiped out, like in the novel "The Killing Star", which revolves around the concept that having neighborhood capable to reach relativistic velocities is a danger too great to be left growing. Or the Matrix universe. Or the Xeelee series (until the next time travel Tongue )

Overall I think the tropes is mostly used because it resonates with what we want, nothing too special after all. And perhaps because we like a party prevail on another, one with we easily identify, but not the whole species losing to someone else completely alien.
Same reason as most of the stories are on baselines and very rarely on transapients as main protagonists.



I don't think that even OA is immune to this trope: when things turn really bad is always more or less local (system or star cluster, like the Surreal Rash) or far far away (whole galaxy span civilization succumbing to apparent Technocalypse or war) or never terminal (Technocalypse, Da'at getting mad and then vanishing, all the blight and perversion, GAIA, etc...).
Having one of the AI gods breaching the S7 and turning homicidal is something we could expect from OA without any problem, considering its past. But having a depopulated Terragen Sphere where there are only a few scattered survival hiding in the void among the star and those who escaped in basament universe forever sound like a pretty boring setting to me.


RE: How Often Do Humans Legitimately Win? - Dfleymmes1134 - 04-26-2021

This question can be sidestepped by keeping the stakes smaller

Or by ignoring the larger context
In some future where advanced aliens invaded earth... did the protagonist get home to their family after the climax battle with two alien drones, (because they’re too unimportant to kill with significant effort from the aliens?)

Replace the “aliens” with multinational corporations and you might have an easier time finding good examples?

Was the entire point of allowing a rebellion to happen actually just to flush out malcontents? So maybe the protagonists won the small weapons depot battle but two days after the book ends... they’re off to re-education. This might not be mentioned in anything more than anxious thoughts though.

Did the bounty hunter change the status quo of the cyberpunk dystopia overall? No. Maybe they found The Missing Child and returned it to their parents and helped them escape the dystopia, but didn’t actually...win in a straight fight.

Did some class action privacy lawsuit against Google or Facebook actually mean that the corporation loses the case? Yes. and the defendants win money or some privacy protections? Yes- but the company continues to exist and possibly continues to survive on a more “stable” legal playing field which say, might actually allow them to expand (with slightly less power) into more new markets. I don’t know if that actually happened but this seems like the level at which transapients would operate-

In OA , “winning” against an archai might be putting up a fight to not convert the entire star system into more computing power and instead spare some outer system planets for evacuation ... which would happen anyway.


RE: How Often Do Humans Legitimately Win? - Drashner1 - 04-26-2021

Agreed that there are reasons why this is done in show business and there are ways to sidestep the issue by adjusting the scale or tweaking your definition of 'win'.

What I have a harder time understanding is the extremely...visceral...reaction some people seem to have to OA's treatment of this, particularly since we are a setting, not a specific story or plot and because there doesn't seem to be a firm reason to actually believe in human unbeatability beyond it just makes them feel good.

Many years back now I remember reading another forum in which members were stating that OA's approach to this meant we weren't hard science (as if it is a law of physics that humans must win any conflict) and one in particular saying (in so many words and in tones of existential horror) that if humans could never win then existence is meaningless (exclamation point!).

And then of course there is the ongoing 'issue' of people trying to find ways of 'beating' the archai in a VS sense - because then I guess they've proven something in their mind?

Todd


RE: How Often Do Humans Legitimately Win? - Vitto - 04-26-2021

Quote: What I have a harder time understanding is the extremely...visceral...reaction some people seem to have to OA's treatment of this, particularly since we are a setting, not a specific story or plot and because there doesn't seem to be a firm reason to actually believe in human unbeatability beyond it just makes them feel good.

I'll put it as one of my professor: "There is always a good 5% of unsatisfied assholes." Tongue

Quote: Many years back now I remember reading another forum in which members were stating that OA's approach to this meant we weren't hard science (as if it is a law of physics that humans must win any conflict) and one in particular saying (in so many words and in tones of existential horror) that if humans could never win then existence is meaningless (exclamation point!).

It's just their point of view. If we get philosophical we'll never reach a satisfactory answer for everyone to the problem.


