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Setting: Far future space based science fiction. Think Star Trek: Enterprise levels of tech with more consistency and more resources if that helps.

There are 4 sentient species in my setting:

  • Homo Sapiens Sapiens
  • Homo Martiensis (Martians)
  • Dar
  • Awrx

The Martians are the descendants of the first colonists. They are generally better adapted to low gravity and high radiation. They are tall, not lanky but generally lacking in musculature (by comparison to humans) due to extra "water weight" that helps with radiation. Culturally they are known for a strong appreciation for knowledge and are generally more naturally intelligent than most humans but also generally weaker and lighter.

The Dar are not a hive mind but they are very collectivist and have a chromataphore based language that allows incredibly dense transfers of information in parallel. Essentially its like having multiple conversations at once with different people that don't get confused with each other but they do amalgamate into a whole. Allowing for astounding levels of teamwork in the species because they can group together and make plans very efficiently. Especially because in their family structure parents are always estranged. It is your siblings that you stay with for life in a family unit who's name roughly translates to "circle" or "ring" as they tend to stand in circles when communicating at high bandwidths. They are also, not silicon based, but more like mobile coral or other rock like forms of life and thus are structurally strong but brittle. They are the only species that does not ban and distrust Artificial Intelligence.

The Awrx are large muscly green creatures from a super-earth with lots of sunshine. They are relatively radiation resistant because they can "eat" a lot of it. Culturally they are very direct but diplomatic. Their emotional centres are more developed than ours and their history is full of cold wars but almost no hot ones. I tend to think of them as being strong like a cow rather than strong like a jaguar. Neither of which are creatures I'd like to mess with. They are also herbivorous meaning their relationship with the animals on their planet went down a very different route. Generally less naturally intelligent than humans but they are by no means stupid and "the cream" is historically better at rising to the top in most of their cultures compared with most of ours. They are the only species with a strong dislike of cybernetics and genetic enhancements.

Which just leaves the humans.

There are several things my research has led me to such as "Sweat" suggesting we are more enduring over long distance than most land species and superior balance.

A friend of mine has also suggested that as a species we are far more enduring when injured than most species. He cited as example things like deer just dying from shock at a minor injury whereas there are stories of humans that have had just horrific things happened to them and they've stayed awake the whole way through but I don't know how true this is and any more professional sources would be appreciated.

I want the humans to be in charge and not in an entirely nice way. The Solar Aegis is an stratocratic empire that is pretty nice to live in for most people but rising through the ranks is tough and not necessarily based on merit.

What do humans have going for them that makes this possible?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Joe Bloggs, Ash, workerjoe, Confounded by beige fish., Mathaddict May 21 at 20:11

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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    $\begingroup$ Isn't it quite racist to call them "humans" while Homo Martinesis are their descendants? Being a martian, I'd certainly demand the ancestral species be called "earthlings". $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak May 21 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ Believe me there's plenty of tension there in the story. Just trying to keep things easy and concise for the post/ $\endgroup$ – Douglas May 21 at 12:56
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    $\begingroup$ Just use the Star Trek Mirror Universe traits: Humans are more aggressive, cunning, politically astute, exploitative, self-interested, and luckier than the others. $\endgroup$ – user535733 May 21 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ H. martianus, maybe H. martialis, possibly H. marticola, even H. martius in a pinch, but definitely not H. martiensis -- *martiensis is simply not a word in Latin. $\endgroup$ – AlexP May 21 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ Seems like this obviously depends on your story. Literature should have some kind of a point to it. If you want to emphasize humans as greedy and wasteful, you make them like the humans in Avatar. If you want to emphasize humans as courageous and principled, you make them like the humans in Star Trek. Etc. $\endgroup$ – workerjoe May 21 at 17:27
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Earth has a technological advantage over everyone else. That is why they are in charge.

The martians are living on a dead world, so most of their resources go into just staying alive.

