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Alas, the galaxy has been colonized for many millenia. Hundreds, if not thousands, of advanced civilizations have emerged. Empires have risen, fallen, and the scourge of intelligent life forms continues to be - you guessed it - war.

Amongst the thousands of advanced lifeforms sprinkled across the MIlky Way, what makes humans special?

We may not have the regenerative ability of those creatures from X-432, or the hive mind of B-233, but surely, there is something that sets us apart. Right? RIGHT!?!?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Frostfyre, Rob Watts, Mołot, Joe Bloggs, Vincent Aug 8 '18 at 22:08

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Not sure I understand the question - isn't that completely dependent on the aliens you establish in your world? Maybe humans are the only ones able to perceive their environment further than 5 yards away. Maybe they're the only ones who can touch water without dying. Or the only ones who understand the concept of currency. $\endgroup$ – Krateng Aug 8 '18 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ This question is way too broad. I could say our difference is that we have 4 fingers and a thumb. $\endgroup$ – Trevor Aug 8 '18 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ I think you're going to need to reconsider the frame of your question. "Uniqueness" doesn't have explicit criteria. The humans being from Earth makes them special, since no other intelligent species came from Earth. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Aug 8 '18 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ This is both way too broad and absolutely opinion based, so I'm afraid that the question won't survive without major refining. Please edit the question to narrow the scope and provide some sort of framework for the evaluation of the answers. --- Maybe we are special in that we are alive and the all other civilizations have died out: Fermi's Great Filter in operation. Or maybe we are special because we are the only civilization built by predators. Or maybe we are the only civilization which still has wars and thus a functional military. Or... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 8 '18 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP ha! thank you! can you provide me with the quantitative guide for evaluating answers please? I agree, open-endedness and opinion have no place in this forum. $\endgroup$ – Blondie Aug 8 '18 at 20:49
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The biological and physical distinctions meriting the use of the term "human" instead of any other word describing another species are the very same traits which make us unique.

It seems, however, that you're looking for traits by which humans can compare themselves favorably against other species. Maybe that very inferiority complex which drives us to constantly frame ourselves in terms of this type of question is the same thing which drives us to perform incredible acts which no other species would dare to do. Though the great majority of such brave fools die in the process, nobody can ignore the few who, by skill or dumb luck, have accomplished unimaginable things.

Take John Starlance for example, who single-handedly overthrew the galactic Smorg Empire by sneaking into the heart of their flagship's engineering compartment and switching wires at random until the ship exploded into flames. The rumors about how he survived the ensuing wreck are as numerous as the songs sung about him by the many races which were freed from Smorg oppression on that day. Or who can say how many lives were saved on the day when Bill Parnsworth somehow managed to sneak a salt shaker into a meeting with the General Prelm of the Slug Kingdom? Humanity has been baffling, inspiring, and infuriating the galaxy ever since we first discovered FTL technology and took to the stars.

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  • $\begingroup$ I get that the question is technically too broad, but I couldn't resist taking a stab at it. Hope this helps with your worldbuilding! $\endgroup$ – boxcartenant Aug 8 '18 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for using a salt shaker to assassinate a slug general. $\endgroup$ – Zenon Aug 8 '18 at 20:57
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I'd say, from their perspective, humans are insane, but in a good way. Unlike other species, they invent things without understanding how they work. They went from "stone age" to spaceflight in less than 10,000 years. They discovered electricity and had it planet-wide practically overnight.

But they are crazy. They get in ships that blow up and kill their pilots, then they try something without really being sure if they fixed the problem or not, and get in them again! Their guy that discovered the electrical fields around hearts killed himself by trying to see what would happen if he disrupted his own (true story). They don't test their medicines through comprehensive analysis or simulations, they just inject them into volunteers, and sometimes kill them or give them awful disabilities.

Humans have no caution, they transport themselves at lethal speeds, it kills tens of thousands of them including their own children, yet they still do it multiple times every day. Their tools, their industry, their medicine, their technology, their communications, all of it is unsafe and causes them terrible injury, yet they persist in using it, and persist in not fixing it, even when they know how!

You will see this in the way they fight, you will think they embrace suicide. It is terrifying. You cannot depend on them to take a cautious route, even if one exists. They are unpredictable. Avoid them when ever possible.

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In this instance, you could literally look at the individual biological traits of humanity and imagine those as being non-standard. As a short list:

  • Humans have quite good environmental adaptation, able to live on nearly environment on our planet, from mount Everest to Death Valley. Most species might be biologically bound to persist hemispheres on their home planet and be very confused by our pictures of the Inuit and Sahrawi.
  • Humans are rather good omnivores, capable of eating from every animal and plant phylum with only a small number of exceptions. Seeing us eat cheese, wine, and fish in the same meal might qualify as a magic act to other species.
  • Humans come from a planet rich with biodiversity and can live in stupidly dense groups, making us incredibly good at resisting diseases. Our immune systems might look like Fort Knox compared to the plywood shacks other species use.
  • Humans were originally pursuit hunters with an emphases on projectile tools. That might make us much better (modern) soldiers than others due to our stamina and accuracy. Everyone else needs advanced scopes to hit anything and have a high risk of dying after a mere long march on a hot day.
  • Humans are born almost without instincts and learn everything from the ground up. That might make humans far better at adjusting to new cultures and routines than others. We can practically rewrite our entire lifestyles in three generation or less. Curb-stomp one generation into submission and the next thing you know their grandchildren are fearlessly attacking you again.
  • Humans learned animal husbandry very early in our development and are generally very social, making us able to understand the emotions of different lifeforms with relative ease. This not only lets human colonies use local wildlife more effectively, but aids in diplomatic affairs with other species. Heck, just being the only species with attack dogs would be handy, regardless of setting.

That's all I can think of at the moment, but this demonstrates the general idea of this method. Take one aspect of humanity and think of a situation were humans are among the few that have it. Only real negative is that it weakens any alien species you might have, but, in my opinion, that just makes more interesting conflicts.

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