Episode 3: The World of Giant Mudpuppies

Updated: Aug 11

The Moon's pretty great, right? What if we had a few more just like it?? Well, the amphibious creatures on this planet think the unpredictable tides and seasons are high prices to pay for a pretty view in the sky.


1. Evin Grody is a zooarchaeologist who spends most of her time doing research in Zambia. She's studying historical relationships between humans and animals, so she knows a lot about bones. Follow her on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/evintheterrible/

2. Lev Raslin is an expert in business technology. He's the guy I go to if I have questions like, "so when is virtual reality reeeeeally going to be a thing? Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/DJLevitown

3. Ian Reed is a professor of clinical psychology at New York University. He very wisely stays off of social media. 


Moiya 0:08

This is Exolore, the show about facts based fictional world building. I'm your host Moiya McTier. And I'm an astrophysicist and a folklorist. So you can probably imagine how I got into imagining fictional universes. Today, we have a really exciting group, we have a clinical psychologist, a zooarchaeologist, and a tech business expert. And together we're imagining the life and culture on an alien planet with lots of moons. So let's get started.

The first thing we're going to do is introduce ourselves. So, Ian, do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself?

Ian 0:45

Yeah, sure. So, my name is Lawrence, but everyone calls me, Ian so please, everyone just called me Ian. So I'm a clinical assistant professor over at NYU. I'm sort of a jack of all trades, master of only a couple so I teach classes over there on clinical psychology and abnormal psychology, as well as evolutionary psychology and I teach intro as well. I do research on facial expression and emotion, and I take a strong evolutionary perspective on that. And then I'm clinically trained. So I've got a small private practice. So, you know, depending upon what the people that I'm working with or dealing with, I'll do a combination of ??, or cognitive behavioral or dialectical behavior therapy. And I focus specifically on people with personality disorders as well as mood disorders.

Moiya 1:34

Yeah, so this call is actually gets a surprise therapy session for all of us. Evin you want to go next?

Evin 1:43

Sure. My name's Evin Grody. I am a zooarchaeologists, that means I work on animal bones from archaeological sites. My work largely takes place in Southern Africa, so I'm looking at human animal relationships down there. So I look at everything from kind of animals that were in the environment to reconstruct climates, to what we were eating every day, all day cause food is the most important. But also technologies, because a lot of technologies are involved in kind of human-animal relationships or come from human-animal relationships to interact with kind of other spheres of human life. So I look at butchery. I look at metal work, I look at stone tools, I look at all of the different ways that kind of human-animals technology environment tie together. And so my kind of extensive sci-fi background is surprisingly useful in working in kind of distant places and times on this planet as well.

Moiya 2:39

Yeah, back when Exolore was a live show in New York City, I reached out to Evin asking if you would be a guest on the show, and you're like, "I can't I'm in Zambia". I was like, "oh, okay".

Evin 2:53

Yeah. So I just got yanked back from Zambia by Columbia. I guess about three weeks ago now? So yeah, I'm certainly back in a different space and time again.

Moiya 3:04

Well, welcome home. Lev do you want to tell us a bit about you?

Lev 3:09

Sure. So I started out as an Undergrad Anthropology and Political Philosophy major, but I took the path of going into technology from the business standpoint. So where I'm at right now is I work for a big cloud computing company called Amazon Web Services. And we really focus on powering the infrastructure for the internet. So if a company wants to figure out how do we enhance our remote video streaming capabilities, they might come to somebody like me or somebody on my team to help them set that up. So I'm really focused on "how do we help organizations in society connect better with each other"? You know, what are the tools they can use to store their information? And how can we build them better tools to also help them visualize and analyze that information. So hopefully, that's a perspective I can offer today.

Moiya 3:57

Yeah, yeah, you'll definitely have some cool things to say. So, in each show, we focus on a different alien planet and that planet, you can imagine it exactly like Earth, except for one key difference, every time. Today, our planet is exactly like Earth, so it's the same size, it orbits the same type of sun. But the difference is that instead of having one moon, it has many moons; and if you are a fan of sci-fi and fantasy, then you probably have heard of N.K. Jemisin's [The] Broken Earth trilogy, and I'm not going to spoil it for you, but moons are -

Evin 4:35

It's so good.

