Readers who are new to my blog might not yet know my extraterrestrial friend Tsish. Occasionally, I have published some of Tsish’s messages here. I had not heard from Tsish in a while, but today I finally received the following messag. It looks like Tsish has had a traumatic experience. Here is the content of that message:
It looks like it’s my fate to get into trouble. I received a communication from headquarters several days ago (well, more specifically, 67 orbits ago, since I am in an orbit around earth at the moment – it is a bit difficult and arbitrary to define a day here):
We have to inform you that there are some concerns concerning your work. We therefore want to inform you that we will send one of our inspectors for an inspection. The inspector is going to come on 594.7701.661. Please make that meeting possible.
(Electronic signature (unreadable))
Department for Special Investigations, Audits and Inquisition
T-QI-C-84.l (nb) – Do not reply!”
Now, whatever that meant, it meant I was in trouble. They only send inspectors if something is wrong and if they are dissatisfied. Now, it is my job to observe planet Earth (the T-Planet in our jargon) and prepare reports about your civilization, and of course I have done so. The civilization of the T-Planet is most fascinating and up to this moment, I was very happy with this job, and I had had the impression that the people in the headquarters as well as those in the Institute for Advanced Asifological studies (IAAS) where very satisfied with my work too. What in space had caused this surprising development? I did not know.
At the time specified, a small space ship did indeed turn up and pulled alongside my ship. It could have coupled to my ship or the person inside could just have beamed into my ship. Now, beaming is, of course, physically impossible, but it is possible with asifomatic technology. You just do as if. But in a quite old fashioned way, the person came over in a space suite and entered through the air sluice. That took some time and that time caused me to get a rather bad gut feeling (to translate it into earthly terms). Finally, the person came inside.
“Hi, my name is Flrx, I suppose you are Tsish.”
I was a bit baffled about the name since flrx is my favorite drink, as you might know. A wonderful, aromatic, acetonic and phenolic drink. Maybe this person’s ancestors had been flrx-brewers? But I did not have time to ask.
“Please sit down and let’s just get to work. I have to inform you that at the central, some people are not so convinced about your work.”
“Well, what is wrong about it? I don’t understand. I am just observing and investigating this civilization here.”
“Well, the way you describe this “civilization”, some people, including, I have to admit, myself, think that you are exaggerating or making things up. The civilization you are describing looks very implausible to us, so we are thinking about replacing you with somebody else, somebody with a less imaginative imagination, if you know what I mean.”
“I don’t understand, does that mean you doubt my reports?”
“Well, yes, to tell you the truth, we think the civilization you are describing does not even exist.”
“But just look out of the window, the blue planet you are seeing there is the T-Planet. If you look at it through a telescope, you will see there is a civilization there. Look, we are just getting to the night side now, look at all the lights of their cities””
“Are you able to create that image with your asifomat? Can you make it appear as if the civilization or even the planet is there, even if it isn’t?”
“Hm, well, yes. Of course, that would be theoretically possible; the asifomat is a device to pretend things are there. Using it, we do as if. But…”
“Aha! That is what I wanted to hear. So you and me know that this so-called “T-Planet” or “Planet Earth” and its marvelous civilization is not really there, don’t we? It is not there, at least not as it looks like through this window, isn’t it? And if it is not there, there is no point in doing research on it and paying you for such “research”.”
“That’s not true, it is actually there. But why do you believe it isn’t?”
I began to understand the kind of trouble I was in. This was really getting dangerous now. If I lost my job…
“You must admit that this civilization you are describing in your reports is quite implausible. For one thing, you are describing a civilization that is quickly using up its resources, so quickly indeed that it is probably going to collapse in less than 100 or 200 cycles. Obviously, no civilization in its right mind would be doing that. You are describing a civilization that is using up its raw materials and energy supplies, destroying its biodiversity resources, filling its environment with poisonous substances and destroying the atmosphere of the whole planet. With other words, the civilization you are describing is on the way to self-destruction. Where have you ever heard of such a civilization. That simply cannot be!”
“Well, you know we have found examples of remains of extinct civilizations on some other planets, think of gl-44, for example.”
“That is a disputed interpretation of those findings, indeed, a nonsensical one. Even the existence of those “remains” has not been demonstrated beyond doubt.”
“But here we have such a civilization. It is kind of a parasite to the planet.”
“Such civilizations don’t exist. They are impossible. Parasites don’t destroy their hosts and push them into extinction.”
“Well, some do, but then they go extinct together with their hosts quickly, that is why they are so rare. They are rare, not because they would be irrational but for reasons of evolution. They self-destruct. Here we have the chance to observe this while it is happening. They are currently changing the climate of their planet in a catastrophic way…”
“According to you! So you really want me to believe that climate change nonsense. I deny the existence of your climate change!”
