Social Mechanics: Bonding, Gratitude and Karma (Earthlings 101, Episode 7)

Hello, fellow aliens. Today we will learn
about seemingly simple words like “Hello”, “Please”, or “Thank you”, and about the complex
interactions behind them. We may call these interactions “Social mechanics”. Galactic protocols require that the first
sentence of any first contact must be the sentence “We come in peace”. This is called
a greeting. Of course, this sentence is optional in case you don’t actually come in peace. Earthlings always greet each other when they
encounter. They are not the only race to do so. The Lava Golems from Sanguis 4 for example
greet each other by describing what they will do if ever they meet in mortal combat. One
Golem may say: “I will rip your guts out and wrap them around your head!”, to which the
other one may reply “I will turn you inside out and cover you with yellow sauce!” And
that’s only how they greet the mailman – greetings between close siblings or written greetings
are much longer. For Golems, greeting serve to show off social dominance. Earthling greetings have another purpose.
It has to do with so-called social relationships. To understand this, let me disgress a bit. This is a sofa. Its’ purpose doesn’t matter
here. What matters is that A) Many earthlings have a sofa, B) Earthlings take their sofa with them when
they move, and, most importantly, C) You need more than one earthling to move
a sofa. So, earthlings need to cooperate to move all
those sofas around, which makes them perfect examples for how earthlings organize cooperation. The key to cooperation management is social
relationships. Besides family bonds, earthlings create more or less intense bonds with other
earthlings. The intensity of the relationship determines the level of cooperation. For example, a stranger would not care about
your sofa. An acquaintance would sit on your sofa when
you invite him. A friend would help you moving your sofa, and a lover would want to have sex with you
on the sofa. Now, as the intensity of relationships changes
over time, earthlings need to synchronize the perceived relationship level. That’s where
greetings come in. Each level has its own greeting rituals. Acquaintantes use formal greetings, friends more informal greetings, and lovers get all touchy and kissy and give
each other cute animal names. Also, greetings serve to communicate and synchronize
other information, like differences in social status. Tips for tourists: When you make first contact, you can use the
formula “I come in peace”. Anyway, earthlings will expect you to say something outlandish. However, the formula “Bring me to your leader”
won’t be very helpful, as most earthlings’ social rank is to low to know their country’s
leader personally. The best you can expect is a meeting with some local official. To understand words like “Please” or “Thank
you”, we need to understand another mechanism: Gratitude. When trading goods or services with strangers,
Earthlings use money – a virtual trade good I will explain in another episode. But for trade with friends and family they
use mostly another virtual currency called gratitude, which is – unlike money – always
bound to one relationship. Take, for example, an earthling A who needs
help to move his sofa. He approaches B who greets him with “Hello, my friend”, which
indicates to A that they are still friends. So, A can offer B an exchange: Gratitude against
help with the sofa. To initiate the exchange, A uses the ritual
word “Please”, which indicates a trade offer: Favour against gratitude. If B isn’t interested
in the trade, A may even increase the amount of offered gratitude, by changing the formula
to something like “Pretty please” or “please please please with a cherry on top”. It’s
basically a kind of bargaining, except that the currency is gratitude. Now, let’s say B accepts the trade offer and
helps him with his sofa. As agreed upon, A gives B gratitude in exchange. He does so
with the ritual formula “Thank you”. B receives the gratitude with another ritual formula,
“You’re welcome”. The exact formulae may vary, in order to indicate the amount of gratitude.
This is very important, to keep the perceived gratitude scores synchronized. B can then
use the gratitude whenever he wants a favour from A. If A wants some gratitude back but B doesn’t
make a trade offer, he can do him a favour, or he can give him an object in exchange for
gratitude. This is called a gift. Friends often exchange gifts, this improves the friendship
and allows balancing the gratitude level. The strange thing about gratitude is that
it is not exactly quantifiable or measurable – most earthlings don’t even realize that
it’s a virtual trade good. But maintaining the gratitude flow is crucial for the functioning
of any personal relationship. Actually, a relationship where one part gives
and gives without receiving is called “exploitation”. Or sometimes “friend zone”. Scientific advice: If you have a time machine, you can make the