Moiya 4:35

It's very good. It's so good. It's so well written, the world building is fantastic, but moons are pretty important in that series. That's all I'm gonna say, so ... one potential consequence of having many moons around this planet are that the tides the ocean tides are going to be so unpredictable. Here on Earth, you get high tide and low tide twice a day. It happens in this predictable, cyclical manner. On this planet, the ocean can come up onto the land at any time with basically no warning. So that's totally unpredictable. The other thing that happens is that seasons are also going to be very weird. Our moon helps stabilize the Earth's axial tilt, so the earth is tilted, and that's what gives us our seasons, and the tilt is very stable. So it maintains about a 23 degree tilt. But if you have a lot of moons, and they're going to be pulling on the planet in different directions, at different times, and so the tilt can change and that will lead to unpredictable seasons. So basically, this world changes a lot without any warning, and we're going to imagine how that would affect the life that forms and evolves on that planet. First, one of the things I like to start with is talking about the biology of the people and I know none of us are strictly speaking biologists, but we can use our imagination We are humans, we know what our bodies are like. So, given the environment that this planet has, what type of physical characteristics or traits do you think the life there might evolve to have?

Ian 6:15

I mean, I think the thing that might be on all our minds, but I'm afraid it might be a little bit naive is that there'd be a lot more amphibians. I mean, just the thought is that if you have unpredictable tides, then you're going to need animals that are sort of jack of all trades, where they can survive, you know, above and below water. And then maybe they'll just be a more sort of biodiversity of amphibians and, of course, they'll still be some underwater sea creatures and some above water, but maybe there'll be more amphibians, it's just the first thought that I had in my mind. And then all the other things that come with that like, you know, light and, you know, fins and things like that. All the sort of tributaries of that idea. That was my first thought.

Moiya 7:03

Yeah, we can totally imagine a race of frog people gaining power on this planet and roll from there. That's usually how these things go.

Evin 7:17

And even if we broaden it out to kind of things that have amphibianesque characteristics, those that can kind of translate between the two worlds quite well. So that's where you get things like tortoises and terrapins and things that can kind of transition between the two. Like mudkips you know, things that are basically fish but have a habit of just kind of like wandering out onto land occasionally. Like, just imagine if you'd like predatory versions of those, that could like get bigger and then they could come out at high tides.

Moiya 7:49

Terrifying and awesome. Yeah.

Evin 7:52

There also might be just more stark divide between land-dwelling and sea-dwelling, because those intertidal zones would be huge, but also really difficult unless you are good. So there might be kind of three distinct classes, where like the intertidals would have to be really really good at both, but might not be quite good at being just water, just land. So you might have more of a stark divide between those things. You know, just thinking of how intense things that live in tidal pools would have to be to survive those big changes you know? Would you have like a really intense starfish?

Moiya 8:28

By "intense" do you mean just like large?

Evin 8:30

Yeah, large or just like really, really robust like tardigrade level starfish.

Moiya 8:36

And they could just survive anything, like a cockroach.

Lev 8:42

What would the coral infrastructure look like in a world like this? Do we know how tides affect coral formation?

Evin 8:47

Well, considering how much you know tides can affect coastal shape, kind of coastal erosion, coast shapes. They can be huge kind of erosive forces. If we think about not normal tides. If we think about you know, when you have some kind of seismic massive storm that like vastly increases waves and that kind of action that can totally reshape a coastline from one event, if you have a constant kind of like unstable like, coasts would be a totally ... different thing.

Moiya 9:20

For sure. Right so our amphibian people, we're going to focus on those, I'm so excited. So, I imagine maybe naively that living in this kind of constantly unpredictable world would have some pretty gnarly effects on psychology. And Ian, I was wondering if you could weigh in on how, like, what might the psychology of these amphibian people be?

Ian 9:48

I don't know if you guys will make this assumption as I do, but you know, when biological changes evolve, mental changes evolve with that as well. That with the ... more sort of diversity, the more that bands sort of stop reproducing with each other, that there's going to be many, many different species with many, many different psychologies. And I guess whoever won the revenge of the nerds, you know, I mean, it was us now, but in this counterfactual, who knows what it might have been? Or if it might have been, you know, several different things. And if there's increased diversity, and I guess that would mean that there would be increased likelihood, that you'd have several different intelligence species. But then again, there's the problem of, once you have the first one, it's tough for the second one.

Evin 10:38

Yeah. Yeah, cause if they're evolving in totally separated places.

Ian 10:43

Yeah, yeah.

Moiya 10:45

We're trying to pick out like the dominant species on the planet. Is there a mindset that would lead you to just like knocking out everyone else, or being more like surviving better?

Ian 11:02

So, I think whichever organism most quickly adapted to the land would have that niche to themselves for at least a little bit. And so you might find that the higher people in this sort of chain, might be those land dwelling species. So that might be a factor as well.

Moiya 11:27


Evin 11:27

And that's one of the arguments that was put forward, you know, one of the many arguments has been put forward about kind of humans versus Neanderthal. Is less so much like we kind of physically dominated them and killed them out; and more that we may have been much more flexible in our ability to kind of utilize resources, utilize new environments, utilize new places. And so in kind of at that period, where we see climate change, and kind of bigger variations happening when we start seeing neanderthals and other kind of ice age animals dying out, we start to see human populations utilizing a much wider mix of kind of materials of different plants, different animals, and so that flexibility, that ability to kind of re-adapt to changing climates, changing seasonal patterns, you know, ended up being a dominant. It made them more flexible.

Ian 12:20

Another thought that I had is that, like, we're all sort of adapted to location. I mean, like, I've got dark skin because my most recent ancestors were in Africa. So I mean, just to regulate the vitamin D that they had, but if the seasons were changing so rapidly, I don't know that you would have - I mean, you might still have different segregated groups, but they might not have differences in race as we see them now.

Moiya 12:49

Right. One thing that I think might be very common on this planet is migration. And so I'm imagining a lot of very nomadic groups and maybe, you know, it's hard to develop actually agriculture in this world - in the way that we know it.

Evin 13:03

So if we had really close relationships with amphibian types, whether they're people or whether they're animals or both; and could facilitate mobility, because our levels of mobility depend on on either technology or a relationship with things like horses, camels.

Moiya 13:21

Are we picturing like a public transit system based on riding whales?

Evin 13:28

Or giant frogs. I'm not picky. Or maybe we've domesticated the predatory mudkips that are dog-size, and they can pull amphibious sleds and so can get us between places. I don't know.

Moiya 13:45

You were ready. You had that example like right there.

Evin 13:48

Very excited about this conversation.

Moiya 13:51

I want to go back a little bit. We were talking about how the group that survives, and kind of makes its way to the top of the chain is going to be the group that adapts the best. I'd like us to think a little bit about what those adaptations might be.

Lev 14:06

I think going back to the resource discussion, like we, as humans, we found ways to insulate ourselves against things that we don't naturally survive in. Like diving deep into the water or going into outer space. So I wonder, you know, whatever species decides to dominate or ultimately dominates, are they able to somehow say structurally take advantage of hydroelectric power? Like fossil fuels right now, power humanity's advancement and arguably destruction of this planet? So what is that species able to utilize, and exploit some natural resource that's predominant on the planet? I think that's probably going to play a big factor.

Moiya 14:48

I'm saying like, yeah, there will definitely be a part of this discussion that's all about the technology that they might develop, and how they can keep it safe. But I do feel like just one biological adaptation that might be very helpful here is skin cells or pigment cells in your skin that can change very quickly. So maybe there would be races but you can change it - like a chameleon.

Ian 15:15


Moiya 15:16

To adapt to the rest like, maybe you don't have to move, but you can just change your skin to fit whatever the current season is.

Evin 15:24

I'd actually really like that now, because about half my research budget tends to go to sunscreen. So like, if we could just do that now, that'd be amazing.

Moiya 15:33

That's so much sunscreen! Yeah, go ahead, Ian.

Ian 15:40

Sorry, having a lot of thoughts. But um, the thing about evolution is there's so much more creative than ... at least than I am because with that sort of non-random selection of randomness, like you can come up with these crazy sort of adaptations and solutions to these problems that like, you know, be so interesting to see what we're talking about, like, what would actually happen that we can't even fathom?

Moiya 16:03

Yeah, we can make up anything. And that's what I think is one of the most fun parts of this exercise. We know that evolution will lead to some crazy things, so we can make up whatever we want and it's probably not unrealistic.

Evin 16:17

Thinking about resources and things to explain, if we have a bunch of moons, and presumably, they don't all rise and set at the same time. Well, that is going to change light during the day as well. So you're unlikely to have like, you know, except for rare rare occurrences, like truly pitch black nights. So you might have a whole range of plants, for example, that can function off just enough of the sunlight that's reflected at night.

Moiya 16:39


Evin 16:39

It can kind of change those growing seasons. Well, that changes kind of what times of the day or what times the year. What times of the season that like you could potentially be harvesting, whether it's domesticated plants or wild plants, but like, you know, if you have more reflected light, it could change you know, day time is not the only time that things can grow. You know, we have things that grow in caves. They grow underground that grow deep in the sea with just like fractional amounts of kind of light coming through. If you have a bunch of moons.

Ian 17:07

Any annual or diurnal pattern would be kind of thrown into lock.

Moiya 17:14

Yes, absolutely.

Evin 17:16

Also the werewolves, it might be really hard for them.

Moiya 17:20

It'd be so hard to be a werewolf on this planet.

