They're made out of meat.

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Psychodelerium posted this in the old PFs, and I found it on the Archive C.D. and thought it was relevant to current discussions, so I'm re-posting it here.

THEY'RE MADE OUT OF MEAT
by Terry Bisson

"They're made out of meat."

"Meat?"

"Meat. They're made out of meat."

"Meat?"

"There's no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They're completely meat."

"That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?"

"They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."

"So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."

"They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."

"That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."

"I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they're made out of meat."

"Maybe they're like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage."

"Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what's the life span of meat?"

"Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside."

"Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads, like the weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the way through."

"No brain?"

"Oh, there's a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat! That's what I've been trying to tell you."

"So ... what does the thinking?"

"You're not understanding, are you? You're refusing to deal with what I'm telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat."

"Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"

"Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?"

"Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of meat."

"Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of meat. And they've been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years."

"Omigod. So what does this meat have in mind?"

"First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the Universe, contact other sentiences, swap ideas and information. The usual."

"We're supposed to talk to meat."

"That's the idea. That's the message they're sending out by radio. 'Hello. Anyone out there. Anybody home.' That sort of thing."

"They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?"
"Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat."

"I thought you just told me they used radio."

"They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat."

"Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?"

"Officially or unofficially?"

"Both."

"Officially, we are required to contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe, without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing."

"I was hoping you would say that."

"It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?"

"I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say? 'Hello, meat. How's it going?' But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?"

"Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can't live on them. And being meat, they can only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact."

"So we just pretend there's no one home in the Universe."

"That's it."

"Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you probed? You're sure they won't remember?"

"They'll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we're just a dream to them."

"A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat's dream."

"And we marked the entire sector unoccupied."

"Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"

"Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again."

"They always come around."

"And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone ..."


the end
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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btw, I put the author's name in bold merely for the purpose of reminding everyone, if you wish to copy this story you must give credit to the author. It seems like alot of people have copied this story on the internet, and haven't given the author any credit...but then, I think the people here, on the PFs, have better judgement than that. I'm just making sure :smile:.
 
  • #3
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So, what do you think? I know it seems like pure satire, but I thought it had relevance to some of the threads that have been going on recently.

For a couple of examples:

1) In my thread about "life" and whether it was a meaningful distinction or not, it has been stated that the definition of "life" may be "anything of cellular construct". This has obviously implications in the story (since they couldn't even accept that this "meat" was alive at all).

2) In the threads about consciousness, it is often seen as impossible that "just the physical" could be responsible for conscious experience. However, what was remarkable to this superior race was that meat could be conscious.

In both of these examples it is seen as remarkable that things do work the way they do. This, instead of the opinion of many that consciousness cannot be "simply physical" and that "life" must refer to cellular life.
 
  • #4
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Originally posted by Mentat
So, what do you think? I know it seems like pure satire, but I thought it had relevance to some of the threads that have been going on recently.

For a couple of examples:

1) In my thread about "life" and whether it was a meaningful distinction or not, it has been stated that the definition of "life" may be "anything of cellular construct". This has obviously implications in the story (since they couldn't even accept that this "meat" was alive at all).

2) In the threads about consciousness, it is often seen as impossible that "just the physical" could be responsible for conscious experience. However, what was remarkable to this superior race was that meat could be conscious.

In both of these examples it is seen as remarkable that things do work the way they do. This, instead of the opinion of many that consciousness cannot be "simply physical" and that "life" must refer to cellular life.
Yes, I was kind of wondering if this was why you posted this thread. The only problem is that you seem to be giving way too much credibility to these aliens which may or may not exist.

This is why I took it to imply the sense of alienation (get it?) felt between consciousness -- what, many would deem as "spiritual" -- and the "physical reality" of meat which, by and large is not conscious: where "the weight" is placed on consciousness -- which, is "alien" to the realm of meat. In other words how do we reconcile ourselves to having a conscious entity and a physical entity without a sense of "alienation" or, being treated like we're from outer space?

Do you realize that we have a way of alienating people by the things we say and do?
 
  • #5
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Originally posted by Iacchus32
Yes, I was kind of wondering if this was why you posted this thread. The only problem is that you seem to be giving way too much credibility to these aliens which may or may not exist.
LOL!

Well, I didn't mean that we should just take the aliens' word for it, I just found it interesting that the aliens could appreciate the miracle of conscious meat while the conscious meat itself can't.

This is why I took it to imply the sense of alienation (get it?) felt between consciousness -- what, many would deem as "spiritual" -- and the "physical reality" of meat which, by and large is not conscious: where "the weight" is placed on consciousness -- which, is "alien" to the realm of meat. In other words how do we reconcile ourselves to having a conscious entity and a physical entity without a sense of "alienation" or, being treated like we're from outer space?
By simply recognizing (as did the aliens) that there's nothing to our consciousness but chemical processes occuring in the meat.

Do you realize that we have a way of alienating people by the things we say and do?
Sure. Why do you ask?
 
  • #6
Njorl
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I took it as a general jab at parochialism, but with an understanding that parochialism is virtually inescapable. When you have an established worldview (meat doesn't think), it is unchangeable without a truly mind-blowing experience (checking the meat out yourself). Even then, it might be best to just ignore the truth.

Nobody thinks outside the box. Some people just have bigger boxes than others.

BTW, Mentat, I like that sig, is it new?

Njorl
 
  • #7
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Originally posted by Njorl
I took it as a general jab at parochialism, but with an understanding that parochialism is virtually inescapable. When you have an established worldview (meat doesn't think), it is unchangeable without a truly mind-blowing experience (checking the meat out yourself). Even then, it might be best to just ignore the truth.

