Sunday, December 26, 2004

Indonesian 'hobbit' legends may be factual

"The story had previously been dismissed as a legend - along with other tales of 'little people' living in isolated rainforests that are common elsewhere in Indonesia and Southeast Asia."

Indeed, common just about everywhere. And again I'm drawn to the possibility that not only might some of these once-mythical creatures still be alive, but to the prospect that we've actually interacted with them in modern times -- possibly without even realizing them for what they are.

Say you're an ancestor of the Flores "hobbits" and you don't want to be found. It might seem prudent to disguise the facts surrounding your existence, knowing full-well that homo sapiens' technology is bound to detect traces now and then. One good subterfuge -- assuming you have access to the technology to pull it off -- is to appear to be of extraterrestrial origin. With humans watching the skies for aliens, you can effectively control their beliefs, up to and including belief in the possibility that they share the planet with one or more species of intelligent bipeds.

Technological development is an enigma. Archaeological evidence suggests that sometimes it comes in discreet quantum jumps. Ancient Sumerian civilization, for example, came out of virtually nowhere, prompting many "ancient astronaut" scenarios; none other than Carl Sagan wondered if the famous Oannes myth was an actual record of ET contact. Visiting aliens aside, who knows how long it might take for a race of hominids to develop a sophisticated technology? It's possible the hobbits were forced to compress the time between their Stone Age and Information Age to merely hundreds of years. Or maybe, for a nonhuman civilization, there was simply no need for an incremental transition; their method of thinking could be fundamentally different -- and vastly more efficient.

Couple this with the so-called "Singularity" that seems to hover over our own technological horizon. Many "transhumanists" think that in 20 years or so we will begin making exponential strides due to advances in artificial intelligence -- redefining "human" in the process. Perhaps the hobbits, or someone like them, has already enjoyed something equivalent to the Singularity, in which case dealing with them is likely to be as strange as dealing with actual extraterrestrials.

No comments: