novembro 18, 2011

Razão e ETs

Uma citação longa, mas que vale a pena, da novela que inspirou Stalker de Andrey Tarkovskiy:

I must warn you that your question, Richard, comes under the heading of xenology. Xenology: an unnatural mixture of science fiction and formal logic. It's based on the false premise that human psychology is applicable to extraterrestrial intelligent beings."
"Why is that false?" Noonan asked.
"Because biologists have already been burned trying to use human psychology on animals. Earth animals, at that."
"Forgive me, but that's an entirely different matter. We're talking about the psychology of rational beings."
"Yes. And everything would be fine if we only knew what reason was."
"Don't we know?" Noonan was surprised.
"Believe it or not, we don't. Usually a trivial definition is used: reason is that part of man's activity that distinguishes him from the animals. You know, an attempt to distinguish the owner from the dog who understands everything but just can't speak. Actually, this trivial definition gives rise to rather more ingenious ones. Based on bitter observation of the above-mentioned human activities. For example: reason is the ability of a living creature to perform unreasonable or unnatural acts."
"Yes, that's about us, about me, and those like me," Noonan agreed bitterly.
"Unfortunately. Or how about this hypothetical definition. Reason is a complex type of instinct that has not yet formed completely. This implies that instinctual behavior is always purposeful and natural. A million years from now our instinct will have matured and we will stop making the mistakes that are probably integral to reason. And then, if something should change in the universe, we will all become extinct—precisely because we will have forgotten how to make mistakes, that is, to try various approaches not stipulated by an inflexible program of permitted alternatives."
"Somehow you make it all sound demeaning."
"All right, how about another definition—a very lofty and noble one. Reason is the ability to use the forces of the environment without destroying that environment."
Noonan grimaced and shook his head.
"No, that's not about us. How about this: 'man, as opposed to animals, is a creature with an undefinable need for knowledge'? I read that somewhere."
"So have I," said Valentine. "But the whole problem with that is that the average man—the one you have in mind when you talk about 'us' and 'not us'—very easily manages to overcome this need for knowledge. I don't believe that need even exists. There is a need to understand, and you don't need knowledge for that. The hypothesis of God, for instance, gives an incomparably absolute opportunity to understand everything and know absolutely nothing. Give man an extremely simplified system of the world and explain every phenomenon away on the basis of that system. An approach like that doesn't require any knowledge. Just a few memorized formulas plus so-called intuition and so-called common sense."
"Hold on," Noonan said. He finished his beer and set the mug noisily on the table. "Don't get off the track. Let's get back to the subject on hand. Man meets an extraterrestrial creature. How do they find out that they are both rational creatures?"
"I haven't the slightest idea," Valentine said with great pleasure. "Everything I've read on the subject comes down to a vicious circle. If they are capable of making contact, then they are rational. And vice versa; if they are rational, they are capable of contact. And in general: if an extraterrestrial creature has the honor of possessing human psychology, then it is rational. Like that."
"There you go. And I thought you boys had it all laid out in neat cubbyholes."
"A monkey can put things into cubbyholes," Valentine replied.
"No, wait a minute." For some reason, Noonan felt cheated. "If you don't know simple things like that … All right, the hell with reason. Obviously, it's a real quagmire. OK. But what about the Visitation? What do you think about the Visitation?"
"My pleasure. Imagine a picnic." Noonan shuddered.
"What did you say?"
"A picnic. Picture a forest, a country road, a meadow. A car drives , off the country road into the meadow, a group of young people get out of the car carrying bottles, baskets of food, transistor radios, and cameras. They light fires, pitch tents, turn on the music. In the morning they leave. The animals, birds, and insects that watched in horror through the long night creep out from their hiding places. And what do they see? Gas and oil spilled on the grass. Old spark plugs and old filters strewn around. Rags, burnt-out bulbs, and a monkey wrench left behind. Oil slicks on the pond. And of course, the usual mess—apple cores, candy wrappers, charred remains of the campfire, cans, bottles, somebody's handkerchief, somebody's penknife, torn newspapers, coins, faded flowers picked in another meadow."
"I see. A roadside picnic."
"Precisely. A roadside picnic, on some road in the cosmos. And you ask if they will come back."
"Let me have a smoke. Goddamn this pseudoscience! Somehow I imagined it all differently."
"That's your right."
"So does that mean they never even noticed us?"
"Well, anyway, didn't pay any attention to us?"
"You know, I wouldn't be upset if I were you." Noonan inhaled, coughed, and threw away the cigarette.
"I don't care," he said stubbornly. "It can't be. Damn you scientists! Where do you get your contempt for man? Why are you always trying to put mankind down?"
"Wait a minute," Valentine said. "Listen: 'You ask me what makes man great?' " he quoted. " 'That he re-created nature? That he has harnessed cosmic forces? That in a brief time he conquered the planet and opened a window on the universe? No! That, despite all this, he has survived and intends to survive in the future.' "
There was a silence. Noonan was thinking.
"Don't get depressed," Valentine said kindly. "The picnic is my own theory. And not even a theory—just a picture. The serious xenologists are working on much more solid and flattering versions for human vanity. For example, that there has been no Visitation yet, that it is to come. A highly rational culture threw containers with artifacts of its civilization onto Earth. They expect us to study the artifacts, make a giant technological leap, and send a signal in response that will show we are ready for contact. How do you like that one?"
"That's much better," Noonan said. "I see that there are decent people among scientists after all."
"Here's another one. The Visitation has taken place, but it is not over by a long shot. We are in contact even as we speak, but we are not aware of it. The visitors are living in the Zones and carefully observing us and simultaneously preparing us for the 'cruel wonders of the future.' "
"Now that I can understand! At least that explains the mysterious activity in the ruins of the factory. By the way, your picnic doesn't explain it."
"Why doesn't it? One of the girls could have forgotten her favorite wind-up teddy bear on the meadow."
ROADSIDE PICNIC, Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky

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