RE: How Often Do Humans Legitimately Win? - stevebowers - 04-26-2021

One way for modosophonts (not neccessarily humans) to defeat transapients is by gaining the assistance of other transapients, which have either the same toposophic level as their opponents (or a higher one). This reduces the modosophonts concerned to the level of puppets or pawns in a conflict between two or more higher powers.

All very Homeric in concept; the Iliad is a tale of gods in conflict, who use humans at their chess pieces. This sort of story was quite popular back in the Bronze Age, but nowadays we prefer to allow the humans (and their peers) to have some sort of agency. One way to give modosophonts more agency in an adventure is for them to discover (or be gifted) some clarketech weapons or other devices; if these devices are sufficiently advanced they could defeat some kinds of transapient in a conflict.

I expect that even apparently obedient clarketech weapons would have certain constraints built-in; indeed, I have doubts about the concept of obedient transapientech in general, whether it is a gifted godtech spacecraft or an obedient godtech genie, it will always have some limits on its behaviour that will prevent the user from misusing it. (i.e. Ixnay on the wishing for more wishes. That's all. Three. Uno, dos, tres. No substitutions, exchanges or refunds).


RE: How Often Do Humans Legitimately Win? - Vitto - 04-26-2021

Quote:All very Homeric in concept; the Iliad is a tale of gods in conflict, who use humans at their chess pieces. This sort of story was quite popular back in the Bronze Age, but nowadays we prefer to allow the humans (and their peers) to have some sort of agency. One way to give modosophonts more agency in an adventure is for them to discover (or be gifted) some clarketech weapons or other devices; if these devices are sufficiently advanced they could defeat some kinds of transapient in a conflict.

There is also the possibility for the modosophont to ascend to the same level of their opponents, like Binah during the Oracle's War, but I guess that transcend (pun intended Tongue ) our topic.


RE: How Often Do Humans Legitimately Win? - stevebowers - 04-26-2021

This could be worked into a story, but the risks associated with transcension might outweigh the benefits, in some or many cases.


RE: How Often Do Humans Legitimately Win? - Bear - 04-29-2021

When thinking of inter-toposophic conflicts, I tend to think of humans and animals as a comparison.

How often do humans get killed by, say, coyotes, in the state of North Dakota? That might be around the same rate that archai get soundly defeated by humans in OA civilization. That hasn't happened for a decade or two, I think.

"Killed" is pretty unlikely anyway, since there is probably a backup of any given archai that humans can't get at. But destroying its local consciousness and discombobulating it in a way that leaves it confused, takes a week or more to recover/reboot from (possibly much of it spent in lightspeed delay as the offsite backup gets read in), and left possibly missing some memories after it recovers? That's within the remoter regions of possibility.

One thing I consider possible (and I'm pretty sure there's widespread disagreement on this point) is that higher-toposophic entities may take risks with respect to modos, in certain ways, deliberately, for reasons we will never comprehend. You and I understand what was going on in the head of the late Ms. selfie-with-grizzly-bear the instant before she discovered that grizzly bears react really badly to flash photography. The bear OTOH, will never have a clue why she did what she did or what she was thinking when she just ambled up, set a hand on its back, and held up a selfie stick.

You and I can say she was being profoundly stupid, in that moment. But she was not a moron, as such. She was an articulate person who managed to graduate high school and was getting good marks in college, who had been warned not to mess with the bears, and she chose to do what she did. By any reasonable measure she was many times smarter than the bear and able to think in ways the bear was not able to think. But for motivations the bear will never understand, such as getting likes on Facebook, she wanted the selfie-with-bear photo and she took an insane risk.

I suppose that every so often, for reasons we will never comprehend, it's possible that an archai may take an insane risk - by archai standards - in dealing with us. What that looks like, I don't know. But I think I'd be willing to attribute that kind of deliberate but insane risk to almost every case of human killed by animal in the United States.


RE: How Often Do Humans Legitimately Win? - stevebowers - 04-29-2021

If a transapient were in a single body with no backups, and they inadvertently provoked a modosophont with suitable weapons, the modo could kill the transapient. It is unlikely, but possible.

More likely, the transapient would send an avatar or some other disposable body into a potentially dangerous encounter, and there would be only a small level of inconvenience if the modosophont destroys that body.