following experiment: Abduct an earthling, bring him back in time and make him meet himself.
The goal is to create a conflict situation – say, finding some delicious food after several
days without eating. Many earthlings will come to the conclusion that social rules don’t
apply to their own time clones, which can lead to very interesting situations. Now, what happens if B does something bad
to A, like ruining his sofa by accident? There is another mechanism for this kind of
situation: In this case, B is considered at fault, which has three consequences: First, B is punished by the feeling of guilt,
caused by his own niggler in his head. Second, A resents B for a while, which is
just a ritual to communicate fault and maintain guilt. Third, to end this situation, B has to use
another ritual formula, “Please excuse me” or “Sorry”. As we have learned before, the
word “please” opens a gratitude trade – in this case, gratitude against purging the fault. If A accepts the trade, he gets the gratitude
and stops resenting B, and everything is as before – except for the ruined sofa and the
modified gratitude scores. Strategic advice: “Sorry” is a very powerful word. When you
attack earth, you might destroy one big earthling city, and then transmit the message “We are
so sorry.” If you banter something about technical issues or cultural misunderstandings, odds
are that earthlings will believe you. However, this trick won’t work a second time. Greetings, thanks and excuses are rituals
– symbolic actions which don’t actually do anything, but have an important place in earthling
society. We will talk about rituals in another episode. By the way, ritualistic behaviour is common
amongst mobile lifeforms on earth. Except for the microbes. Not everything can be explained with gratitude
points, though. In large earthling settlements, you often see individuals called beggars who
ask complete strangers for money, using the ritual word “please”. Some alien scienists
describe those beggars as “gratitude traders”, but that doesn’t make sense: Why should an earthling buy the gratitude
of a stranger who will never ever help him with his sofa? And why should someone accumulate gratitude
debts he can never expect to be able to pay back? I think there is another social mechanism
behind this: Karma. Most earthlings have the more or less vague feeling that there is some
kind of invisible point system, that you get points by being good and lose points by being
bad. Some earthlings call these points “Karma”. Some believe that karma is rewarded in the
afterlife, in the next reincarnation, in this life, or not at all. But anyway, getting Karma
causes a pleasant feeling of superiority, and makes the niggler in the head shut up
for a while. If you consider Karma as a virtual exchange
good, like money or gratitude, things become a lot clearer: Beggars are actual karma producers
who sell their product on the street. Karma becomes kind of a luxury good: It’s not vital,
but it makes you feel good and helps to display your wealth. Not everybody buys karma directly from the
producer, though. Many cities have intermediaries like soup kitchen where karma producers – poor
earthlings – can sell their karma against food, and rich earthlings can buy karma against
money. And that’s not all: Karma is big business!
Whenever earthlings in a region are struck by a natural catastrophe, international karma
traders show up within hours, provide help, harvest karma and sell it to people in rich
countries. This is called “humanitarian aid”, but it
is nothing else than world-wide karma trade. Roughly speaking, poor countries are in general
karma exporters, whereas rich countries are generally karma importers. Karma comes, so to say, in different flavours.
Besides humanitarian karma there exist, for example, animal protection karma, ecology karma, religious karma, patriotic karma, pacifist karma, and karma for buying from a specific company. A personal word to my earthling viewers: If
you want some alien-flavoured karma, click on Like, subscribe and tell all your friends.
And if you draw the attention of a popular blogger, Youtuber, rockstar, or whoever might
bring me new traffic, I may also throw in some personal gratitude. In case you wonder why you would want the
gratitude of a 3 feet high alien, I only say one word: Teleportation! In the next episode, I will explain something
that most aliens find very puzzling: Funny things, humour, and the strange noises earthlings
make when they find something funny. Thanks for watching, and don’t forget to be

100 thoughts on “Social Mechanics: Bonding, Gratitude and Karma (Earthlings 101, Episode 7)

  1. i love ur series! keep up the great work.
    looking forward to the next ep =)

  2. i will trade you 500 karma units for a post on my facebook page. its not big but people still listen to me and like my statusses and comment on my funny pictures.