The Dar circles are naturally cooperative, so their history is peaceful and mostly conflict free. Their technology is amazing, but it is non-aggressive and often shares power among all of its users rather than reinforces a hierarchical command structure.

The Awrx aren't as smart as us and have a physical strength advantage so they aren't as motivated as us to develop a technological advantage.

As with most of human history, the side with the most guns and the best guns get to be in charge. The Earth human advantage is that we have always known this, so we came to the party armed.

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  • $\begingroup$ The Dar DO trust AI $\endgroup$ – Douglas May 21 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ But I do like the last paragraph there/ $\endgroup$ – Douglas May 21 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ oops. I misread that. I will edit $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor May 21 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ It makes a lot of sense considering the Dar had a pretty lifeless moon to grow up on. Not much biodiversity. $\endgroup$ – Douglas May 21 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ So, we're the ones that bring the gun to the knife-fight? $\endgroup$ – Baldrickk May 21 at 14:38
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Compared to the other races humans are psychotic. The other races (with the possible exception of the martians) would - literally - die before taking another life, humans can have lots of coping mechanisms for squaring away murder (self defense, first strike, the greater good).

The martians are few in number, and see life as very precious given the harsh environment they inhabit.

The other races hope they can steer our maturity as a species, and take the view that it's better to have us on the inside pissing out, than on the outside pissing in.

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    $\begingroup$ "coping mechanisms" is an excellent point. As an intelligent, social, predatory species, warlike species, that generally values morality our minds have a lot of ways of compartmentalizing hostility to keep our egos intact. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki May 21 at 14:09
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One thing that you failed to mention as cultural traits is creativity. And this is what makes humanity special... most of the other races are sort of mono-cultures with little varience. Humans are fractured into nations and divided over religions and which fictional universes are the best. We've gone to war over the silliest of reasons... and that was before we met an alien life forms! But those same negative sides have lead to some amazing achievements in arts, and culture, and having the insane notion to combine a pizza with a bagel! Humanity thinks outside of the box and can provide solutions to problems no one would think of.

In my own fiction, aliens who know of humans have a saying: You can not kill a human. The reason for this is that they realize humans are organized in loose and inter-related clans... in order to kill a human, you must kill his family... and their families... and then his tribe (nations) and eventually, his entire species. Humans are perfectly willing to work with you for a common peace, but they will fight until either you back off or you kill every last one of them. And the problem with that is humans understand the concept of a fair fight... but they choose to ignore that. They will make you fight a fierce battle for every inch of territory.

Other series saw some unique options that may or may not be true. For example, in Animorphs, the two warring alien races (The Andelites and the Yeerks) both come to the conclusions about humans that terrify them. The Andelites recognize that that humans technology advanced much more swiftly than their own, having achieved orbital space flight mere decades after the first flight (their own interval between their two achievements is measured in centuries) and they fear that humans might achieve FTL in a few more decades... and are wide-eyed with horror when they realize the basic understanding of the concepts are developed in the course of the series. The Yeerks, a race of parasitic Brain Slugs, realized they had to switch tactics from an all out invasion to a secret invasion when the initial scout who found humans reported back to her superiors that humans were a Class 5 species (Ideal class to infest) numbering about 5 Billion (this was made in the 90s)... and they responded "Surely you mean 5 million" which was more comparable to most species population numbers.

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Looking at this kinda from the hugely negative side...

  • You describe the Awrx as cowards, always getting mad at one another but never actually throwing a punch.

  • You describe the Dar as cooperative to a fault, socially incapable of making individual decisions. Cohesive as a group they're wet noodles caught alone in a dark alley.

  • Your martians are natural isolationists. Settlers. People who want to be left alone and build fences to protect what's theirs.

And the Terrans...

Your Earthers are pioneers, they can't stand the idea that there's someplace they don't know about, haven't visited, cannot overcome, and consequently, cannot claim as their own. But this expansionist, "that's mine, too!" behavior isn't enough....