Evin 17:22

Like, would you have fractional werewolves where like, it would kind of like scale up and down depending on how many moons were in full at the same time?

Moiya 17:30

Or maybe the werewolves would form factions that are loyal to just like different moons, and so you only become a werewolf when your moon is full.

Evin 17:39

That would be fantastic.

Moiya 17:44

Lev, let's go back to your point about technology, what types of tools and technologies will be developed to make their lives easier?

Lev 17:55

That's a great question. One of the first things that popped into my mind when you said that this is an amphibious people is are they able to somehow take advantage of large flora, like lily pads? Right? When they're not necessarily hopping across oceans on tops of whales? Like what are some things that they adapt from their environment in order to get around, in order to interact with each other. And so I really like this idea of somehow taking what we know here on planet Earth, and just making it bigger, like not just the starfish, but also the lily pads. Are there flowers that these people incubate in? Or, like, what are their sleeping chambers look like? So I think it's really interesting to explore, like, how they can dovetail and utilize all these different nature, that's oversized? I got to wrap my mind around that first, but that's sort of where my head's going.

Ian 18:47

When you said, "lily pad", the first thing I thought was getting some sort of solar energy from like, a panel, this sort of floating on the surface that they were utilizing.

Lev 18:56

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Moiya 18:59

[Especially like Evin said], there's so much more reflected light from the moons, and so generating power by collecting light would probably be much more effective on this planet. It looks like we can imagine three different groups of dominant species. You know, land people, amphibians and then underwater people, where they each have their own advantages, and they each kind of gain power in their respective regions, which would be great because then you can start to think about how they would interact with each other. So what would happen if, you know a strong amphibian interacts with one of these underwater creatures? What can they offer each other?

Ian 19:46

I mean, there could just be like a never-ending war between the three.

Evin 19:52

Yeah, I think this is where it'd be really curious to see how their dependence on each other could reshape that because when we think about kind of you know nomads and stuff, we tend to think about people who are very good at doing all the things by themselves. But one of the other options is that they're very good at doing one thing. And that one thing makes them dependent on others. But there's others who can't do that thing are also dependent on them. So you end up with more of what we call "heterarchy", which tends to be a group of kind of linked specialists. Instead of hierarchies that kind of dictate things, you get heterarchy, where everyone's dependent upon each other, which in an area or a world where the seasons are insane. That can be really helpful, because if everything's going well then the fishers and the rice growers and the herders - everyone's doing fine, they don't really need each other. But if you have a year where like, the seasons are insane, the rice growers can't grow shit. They depend on the others. Well, if something goes horribly wrong, and like all of the animals die, well then they can rely on the other two. So if you have a world where the seasons are this intense, but you don't have, you know, it's, as we kind of talked about, it's likely that these different zones have vastly different kind of flora, fauna resources. So if your seasons are intense, having relationships across all of those can be really important for the survival of all of them, but not necessarily at the same time. So it could either go like fully embattled, or fully dependent so good kind of cross zone relationships.

Ian 21:21

Yeah, and different species cooperate with other species in certain sort of symbiotic ways, like cleaner fish and gut bacteria and things like that.

Moiya 21:32

Yeah. Yeah, and that's this is part of what you study, Evin, right? Is how humans and animals get along. So can you imagine any sort of paths for these different creatures in these different regions to develop those kind of symbiotic relationships?

Evin 21:50

Yeah, and I mean, even if they're not necessarily like fully symbiotic, if you can think about kind of, you know, technologies or resources that could develop in one area that might be super useful, and another one. So it's for, like, you know, obviously working animals. It's what I think about most. And you know, especially in the days before plastics. Bone is one of our most important material resources because it is a very plastic substance. So most things that are made by plastic today, were made by bone in the past. So, you know, I know what mammal bone is like. Marine mammal bone is a little bit different, but like amphibian bone, it might have some really cool characteristics that like if it was scaled... You know, frog bones are so tiny, we can't do much with them. But if those were to be scaled up in different ways, they might have different characteristics that can be super, super useful for tools across the kind of different zonal regions. Or like if we have these lily pads or you know, giant kelp that has the wherewithal to withstand these tides, that might be an incredible material for kind of production of other things that could be useful, not just in aquatic environments, but kind of across that spectrum.

Moiya 22:57

Yeah, like the land people who I see like living on the mountains to stay far away from the water. They could use some very strong kelp material to build things.

Evin 23:09

Yeah. Yeah, it could just be kind of insanely strong or very light or very waterproof or very like, you know.

Moiya 23:17

Yeah. One obstacle that I think a lot of people have in their minds when they're trying to think of very advanced underwater civilizations is that it's hard to picture electronics underwater or like being developed underwater and so Lev, maybe you can weigh in on this like, how is it possible to develop technology underwater? Is this in your wheelhouse?

Lev 23:44

It's it's not in my wheelhouse, but a few animals come to mind like any animals deep in the sea that have certain appendages that glow, like I'm thinking about angler fish or electrical eels any animals that are capable of naturally generating some type of phosphorescent light or electrical current. If we're talking about an intelligent society that evolves around these features, I could totally see there being some sort of like, very, like organic, biologically driven, like electrical technological process. Right, and let's imagine like going even further beyond the ability to create light bulbs that because somehow this energy, it's a form of communication between these animals, that they're able to synthesize it and control it, and turn it into bytes and bits and pieces of information, right? And develop their own electronic communication systems, their own computer systems, the ability to actually store memories and information. So I think that evolution is beyond my scope of understanding. But I think the bare materials are already there. And we've seen it happen in nature on this planet, so it would be interesting to see how these species adapt those technologies on their planet.

Moiya 25:00

That's amazing. I'm picturing some like underwater palace. And instead of candles being in all of the chandeliers, it's a tiny little bio luminescent sprites.

Lev 25:12

Yeah, precisely.

Moiya 25:13

Thanks, Lev. I feel like this planet lends itself really well to some ridiculous mythology. So one of the things that people around the world do is come up with stories to explain the world around them. And if you live in a world that's constantly changing, you're going to want to come up with a reason why. So, can anyone think of a story or a myth? A reason for why, at least like early kind of ancient people on this planet, like how would they explain what's happening to them?

Ian 25:59

Don't the typical explanations involve like some ... intelligent like anima like ... something that sets things in motion? I mean, I'm asking us a question, but I think that's the case.

Moiya 26:13

A lot of them do. Yeah. Or some very powerful god-like creature. Yeah.

Ian 26:19

Yeah, there's usually some drama involved in it as well.

Moiya 26:24

Absolutely, like someone pissed someone else off.

They slept with their wife, and then they slept with the other wife, and then their wives slept together, and then someone lost various appendages, and then there was life. And then there was life. If you got the Egyptian route.

Of course, there would be different myths around the world.

Ian 26:46

Yeah, yeah. And I think one of the cause of things is that the drama seems to be like continual so that without a resolution insight. I'd say maybe like warring or like you know, tribes or something along those lines.

Evin 27:04

You know, there tend to be lots of kind of solar gods, solar deities that have kind of supreme power of our Pantheon, or at least very powerful within a belief system. And in this case, it might be lunar god/gods.

Moiya 27:16


Evin 27:17

They're just so many of them.

Moiya 27:20

And maybe maybe they're fighting maybe the lunar gods and the sun god are fighting against each other. And the oceans and the changing weather are all consequences of the battle between these powerful beings.

Ian 27:38

Yeah, I think that's probably what would happen because anything that we can't predict, it's usually some other entity that's controlling it.

Moiya 27:45

Yeah. Definitely. Do you think they might try and do things to either keep themselves safe or try and make it stop? I'm thinking like rituals that they might do.

Ian 28:03

Yeah, sacrifices.

Moiya 28:06


Evin 28:06

The classic go to for the human species.

Moiya 28:09

Pretty much, unfortunately.

Evin 28:15

So kind of within Mayan belief systems, is the idea of an animate forest. So where the forest itself, you know, there's the home zone, and then there's the forest. And that kind of forest is animate. And so are there particular rules you have for your relationship with the forest, and we see that manifest and how they treat their hunted animals. So when you are kind of hunting and eating a wild animal, you treat it very differently from a domestic animal. So when you kind of kill a domestic animal, you can throw the bones to the dogs and you can kind of scatter them around and they can get weathered and it doesn't really matter, because it's part of the home world, but with a wild animal. We see this kind of in how different bones are deposited. It has to be treated very carefully because that wild animal belongs to the animate forest. And if you don't want to piss off the animate forest, you have to make sure that those bones you know, you try not to leave any marks. You don't let them go to the dogs, you kind of don't let them get weatered, and they all get deposited back in the forest so that they will again come back as you know, future animals. And so kind of if you had to think about how you needed to appease the powerful forces in your world, that might also be part of it. If there were certain kind of animals or foods or resources that were more associated with the moons as one example. There might be particular belief systems about how those had to be treated, so it's not very volatile. Or I can easily see how people living on the land and and the amphibians could think that the ocean being as unpredictable as it is, has a mind of its own. And so it's like a living ocean and that takes the place of the animate forest.

Ian 29:52

There'd probably be a bunch of quacks too, that could try to convince people that they could have some ability to control it.

Moiya 29:59

There'd be a whole like charlatan, you know, underground market for things that don't work, but they're totally claiming that they can change your life and keep your seasons stable for years.

Evin and Ian 30:18


Evin 30:10

I mean, you just have to look at all of the lore for like sailors and kind of, you know, rituals around ships and you know, even on our world with one moon, that things people would try and do to kind of protect themselves from the sea, because it is so you know, it provides so much, but also so dangerous at the same time. I could see sharks being very important, but that might just be because I realy like sharks.

Moiya 30:10

You mentioned bones earlier, Evin, and I know you do archaeology in your work. Would that type of research be really difficult on this planet? Like does the unpredictable environment, lead to things being destroyed so much that maybe archaeology wouldn't exist as a field on this world?

Evin 31:03

Yeah, I mean, it's, you know, what preserves is really down to luck and a lot of times, so it comes down to, you know, luck, but also like how people treat their remains. So if you, you know, with the kind of time periods I'm looking at, for my research right now anyway, they have a habit of kind of burying all their refuse, which is perfect. It's great for us because it's like here archaeologist. Here's what we've been working on. So a good example is kind of, if you go back in time in Britain, you know, way back, and that the tradition there for burials is not to bury people, but it's, they call an excarnation. So it's kind of like sky burials, Tibetan sky burials. You leave the bones, you leave the people out so that they can be kind of returned to whomever. And so for those who have very little evidence because it was intended to be reincorporated back into the world So for these people, it would depend, you know. If you're talking about people that are living in the oceans or under the oceans, if they're just kind of like letting their remains, their refuse, go into the ocean, we're not going to get much.

Ian 31:07

So things are preserved better buried on land than they are underwater?

Evin 32:20

Depends on kind of, you know, because we do have some great underwater examples of like ships for example, or kind of parts that had been covered back over, you know, when England and Europe were one landmass now that we're getting better at kind of underwater stuff. There's been really great survey work that's been done in the archaeology that's still under there and you've got things like preserved posts and all kinds of stuff because water can preserve stuff. Um, so there could be archaeology and you know, if you have a catastrophic event ... if some massive tidal event destabilizes the land and so you get like a land mudslide over an entire village like that's perfect for archaeology. Like it's a great snapshot of like everything that was there upon Pompeii event, essentially. So yeah, it really depends; some stuff would absolutely be gone and other stuff depends on how much people are trying to like, keep hold of their stuff and bury it. Kind of like squirrels, we like squirrels. Squirrels help us.

Moiya 33:26

Squirrels are great. What about their art? You know, it's an important part of every culture. Its the art that you produce and leave behind. So this is a question for all of you. What what type of art do you think they might produce on this planet? And be expansive 'cause we create so many different types of art here.

Lev 33:48

I think there's a certain I mean, impermanence, but also permanence to corals. I like the idea of thinking that somehow they learn how to harness the power of coral growth and also changing the colors of the corals. So I see even going back to the element of religion and maybe the idea of pilgrimages, or gathering around certain icons for monuments that are self created. I think that might become an important piece of art, the ability to grow coral in certain ways, maybe the ability to embed seashells in certain ways if they're able to really understand that technology that replenishes itself quickly, but also the fossils that we see on earth today that tend to preserve, you know, can they leverage those types of natural materials and turn it into art?

Evin 34:32

I love the idea of coral. I don't know if you guys are familiar with Terry Pratchett's "Discworld", but in one of them, the wizards' university they build a computer called hex and so when they need to have more storage for the computer, because hex is basically ants, anyway doesn't matter. The important part -

Lev 34:52

No, that sounds really interesting.

Evin 34:53

When they need more storage space for the computer's memory, they use beehives, these honeycomb. And so I love the idea of kind of it being coded into coral as well, where kind of the coral are part of, you know, building this data storage structure, but just in the underwater version. Ian, I know you do music things, do you have thoughts about what type of music might be very popular on this world?

Ian 35:23

Yeah. So, I mean, since you brought up art, you know, I've been kind of thinking about the function of it. And, you know, for music, you know, there's some evidence that basically the way that we convey emotion in our speech is with combinations of tones, which we now call scales. So the idea is that we have evolved adaptations to be able to encode our emotions in the various collections of pitches when we talk and to decode them as well; and music is just sort of what they call "supernormal sign stimulus" ... Maybe music wise ... I guess it would depend on how they communicated emotion. But then there's some other art forms, too, that I guess may have the function of storytelling or a lot of our art is the things that we naturally find aesthetically pleasing. So probably naked amphibians, which would be a big part of the art or maybe, you know, whatever was really adapted for them. So maybe, let's say, it was really adapted for them to go closer to the surface during the daytime, then maybe like all their art would be like this huge, beautiful pictures of suns; or maybe it was adapted for them to go underwater, when the moon was out, then maybe there is this ominous picture of this moon or something. That's sort of what I was thinking right?