“Aha, you see, so do some of them, you see. That is one of the reasons they don’t stop it, why they are so irrational. They pretend the problem does not exist. This is called climate change denialism.”
“If that is so, then yes, I am a climate change denialist. A very rational position! Climate change is nonsense. It can’t be because it would be an irrational thing to do. You are talking about people who are intelligent enough to create a technical civilization. How can they then be so stupid at the same time? Where in the Galaxy have you ever seen something like that? In order to create a civilization, a certain level of intelligence is needed and that contradicts such irrational behavior, doesn’t it? I indeed deny the climate change you are describing.”
“But it is a real thing. They have a growth economy; that is why they are so destructive to their planet.”
“Your theory of a growth economy is ridiculous. Take the first and second laws of thermodynamics. It is simply a physical impossibility. You know that any system that is growing exponentially will quickly outgrow whatever resources are there. If they are smart enough for creating the technical civilization you are describing, they must understand that. Any school child can understand that, so such a growth economy cannot be real. You invented that. In fact, we have checked your school records. You were always quite average in school and you had a reputation of inventing bizarre things. You are making this up to get attention and fame. Well, attention you managed to get now, our attention. And we are going to take action!”
“No but. Your reports get more bizarre each time you send one. A civilization this bizarre simply cannot exist. It is against rationality. And then you are writing that you actually befriended some of them. If they are so irrational, how can you do that? This strange guy called “Nannus” in your reports, for example. Your descriptions of him are completely contradictory. In fact, I believe that this “humankind” you are describing does not exist at all.”
I was baffled, perplexed. Normally, I like flrx (the drink, of course, that hyper-spherical, wonderfully aromatic, rich, and slightly inebriating fluid…), but this “Flrx” – what to do?
“Just admit that that “planet” there behind your window is just a barren rock, if it exists at all. Let me see your asifomat. It will obviously be showing some activity.”
“Of course, it is projecting my space ship. You know my space ship is virtual, just like your own.
He scanned my asifomat with his scanner.
“I have subtracted that base activity of your asifomat already. Of course it is projecting your ship, but there is some additional activity. Look here at that blip on my scanner.”
I now scanned my asifomat with my own scanner. And indeed, even after subtracting the base activity needed to maintain my ship, there was some signal left. Should it be true that all that civilization down on that planet was just a virtual one? I started feeling seriously concerned now about my scientific reputation and career. Was the whole terrestrial civilization just a result of a malfunctioning asifomat? I opened the back side of the device and peered into it. At one point, in the depth of the device between some electronic valves, I could see little buzzing sparks. There was a smell of burnt protein. Indeed a malfunction. There was a small insect-like creature, or what remained of it, roasted into black coal by electricity. I took a pair of tweezers to remove it. Flrx had spotted it too.
“You see? As I was thinking! A bug, a malfunction of your asifomat! You should have known this. If observations lead to implausible results, the most likely explanation is a defect in the asifomat. All that wonderful civilization of yours is just a mirage!”
I removed the culprit of the problem, and the buzzing sparks disappeared. So was this the end of Earth’s civilization? But the next moment, the other spaceship outside, together with Flrx, the inspector, had disappeared. They had just been a product of my faulty asifomat. Fortunately, that space ship had not been coupled to my own, with an open door between the two, because the air would have evaporated from my ship immediately. I have some experience with such events; one time I had found myself suddenly in open space. Everything was back to normal now, everything except for my thoughts and feelings.
I am now looking down towards Earth. The human civilization is still there (on its sad path to self-destruction). However, my problem now is: what can I still believe? What is real? The inspector disappeared, a product of my defective asifomat. But can I be sure that the civilization, the ecosphere, the planet I am seeing is real? Is my friend Nannus, down on that planet, real or is he just a projection of that machine, existing only “as if”? The scanner now shows that the asifomat is switched to stand-by-space-ship-only mode. But the scanner showing that is a virtual product of that same asifomat. All of that may be a fake. Nannus is going to post this message on the T-Planet’s internet, but is that internet real? Some Earthlings are going to read it, provided they exist, but how can I be sure? In fact, the solar system, even the whole universe, could be a figment. Am I even here? Well, I know I am virtual myself (sigh!), but am I at least virtually real?
Best to drink some flrx now! Nannus calls it “nail polish remover”, and after investigating human cosmetics, I now know what that is, but he is wrong. Acetone is one component of it, but there is some phenol in it and traces of a lot of other deliciously-tasting substances. Nannus told me it is poisonous and stinking, but of course, my metabolism differs from his. But human cosmetics, what a fascinating topic! I think your civilization is real the way it is, although that is bad news for you people. Flrx did have one point or two, your civilization has some bizarre and irrational aspects indeed, but I am not going to think about that now. Cheers!