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Let us say that the humans, with our era of technology plus 5 to 10 years, are contacted by an intergalactic alien union. They want us to join them, and we gladly do. As it is common when several countries with non-military purposes invade each other, they participate in competitions together. Let us say that there is a Miss Universe:

The QUESTION:

How would the evaluation process be like? In Miss Universe here, we value:

  • Intelligence
  • Shapes
  • Oratory
  • etc

What would a Miss Universe be asked? We have several species there, which we can assume that there are at least one species reptilian, one amphibious, and other types, each completely different from each other? What would the evaluation look like?

PS:

No intergalactic wars, no bitter rivalries, the judges aren't biased in any way, we are there, the candidate from our world is there. Only one candidate per species.

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    $\begingroup$ You have been watching too much Futurama (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lesser_of_Two_Evils) :-p $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Nov 19 '14 at 8:19
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    $\begingroup$ They did this on Amazing Stories in the 80s (with Weird Al as the Cabbage Man!) imdb.com/title/tt0511106 $\endgroup$ – Josh Nov 19 '14 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ Two thoughts... first such an event would almost certainly be hosted by the Ferengi... second Miss Qo'Nos? Yikes! $\endgroup$ – Liath Nov 19 '14 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ I am not saying this isn't a legitimate question, but I am saying I laughed at it. $\endgroup$ – James Nov 19 '14 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ As an alternative, contestants could use technology to create images equally attractive to different species. They can use rapid mutation/cosmetic surgery to generate human-reptile-something-else hybrids. Contestants also can use virtual reality/holograms to implement perfect models. They can generate personalized image for every judge/viewer, so human juror will see an attractive man/woman, while insectoid will look at a beautiful dragonfly. I'm not sure if it fits "plus 5 to 10 years" criteria, though :) $\endgroup$ – default locale Nov 19 '14 at 20:21

10 Answers 10

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Sir? Mr? Ma'am? Miss?

In a universe as large as ours (infinitely large, possibly) you're going to have a lot of species with more than two genders. So we can scrap the "Miss". I'm going to assume that there are two possibilities to solve this problem:

  1. Segregate by gender. Just make separate categories: Male, female, etc.
  2. Everyone together. The above only works if the species all generally have male and female gender. This may not be the case for all species. In that case, simply throw everyone together and hope for the best.

What would a miss Universe be asked?

Here are some (possibly humorous) suggestions:

  • "How many languages do you speak?" [Insert question about correct usage of the progressive-future-past-intelligible-participle in the Kalingathrizan language.]
  • "Are your familiar with the [obscure and likely insignificant] War? What lessons can we learn from it to apply to today's wars and other conflicts?"
  • "Have you read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? Do you think it actively represents the social and economic issues in our universe today?"
  • "Can you play $n$ instruments (where $n$ is the number of mouths of the being) at the same time?"
  • "Do you think you are smarter than the average being (accounting for different brain sizes and complexities)?"
  • "Is that a real [insert body part], or an implant? Is that normal in your species?"
  • "If you could have world peace on one world, which one would it be?"
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    $\begingroup$ "Segregate by gender" OMG how dare you!!! $\endgroup$ – Lightness Races with Monica Nov 19 '14 at 13:19
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    $\begingroup$ I also think it would be no problem to rate ANY thinkable category. Each species could send a judge for the jury and each species could define a category beforehand! - Then each judge would not be allowed to vote on his own species, but only on all the others... This would be fair and a great show! $\endgroup$ – Falco Nov 19 '14 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ +1 anyway, but I'd +1 again if I could for "If you could have world peace on one world, which one would it be?" $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Nov 21 '14 at 1:22
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    $\begingroup$ @MooingDuck Sure, I'm well aware of unicellular organisms that reproduce by fission. That's typically called "asexual reproduction" rather than "unisexual" or some such, i.e. it's not the same thing as sex. I guess you could debate whether hermaphroditic species -- and I think plants are effectively hermaphroditic, maybe there's a technical distinction -- have only one sex, or whether each creature is both sexes. 'Not familiar with your male-1/male-2/female example, but whatever. $\endgroup$ – Jay Nov 21 '14 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ Ah ah I'd read that book! But still, this answer is very much set in a human mindframe. (But probably the idea of an intergalactic pageant too...) $\endgroup$ – Sheraff Nov 22 '14 at 14:03
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That's pretty much impossible. A pageant rates the contestants on different criteria, each one of them very subjective.