Moiya 37:00

I'm thinking about how much I don't know about the way that my brain reacts to music. I know that you know when I'm sad, and I want to make myself happy again, I'll listen to certain types of music. And I know that there's a lot of psychology in that.

Ian 37:17

Gill and Furst, they did these studies where they asked people to just say something in a happy way. And the participant like, "okay", and then they said, say something in a sad way; and they're like, "okay", and then they did. But when they looked at the pitches of the ... I guess the passages that when someone says something in a happy way, they were the major notes, the notes of the major scale, when someone says something in a sad way, it was the notes of the minor scale, more often than not; which suggests that people encode their emotion in these combinations of pitches which is why we sort of see [in] music now, minor scales are sad and major scales is happy. I think, it's comes from, you know, emotion communication. So yes, it would depend upon that, but the other thing is that like, with art, what would we find pleasing and a lot of the things that we find pleasing are things that are sort of exploiting our adaptations now. So like, we, you know, we like art that shows like, you know, beautiful foliage and everything because, you know, that means, okay, there's water, there's flowers around, you know, there's vegetation. You know, we like naked bodies.

Moiya 38:26

Looking at Lev's background right now.

Ian 38:29

Yeah, I mean, that's a perfect example. Like, that just looks really beautiful to me, but the thing is that it looks beautiful to me, because I evolved to find it beautiful, there's nothing intrinsically beautiful about it. It's just that I've evolved to find it beautiful. So the question then would be, you know, what would they evolve to find beautiful and they'd probably just exaggerate that in their art.

Moiya 38:50

Yeah. The flip side of that is what would they evolve to fear?

Ian 38:58

Maybe ... the land dwellers, if maybe the sea dwellers would fear the land dwellers.

Moiya 39:06

What did the land dwellers do to them?

Ian 39:09

Fish, or whatever their natural predator is, I think that's what they would fear.

Evin 39:19

You know, kind of thinking about seasons where it gets a little "Game of Thrones"-esque, where when all of a sudden, you know, a bad season is coming you know where it might change so yeah, White Walkers that come with the cold winters. So like these, you know, terrifying monster, like cold zombies. I can't think of a better way to explain that right now. But you know they might either be kind of an actual different species that during bad seasons would move into regions that they might necessarily have normal relations with. And so kind of fear of when you have those big changes, that it might force other people's, other animals to kind of expand their normal ranges. So they kind of work into kind of both mythologies and the fears is that when there are these big changes, we know that we have people that either we never see before or that normally we'd have normal trading relations with, but now everything's kind of up in the air and like, people are kind of battening down the hatches and ready for battle. So kind of seasonal changes, you know, especially if they're not regular, so it's not like every year we have winter, summer, winter, summer, winter, summer instead, "Game of Thrones" style, we might have 100 year winter, a 50 year winter, it totally changes how these things work and also in N.K. Jemisin with the seasons where sometimes they're short, sometimes they're long, sometimes there's acid rain. Right, but they have developed almost like a law. It's law and myths, working together in "The Broken Earth" trilogy topass down information about how you deal with these changing seasons. Something that they might pass down and maybe they will come up with, you know, technology to encode it maybe in the corals.

Lev 41:12

Well, that's what's interesting, the dichotomy between mythology and technology, and ever so often new technology comes out and it's typically on the fringe. And if it disrupts that sense of security that mythology or religion gives, depending on the technology, but very often, the people that are proponents of that tech or inventors, they become pariahs, and ostracized. And, you know, even now, when we're talking about what does automation mean for the state of the global economy? I think anytime that people's security or way of tradition is threatened, that an existential crisis. And so I think that's another thing that these different species are going to have to contend with. Like as we determine the science of phosphorescence and figure out how to scale that by like, "is there going to be a portion of this population that prefers, not knowing the answer to that, or is uncomfortable with the idea of actually taking advantage of it and exploiting that resource"? So I think we're going to deal with those types of factors as well.

Moiya 42:10

Yeah, that's very possible. But I think it's also possible that because change is so present in their lives that maybe ... traditions aren't as big a thing for them. They're used to change and so they're very okay with new technology coming online.

Lev 42:33

Yeah, that's possible. Maybe stagnation is what they fear the most.

