Readers who are familiar with this blog might know that sometimes, my extraterrestrial friend Tsish is writing here as a guest blogger. I had not heard from Tsish for quite some time. Now, I have received some excerpts of Tsish’s research notes. “As an asifologist,” Tsish writes, “I am increasingly fascinated by the culture of your planet. I have spent several months orbiting your planet and analyzing the contents of your internet and broadcasting. I would like to get your opinion on my observations and theories“. In large sections, it was difficult to read and I needed some time to get used to the terminology (e.g. sometimes the use of “T-Planet” for Earth). However, I have decided to share some selected sections with you. Although it is rather dry scientific stuff, it is interesting to get an outsider’s view on our culture. The text was translated by an automatic translator Tsish is using. (I am not sure about the numerical codes; maybe they are something like time-stamps).
The economy of the terrestrials is growth-based. In a growth-based economy, it is seen as positive if resources are used up as quickly as possible. The system is based on an as-if-construction of endless resources.
People pretend as if resources are unlimited. This has taken the form of an ideology. The economic theories of the terrestrials themselves usually treat resources as external to the system, so creating goods by using up the resources appears as growth and is seen as something positive although actually the total system (economy + resources) shrinks.
Since they have a growth based economy it is important for them to sell new things as quickly as possible. Products are produced by economic units called “companies”. Companies get money for selling products. If they sell more, they get more money. Companies that get more money grow faster than others and out-compete them. This positive feedback mechanism has caused the mentioned as-if-construction to become dominant.
Since this economic system is self-destructive because resources of the T-Planet are actually limited, it is important to increase the research budged quickly because the terrestrial civilization is going to self-destruct soon and all the research on this fascinating civilization has to be done before (have to download the application forms for additional observation equipment! More researchers should be sent!)
One of the really ingenious inventions of planet Earth is what the terrestrials call “fashion”. This is an asifomatic mechanism of aging things conceptually. Something that is actually brand new and little used (in extreme cases, it could be totally unused) is just declared old and unusable (the term the earthlings use is “out of fashion”). People then have to buy a replacement.
In rational economic systems, longevity of products is a positive value. In the growth-oriented economy of the terrestrials, however, it is a problem because it reduces turnover. One solution is, of course, to build products in a way that they will spoil quickly. The problem with that approach is that it amounts to bad quality, and people don’t like to buy products with bad quality. Companies producing such products can be pushed out of the competition.
So the really elegant solution is to use asifomatics and simply declare the product unusable after some time or (in an advanced version) to sell it with a limited usability (only conceptual) built in. Then after a certain time (called a “season”) the product is automatically viewed as no longer usable and a new one has to be bought.
I am quite fascinated by this discovery (going to write a paper on it for the “Asifological Studies” journal). It is, of course, a result of the “perpetual growth/unlimited resources”-as-if-structure I have written about before.
The mechanism of fashion is used in several areas of the economy but is most highly developed in the area of clothes.
The terrestrial culture is extremely complex with respect to clothes. Like elsewhere in the galaxy, clothes are used as protection against climatic influences. However, among the terrestrials, they have acquired a number of additional functions. In the now dominating growth based economy, they are an important branch of the economy, used to create a high turnover of money and resources.
There seems to be a tendency in many terrestrial sub-cultures to develop an as-if-construction of the taboo-type concerning clothes. People pretend as if it is bad to be seen without clothes. This taboo is not universal among terrestrial cultures but it is very wide spread. Different cultures vary in the details, from cultures in which only a small part of the body needs to be covered to cultures in which the body is covered completely, at least in some individuals.
A confusing detail recently discovered that needs further research is that people from the medium-clothes culture dominating large parts of the planet sometime travel to areas where they seem to temporarily switch to a low-clothing or even non-clothing culture. This does not fit with the simple model of a taboo-type as-if-construction.
Individuals from cultures with more body covering seem to have a tendency to look at cultures with less body covering as “less civilized” in some way (the topic of civilized-ness needs more research. It is a very complex as-if-construction that seems to have played an important role in the recent history of the T-planet). Individuals from cultures with less body covering tend to look at cultures with more body covering as oppressive. However, the details are not yet clear. An exact description requires some background in the anatomy of the terrestrials (there is some sexual dimorphism).
What is very confusing is that although there is a lot of evidence for a taboo-type as-if-construction about showing the body without clothes, the predominant content of the Internet of the terrestrials seems to consist of pictures of terrestrials without clothes. More research is necessary here to explain these contradictory tendencies of terrestrial culture.