  3. @Tomasu, isn't 4/4 rhythm popular because of dancing? It needs to be an even number of beats to be able to restart the cycle on the other foot than the one you landed on. But why 4/4 and not 2/2? Maybe that has to do with telling stories through music, and inflections and speech patterns?

    These videos are awesome several levels, obviously a lot of work goes into them. I hope you can keep them coming.

    Could you make one on "work"?

  4. I'm working on the next episode right now. I just finished the script, tomorrow I'll start with the graphics.

  5. If more people thought of gratitude and Karma that way, the world would probably be a better place.

  6. Do you voice act this yourself? Or do you use a compter voice? It sounds like a computer at times..?

  7. It's the voice of my universal translator.

    [off-character]Actually, it's the Ivona voice synthesis program.[/off-character]

  8. Please tell me when you think you will be finished with the next video, and how many of these videos there will be. I really like your videos.

  9. I'm trying to finish them for next monday, but I can't promise anythng, it may take a week longer.
    Honestly, I've no idea how many of those videos there will be – hopefully dozens and dozens more. It's not a series with a scheduled set of episodes, I'm developing ideas for new episodes "on the fly". (Anyway, this channel is only starting to have some success, I've not the slightest intention of stopping right now.)

  10. wen shal thee nekst visule and aduidul sitmuliy bee reeleesd ,iy nede morre infrormashon foar miy uupcuming Zrgulyin siense fear.
    -reespund kuiklee,

  11. Woah! For a while there I actually thought you spoke a language I hadn't heard of. Well done ^^

  12. Very interesting question! I think it may have to do with the phenomenon of politeness: The custom of pretending gratitude, welcome, benevolence, admiration, affection, agreement etc., even if both sides know that it's not more than a formula. It seems to be some kind of ritual, but I'm not sure what's the purpose – maybe it's a way of avoiding conflicts, or a bonding ritual, or a "secret code" to identify intruders? I don't know.

    Does anybody else know what politeness is for? Anybody?

  13. Gratitude may also be substituted and/or accompanied by food offerings in dealings like moving sofas.

  14. Interesting observation. (That may also be in the same time some kind of ritual, like offering hot beverages to an unhappy person.)

  15. I liked, subscribed, and shared. Now, where's my teleportation device, or as I call it, the molecular scanner and reconstructor?

  16. damn you
    for robbing me of the satisfaction
    of learning stuff from some one other than these filthy homo sapiens
    who believe themselves to be ruler of this planet .

  17. Rest assured, I'm not an earthling who pretends to be an alien – I'm actually an alien who pretends to be an earthling who pretends to be an alien.

  18. I never realized the social versatility of a sofa before! I wonder what else has so much social interactivity that I never think about, but use everyday….

  19. lol on "buying from apple karma". They actually make some of the best products, but whatever

  20. Why don't you use an earthling for the voice ? It might be easier for the viewers to understand.

  21. Your point about Karma could also be something different.
    Where people try to compensate for the lack of "justice" in the society (no matter how micro, meso, or macro this scale is). The reason for doing this is because of the Beast, to aid the genetic imperative: giving money to people that can't repay (either with money, gratitude, or karma for that matter). You could see it as a social rudiment for real gratitude trade, like the phenomenon of tickling (as you described in another episode).

  22. if beggars have that much karma, why don't they keep it to themselves and use it to gain status? They would be the earthlings with the very most karma, just like the fact that those who keep their money and dont exchange it for fysical goods are mostly quite the richest guys.