Moiya 42:40

We are almost at the end of the hour. So I'd like to give each of you the opportunity to maybe say like one last thing that you feel would be really cool, or, you know, important to say about this planet that we didn't talk about in the discussion.

Lev 42:56

I agree with what Evin, Ian and you Moiya with everything what you said, and sometimes I think when going through these thought exercises, how much of what we imagine is biased by our conception of reality. Like throughout this whole exercise, I was thinking of the prequel Star Wars Episode "Amphibious People", and just like, for some reason, these amphibious creatures being bipedal, and then interacting and sort of evolving the way that we do, but you know, who's to say that what life looks like on this planet isn't just totally radically different from what we're capable of imagining? So even this thought exercise with all the biases still makes me think that there's just so much possibility out there.

Moiya 43:42

Absolutely. Yeah. And you, when you build new fictional worlds, you draw so much on what you know about your own that it's, it's a really great, I say this a lot. It's a really great introspective and reflective exercise.

Evin 43:56

It's something that like as kind of archaeologists and even anthropologists like we have to do it or not, we do it all the time, or as much as we should, we're kind of trying to acknowledge those biases be like, "okay, so this is what this thing seems to be to me but is that because it's similar to something in my own realm, that may or may not have been shaped by the same forces may or may not have the same purpose". And so, you know, even though this is kind of a fiction exercise, like it's still something that like, we - I have to do, you know, in my daily life. We're kind of working in the past because even the same planet goes back 2,000 years, people can make very different choices 'cause people are weird. And we make all kinds of choices and they're not always what we would consider, you know, the most logical choice plus, you know, you just change a few variables and all of a sudden, you know, kind of responses and reasons can be totally different. So, it's always a fun exercise to kind of confront those biases and be like, "okay, so wait, why is everything bipedal here? Is that actually necessary"?

Moiya 44:59

Yeah. All right, cool. Well, thank you so much for lending me your time and your brains. I'd like the viewers to be able to learn more about you. So, Lev if people want to catch up on what you're doing, where can they find more about you?

Lev 45:15

The best place is probably to find me on Twitter. So the handle is @DJLevitown back from my high school and college DJing days.

Moiya 45:27

Also, what are you up to now? What are you currently working on?

Lev 45:30

So I work for Amazon Web Services, specifically in their analytics group. So if you're interested in learning about cloud technologies that companies or people can use to visualize their data, and develop actionable insights from that data, feel free to hit me up. I'm happy to chat.

Moiya 45:45

Awesome, Ian what about you?

Ian 45:48

So I've got my webpage, that's lawrenceianreed.net that I need to update more frequently. And I have a tendency to stick my foot in my mouth sometimes. So I try to stay away from social media, but you can always email me at Lr113@nyu.edu

Moiya 46:08

For all your abnormal psychology questions, right? And Evin, what about you?

Evin 46:14

So my Instagram is usually where I'm posting a lot of museum stuff then again, there's a lot of backlog that needs to be posted, but it's a Mexican kind of museum work. I'm doing the archaeology work I'm doing various food animals bones gun guy that I ran into the world. So that's @Evintheterrible. There may or may not be other things that are going to be set up but they're not right now. So that or you can email me at my Columbia address. So that's EFT2122@Columbia.edu

Moiya 46:55

All right. Well, thanks again for having having this conversation with me. I have one last thing I'd like to ask you. Would you want to visit this planet?

Evin 47:06


Ian 47:09

I would be scared. What if they're having a global pandemic right now?

Moiya 47:15

Right? Look it can't be any worse than ours, right?

Lev, what were you gonna say?

Lev 47:20

Oh, I just I'd love to listen to some of the music that they develop on that planet. See what kind of emotions it evokes inside of me.

Moiya 47:27

Just like they're so used to things not having regular intervals that maybe an album has like one song that's 15 seconds. And then the next song is 20 minutes long. It just can't imagine how...

Lev 47:41

Just a symphony of croaks.

Moiya 47:43


Evin 47:44

Yeah. And if it was an underwater version, or an above water version, totally changed things.

Moiya 47:51

Yeah, absolutely. All right. Well, I hope you continue to think about this world and inhabit it in whatever way you see fit. I would have a lot of fun writing a story about this. So if you feel inclined to create your own art, please do so. Yeah, thanks so much again for being on and that's Exolore! Thank you so much for watching the video. If you feel compelled to make your own art, then I'd love to see it, share it with the #Exolore and I'll be sure to check it out. If you want to see more imaginary fictional worlds, then subscribe to the channel so you never miss a new video when it comes out. And I'll see you next time on another world.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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