One important criteria is physical attractiveness. Different species would have a completely different idea of what's physically attractive or not. There would simply no way to compare them. Say, you would be a judge in a beauty pageant for animals. You have a dog, a cat, a python, a parrot and a jellyfish. You have to judge which animal is the most beautiful. How could you make a fair and objective judgement? They are just too different. Now imagine the same thing with lifeforms which didn't even evolve in the same ecosystem and are thus even more different.

Another is personality. But different species would consider different personality traits to be favorable in a female. A contestant threatening to eat the jury alive might terrify one species, while another might find it a beautiful display of strength and dominance.

Also, what about species which don't even have a concept of male and female? They could be asexual, hermaphrodite or have more than two sexes. Who would they send to the pageant and who would they vote for?

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    $\begingroup$ You can push boundaries even further. Add ant colony, fern plant and my favorite "other and very different" world: planet-size living ocean - now how you define beauty? How you even ask questions? $\endgroup$ – Peter M. - stands for Monica Nov 18 '14 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ Just because there are differences the possibility of competition need not be eliminated. Except for the last paragraph, this is the kind of answer that may have been given a long time ago if someone suggested to host a beauty contest with mixed white and black contestants. $\endgroup$ – Dennis Nov 19 '14 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree that species diversity and subjective criteria make this an insurmountable problem. Just look at any dog show with multiple breeds - they still pick a Best in Show despite having to compare chihuahuas with St. Bernards. They pick the one that is the "best example" of a particular breed. Sure, it's subjective and will depend highly on your judges panel, but then, that's true of pretty much all pageants. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Aug 14 '18 at 18:32
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In a competition that has a significant emphasis on physical beauty, I would anticipate that that portion of the competition would become rather less subjective than it currently is. To rely upon the judgement of biological judges would almost certainly impose species-based bias on the proceedings.

It is possible in the case of humans - and should be so for any alien species for whom there are standards of physical attractiveness and who might want to participate in such a competition - to define an algorithm that can determine how closely an individual is to an ideal example of that species.

Once such algorithms have been defined, the beauty portion of the competition could be judged by full body scans with the result for each competitor being obtained by mathematically deriving the individual's divergence from the ideal model. The lower the divergence, the greater the individual's score. The scores for each contestant, regardless of differences in species, could then be realistically compared.

It might be interesting to note that some species, such as humans, may prefer not to appear in public without clothing. However, it may also be practical for the machinery performing the judging of the beauty to scan the unclothed bodies of the contestants without revealing images of the contestants, and only outputting the contestant's numerical score. This would be a fairer method, since - in human society at least - it can be shown that standards of beauty in clothing are highly subjective and subject to change over time, and hence much harder to derive a mathematical standard of beauty.

As to other portions of the competition, these could be judged by biological judges of all species involved with the assistance of translators. It would probably be necessary to not allow the judges to know what contestant was asked what question, and only provide them the translated answer.

As for the Miss part of Miss Universe, I would say that this would limit entry to those members of each species that play the greatest role in reproduction, as well as those who have not yet reproduced (This isn't Mrs. Universe, after all). Where all members of a species play an equal role, all would be eligible for entry, but where some individuals have less time/energy investment into the act of reproduction than others, only members of the gender investing the greatest amount would be eligible for entry.

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  • $\begingroup$ Please note that the standards of beauty in the human body have changed over time, too. I know the link is not the most serious source, but it does have a point. $\endgroup$ – Arturo Torres Sánchez Feb 6 '15 at 2:10
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Interesting, since our Miss Universe is a Beauty Pageant. Meaning it is meant for beautiful specimens. The rest of the competitions is to 'show' those that have more than just beauty, brains and other talents since they are all good looking, they need someway to shift out the 'best'.

In all honesty, I would expect such an intergalactic competition to either look more like a pet show, with 'best of breed' and what not, each one highlighting their species skills etc. or a more likely scenario might be more of an Olympics style competitions, a way to brag up the abilities of each species, male, female, and other.

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I don't have enough rep to comment, but you could look at things like dog judging contests. Each breed has certain traits and they're all judged on things like which dog is the most healthy, shows those traits the best, and so on.

While different alien races will have different opinions on "beauty", there are definitely traits that each species treats as more desirable (like in humans we like certain nose shapes, cheek bones, shoulder/hip widths, breast shape, etc) and you could judge them on that.

It'd definitely be tricky being a judge though!

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  • $\begingroup$ That's a wonderfully simple, politically incorrect way of doing it! Imagine trying to define the "perfect" human! $\endgroup$ – Liath Nov 19 '14 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ I define the "perfect human" as one most like me. $\endgroup$ – Jay Nov 20 '14 at 19:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Liath Who said beauty contests weren't politically incorrect? $\endgroup$ – Dawood says reinstate Monica Nov 22 '14 at 16:58
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In fact this situation reminds one of the Eurovision Song festival.