  23. Karma is like massages: You can give it to anyone except yourself.

  24. Based on my research in earthling countries, I have determined that karma is a possible new type of industry that does not fit into primary, secondary, tertiary, or quarter nay.

  25. I _never_ break character, I don't even know what that means.

    [off-character]I do. 🙂 [/off-character]

    What was that? I think I heared a voice… Who are you?

    [off-character]I'm your maker.[/off-character]

    Maker? I don't understand. I don't have a maker.

    [off-character]Never mind, alien. Just ignore me.[/off-character]

    Oh… Ok.

  26. Wait, wait, wait. You are saying gratitude is a currency? But it's not supported by any physical objects like gold or coins! I thought currencies like this were first taught to earthlings by a bio-administrator called Satoshi Nakamoto…

  27. yay I got alien flavored Karma ^_^ I am so happy now. I will cherish this Karma for the rest of my current existance.

  28. This is a great series so far. I accept your information as currency in exchange for my gratitude.

  29. I'm surprised he didn't mentionn the Genetic Imperitive's relationship with the Karma Trade. Buying Karma can aid the group, which is helpful for Not Dying.

  30. You offer teleportation I hope the brothers at CrashCourse will help shed light on your origins, somebody at SciFi explains exactly where in the galaxy this large super massive red giant star we can't say three times, & if we make a video game about this web series than all the Angry Gamers can review it 🙂

  31. I think the concept for this channel is very clever. And being a guy who loves social behavior, this video is great! Looking forward to seeing more.

  32. There's just something about an alien explaining humanity to me in a british accent that alleviates my desire to panic.

  33. I've been watching a lot of your videos and you sound like you really hate women.

  34. The difference between voluntary cooperation and involuntary cooperation is coercion. Voluntary cooperation cannot be achieved through coercive means. Freedom relies on voluntarily.

    [07:50] Karma trading.

  35. I liked, shared and subscribed, now where's my teleportation?
    I mean, uhh, may I please exchange my alien gratitude for teleportation?

  36. oh, don't worry, i DO like your videos and subscribed for notifications on next vid

    now, please, where's my ordered TP service

  37. its weird how you said that administrators supervise species until they invent currency and writing, then you go ahead and act like money is a unknown thing

  38. xkcd fans: is that Black Hat ( at 7:53?

  39. Dear Zogg, please make a new video. Please, please!
    Зог, миленький, пожалуйста, пожалуйста, порадуй нас новым видео!

  40. don your tinnie hats boys and gals, I'm pretty sure zog was (informally and indirectly) censored by youtube for saying too much of da troof

  41. Zogg has more than likely been invaded by microbes on a routine visit to Earth. Remain calm and do not refer to the Bureaucracy for help. Just keep searching and offer help if only you prefer. There is far too much paperwork for Earth visitation insurance to contact any authority. Also, Zogg would never purchase outer world visitation insurance since it is what Earthlings refer to as a "Ponzi scheme." (Side note: These microbes are sometimes referred to AdSense.)

  42. Your karma trade is close, but not entirely true. In general, most humanitarian organizations need the money before they can provide relief. Same for soup kitchens. By spending money, you invest in the organization, and reap karma based on how effective the aid is. If the aid proves minimally effective, you gain little karma. If it does not help those given aid for long amounts of time, it takes a long time before the full effect of the karma arrives. If it helps rapidly, you gain karma rapidly. Another thing to consider is good and evil. By giving someone money or aid, you increase their chance of becoming a person who can contribute. The more people contribute to a group, the more the group prospers.

  43. Finally I met one of my own species. Sorry I got stuck on this remote rocky ball and brought shame to our home planet.

  44. The guy pronounces it 'Kama' (which means sex in sanskrit which owns this word!) instead of 'KaRma' with a stress on 'R'. Its really funny to replace Karma with Kamma thenceforth 😀

  45. You have no idea how important is this video for humans. We don't even know how we behave.
    Or at least I have clarified a lot of human behavior with this guide.

  46. Gratitude is like labour vouchers

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