Nobody thinks outside the box. Some people just have bigger boxes than others.
I suppose that's true...it's interesting to me how the people with bigger boxes generally only overlap their box with the boxes of "normally accepted truth", they don't usually contain these boxes and reach beyond in all directions.

BTW, Mentat, I like that sig, is it new?
Yeah, well, new to me anyway. I really admire Dan Dennett, so I was looking up some quotes by him and liked this one.
 
  • #8
Njorl
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I had always "eschewed" philosophers, to put it mildly. After coming to this site, and reading some of, I think, Ragesk8's posts I got into it a bit more. At first, to tear into it, but I found it interesting. I've barely touched the surface, and my ignorance of the jargon makes it slow-going, but I do find Dennet and Rorty interesting.

What gets to me though, is that now I'm interested in the subject, but can't argue it well! That bugs the hell outta me! Economics, history, science, even religion and politics, I jump in with both feet. Philosophy, I still have to make sure I'm not arguing against something I agree with.

Njorl
 
  • #9
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Originally posted by Njorl
I had always "eschewed" philosophers, to put it mildly. After coming to this site, and reading some of, I think, Ragesk8's posts I got into it a bit more. At first, to tear into it, but I found it interesting. I've barely touched the surface, and my ignorance of the jargon makes it slow-going, but I do find Dennet and Rorty interesting.

What gets to me though, is that now I'm interested in the subject, but can't argue it well! That bugs the hell outta me! Economics, history, science, even religion and politics, I jump in with both feet. Philosophy, I still have to make sure I'm not arguing against something I agree with.

Njorl


That's one of my favorite aspects of philosophy: it makes you challenge the things you would otherwise take for granted, and give you next-to-nothing to stand on in doing this.
 
  • #10
Nereid
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Mentat wrote: I suppose that's true...it's interesting to me how the people with bigger boxes generally only overlap their box with the boxes of "normally accepted truth", they don't usually contain these boxes and reach beyond in all directions.
Why do you suppose that is?
 
  • #11
Nereid
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Originally posted by Mentat
So, what do you think? I know it seems like pure satire, but I thought it had relevance to some of the threads that have been going on recently.

For a couple of examples:

1) In my thread about "life" and whether it was a meaningful distinction or not, it has been stated that the definition of "life" may be "anything of cellular construct". This has obviously implications in the story (since they couldn't even accept that this "meat" was alive at all).

2) In the threads about consciousness, it is often seen as impossible that "just the physical" could be responsible for conscious experience. However, what was remarkable to this superior race was that meat could be conscious.

In both of these examples it is seen as remarkable that things do work the way they do. This, instead of the opinion of many that consciousness cannot be "simply physical" and that "life" must refer to cellular life.
It's surely relatively easy to think of interesting extensions to good ol' homo sap. and life on Earth - and some of our fellow humans have extraordinarily creative imaginations - but without some counter-examples, or contrary data, how can you constrain what you dream up?

As other fellow humans venture forth and bring back wild and woolly tales, we all learn that the Universe is 'weirder than we can think'*. A whole ecology at crushing depths and extraordinary temperatures, based on H-S-Fe chemistry and not photosynthesis? Who'd a thunk it?

*who'll be the first to set me straight on what this famous person actually said, and in what context?
 
  • #12
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Originally posted by Nereid
Why do you suppose that is?
Perhaps because no one human is capable of looking at any issue from everyone's point of view at once.
 
  • #13
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Originally posted by Nereid
It's surely relatively easy to think of interesting extensions to good ol' homo sap. and life on Earth - and some of our fellow humans have extraordinarily creative imaginations - but without some counter-examples, or contrary data, how can you constrain what you dream up?

As other fellow humans venture forth and bring back wild and woolly tales, we all learn that the Universe is 'weirder than we can think'*. A whole ecology at crushing depths and extraordinary temperatures, based on H-S-Fe chemistry and not photosynthesis? Who'd a thunk it?
What about AI research? Also, the "constraint" on our imagination of possible life-forms could only come if we had a working definition of "life". Since we don't, we can imagine all we like, and never be "wrong" since something like that could indeed be "alive" (since "alive" would have no meaning anyway).
 
  • #14
Nereid
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Originally posted by Mentat
What about AI research? Also, the "constraint" on our imagination of possible life-forms could only come if we had a working definition of "life". Since we don't, we can imagine all we like, and never be "wrong" since something like that could indeed be "alive" (since "alive" would have no meaning anyway).
:smile: Well said!

I will quickly get out of my depth here, and probably stray way beyond "Metaphysics and Epistemology", but here goes ...

"AI research" is surely a good case to study - the term has changed in meaning quite a lot in the last few decades; the hopes of the founders have foundered; and on. One part I particularly like is "common sense isn't"

Along the way, the 'working definitions' have all changed too, to incorporate what we've learned. So, today, despite the fact that a computer can thrash the world's best at chess (once seen as a true test of AI), no one believes that IBM box is alive or intelligent.

As I said on the "life" thread, there is no shortage of 'working definitions', for "life", "alive", "living", "consciousness", etc; it's just that they're different for different fields of study.

But then, what's the relationship between each of the areas of active research and "Metaphysics & Epistemology"?
 
  • #15
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But then, what's the relationship between each of the areas of active research and "Metaphysics & Epistemology"?
If an area of research is founded on (or partially founded on) a certain definition of "life" then that definition would be part of its Epistemology.

As it is, the definition of life (or working definitions thereof) are always a matter of Metaphysics.
 

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