Let me tell you about a co-worker I once had. He was aggressive, perfectly willing to step on the people around him to stand a little taller in the company. He manipulated every situation to make him the savior, the obvious decision maker, and the only one who could be trusted to protect the company. He isolated labor from management, ensuring that management only ever saw that he was the perfect person to control the masses. (Management literally couldn't believe and wouldn't believe our complaints.) He enjoyed playing the intracorporate political games and the pain he caused others. He turned a company that was family into a group of strangers that couldn't trust one another. After a year, everybody was walking on eggshells. It took me years to understand what he was in a single word — and your Earthers are the same thing.

Your Terrans are sociopaths

From Psychology Today, "How to Spot a Sociopath":

  • Superficial charm and good intelligence
  • Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
  • Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations
  • Unreliability
  • Untruthfulness and insincerity
  • Lack of remorse and shame
  • Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
  • Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
  • Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
  • General poverty in major affective reactions
  • Specific loss of insight
  • Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
  • Fantastic and uninviting behavior with alcohol and sometimes without
  • Suicide threats rarely carried out
  • Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated
  • Failure to follow any life plan

From a social standpoint, nearly all of these would define a naturally aggressive and controlling species that's a pain in everyone else's collective behind, but you'd be unable to easily move them out of the halls of government. They'd be too good at making every other species look like the villain.

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    $\begingroup$ "You choose to cause suffering in others purely to see how people react? Is your entire species like this?" - "Nah mate, just the fun ones" $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs May 21 at 16:08
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I like both these other answers, but in addition to humans are crazy and like guns, I’d like to add a few more options here.

Humans are adaptable

Out of all the creatures on planet earth, nothing can match humans at their ability to adapt to new environments or situations, or even better, change said environments and situations to suit their needs. Name another creature, (besides maybe tardigrades), that can exist in the desert, the tundra, in mountains, on plains, on the ocean, in the ocean, in the sky, in space, and apparently other planets. Even crazier, humans often times explore or even settle in wildly hostile terrain for no other reason than because they can, or because another human said that it was impossible. Humans are always trying to improve and push the limits of what is possible.

Humans are predators

Although we don’t normally think of ourselves this way, humans are the alpha predator on planet earth. Which, I might add, we manage to accomplish by throwing pointy sticks at things and walking behind them until they die. Due to our body plan, intelligence, and again, adaptability, humans always win a war of attrition.

Humans are determined

Because of our persistence predator nature, humans are nearly impossible to subjugate. In fact, if history has taught us anything, it is impossible to keep humans from eventually dominating everything around them, be it their environment, animals, or even other humans. This is because humans are stubborn and determined, once their minds are set on something they are pretty much unstoppable in pursuit of that goal, and are willing to use any tactic necessary to achieve it.

So to put it all together, humans are an adaptable, determined, super predator with a powerful drive to dominate everything around them. So it’s not going to remotely strain the suspension of disbelief for you to have them be the dominant party in this scenario.

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    $\begingroup$ The intelligence of these other species is essentially on par with humans which poses an issue with your first point. Just statistical distributions and the expression of that intelligence that change really. However the determined predator stuff is very relevant. $\endgroup$ – Douglas May 21 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ That’s true, they would have the intelligence necessary to modify their environment. However, psychologically we put ourselves in extreme situations and sometimes even decide to live there, basically just because we can. So even if the other races’ abilities are the same, they might not have the same will to act on it as humans. +1 for pointing that out though, thanks! $\endgroup$ – Nick May 21 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ The lack of necessity would certainly stunt the Awrx growth in that department, but once shown new tech they'd be able to work it out. $\endgroup$ – Douglas May 21 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ The Dar however might be better suited to hostile environments because they lived underground for a good portion of their existence. The first "surface" vehicles would have been technologically equivalent to our submarines. $\endgroup$ – Douglas May 21 at 14:07
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    $\begingroup$ I mean it did put us on the moon. Haha! Also side note, using that line at some point in the future. $\endgroup$ – Nick May 21 at 14:09

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