Christian Long

John Hodgman: Aliens, Love – Where Are They?

In TED Talks on April 11, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Reflection by KATHY B.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

John Hodgman:  Aliens, Love – Where Are They?

Upon looking at the title of this video, you are probably expecting a scientific look into extraterrestrial life, and possibly the human mind and its search to find those mysterious things in life that seem to continuously evade us, i. e. evidence of aliens, love (evasive for some, at least), or dreams that seem so great yet so out of reach.

If so, you are obviously not familiar with John Hodgman.

This is the man who plays Justin Long’s bitter rival in every MAC commercial-the good-for-nothing PC guy. He’s a brilliant humorist in every way-he’s genuinely a hilarious person and his execution of story-telling is incredible in that it will hold your attention and make you laugh until you cry, all the while wondering why in the world you are watching such a ridiculous talk (but, curiously, never stopping). However, if you dig deeper into the far-fetched stories and comedy, you may truly stumble upon some fascinating philosophical concepts and mindboggling questions as well.

First of all, let’s put the humor aside and take into account the fact that every “encounter” Hodgman claims (legitimately or otherwise) to have experienced occurred recently after something from the media put aliens and the cosmos in the forefront of his mind, be it a movie, book, or true event as in the [false] Roswell UFO Crash in New Mexico (more information on that incident can be found at http://www.crystalinks.com/roswell.html).

The basic point is, Hodgman seems to be implying that things such as UFO’s and aliens are fictional, and the primary reason most people ever even think about them is due to outside influence. If you just saw an alien movie or read a news article about a phony UFO, you are much more likely psychologically to, whenever encountering something out of the ordinary, associate it with aliens than had you not been recently exposed, so to speak, to aliens. Consider that when many people see a horror movie, especially at night, when most horror films take place, they leave the theatre afraid and are awake at night convinced that they see whatever evil was so terrifying in the movie, no? However, those same people, before having seen that movie, probably did not lie awake at night worrying about ghosts or demons stalking them. The same concept applies to aliens, and really anything else.

The more we see or hear of something, the more our brain will relate it to other everyday things.

Another thing I find fascinating about this talk is that even while knowing Hodgman is a humorist and that his stories of “close encounters” are such bogus that they make you laugh exuberantly, there’s still that tiny part in the back of my brain that wonders, “But what if it’s true?” That, in my opinion, is the true brilliance of John Hodgman and all others similar to him-they make you laugh at how ridiculous their idea is as they speak, however, afterwards, they truly make you think about what they said. Is there such thing as too far-fetched? Is anything impossible? Man can create fire at will, generate light from a contraption of glass and metal, defy gravity and fly across vast seas in a metal transporter, travel through space in a shuttle, and theoretically destroy an entire planet through use of enough of our manmade weapons. These things, before having been discovered, were probably deemed impossible. They still boggle my mind when I truly think about the science and knowledge that went into their creation and do not take them for granted.

If all of this is possible, then what is impossible? The notion of possible extraterrestrial life is not a new one, and who’s to say man won’t eventually prove that as well? It is difficult to say. One thing I do know is that we won’t prove or discover anything by crucifying and mocking our peers who claim to have discovered alien life, just as those before us ridiculed Democritus, Galileo, and others who proposed new, seemingly crazy ideas. One cannot find anything if one constantly refuses to search. As Mr. Hodgman said, if an admitted mega-geek can find love, anything is possible, right?

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