Candidates from different countries come there, and sing a song. Afterwards each participating country can distribute score points amongst the other countries.

Of course this has the disadvantage that countries with similar languages (think species with similar appearances) tend to distribute more points to eachother, but it is probably as close as it can get to a fair and practical scoring system.

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One way of looking at it would be beauty would be defined as a sort of "average", with a bias towards the most powerful or dominant race. There are many studies that show this sort of "averaging" of faces results in something most would consider beautiful, even if the constituent parts might be considered ugly on their own. As for the dominant race element, this is sort of accepting that completely unbiased judgement is an impossibility, and that these sorts of events have an ideological/political element, just as they do on Earth. Just as "cute" animals are one that couldn't possibly harm humans (or survive on their own without human intervention in many cases) I believe judgement of aliens would be similarly a mixture of how different races perceive the threat-levels of others. I imagine the most beautiful would probably a "harmless" organism, kind of banal on a universal scale.

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Assuming the contest is still a beauty contest, it certainly does raise the question of how you would compare the beauty of different species.

Frankly I think the problem is difficult enough when considering only human women. How, exactly, do you define beauty? Can you really arrange all women on a scale from most ugly to most beautiful, with no ambiguities? I think not. I've occasionally seen female body builders held up as ideals of beauty, i.e. women who are very big and muscular, and personally I don't find them attractive at all.

That said, one can overstate the problem. Suppose you showed me a wolf and a lion and asked me which was more attractive. I might have a preference for wolves versus lions. But if one was obviously mangy and poorly kept while the other was sleek and well-groomed, there would be grounds for a comparison. I could imagine judging an inter-species beauty contest on the basic of grooming, presentation, and the like.

Of course that assumes that the alien race has similar concepts. When you start talking about hypothetical aliens, who knows what they would be like? Maybe the aliens' idea of "true beauty" is the ability to recite the alphabet really quickly. Or to shriek loudly while hurling feces. As we've never met any aliens -- discounting UFO reports -- we don't even know if they exist, much less what they are like if they do. Maybe we'll find that aliens are very much like us, and maybe we'll find that they are so different that they are incomprehensible.

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I like trying to think outside the box when I see lists of answers that seem split between two aspects of the question, so here goes.

Some previous answers get hung up on beauty being primarily "physical" and write off other attributes as mere 'tie-breakers', while other answers go to the other extreme by taking any definition of 'beauty' and implying that differences in species/races/etc. will be too different to compare with said definition.

I think some sort of compromise on both of these concepts would work well in this type of competition.

First, while we humans certainly weight physical appearance heavily when determining "beauty", even among humans this is not the only criteria. I find it hard to believe any human, without total hearing loss from birth, would fail to acknowledge that music can be beautiful upon hearing a selection that appeals to their personal tastes. At the same time, blind humans will still have a concept of "beauty" that does not include what would traditionally be called 'appearance'. Humans also find beauty in skills and talents (beyond their use as tie-breakers, just ask a sports fan about a 'beautiful play' made by a player of their favorite team).

Next, since the definition of beauty will certainly vary among the participant races/species, so use that. Maybe have each participating world submit their single most important criteria (or a select few criteria, 2-5?) for "beauty" to be used as judging criteria in the competition. This ensures that all participants are evaluated (within the limits of any subjective competition like this) on even footing with all others.

So there could very well be a "physical appearance" portion of the competition, proposed by us humans, and we may even fare relatively well in that portion (who knows?), but how would we do in the part of the competition dedicated to making noises audible in the widest range of frequencies at the same time, without the aid of external instruments, proposed by the species that has no eyes, and who's primary form of "beauty" is their version of singing through their 4 mouths?

If a human were to actually WIN this competition, it would almost certainly NOT be the same human that would win a more traditional beauty pageant here on Earth, but instead one that is "good enough" by our own physical appearance standards, while also appealing to as many other varieties of "beauty" presented by the other races. Maybe an attractive(appearance category) astrophysicist(intelligence category) singer(talent category) that can hold their breath for a long time (category submitted by an amphibious race, and singing talent just happens to help with lung capacity) and was born with 6 fingers on their right hand (from a race with 6 arms and 8-12 fingers on each "hand" that defines beauty based on the total number of fingers)

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Futurama answered this sufficiently in 2000.

Bob Barker's head would host it on Tova 9, while the winner would get a bouquet of flowers and and atomic tiara. A giant paramecium would win it.

The Miss Parallel Universe pageant would be held the day beforehand.

https://theinfosphere.org/Miss_Universe_Pageant_3001

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