Rykani Basics #002: Of enemies, lovers and nihility

Of enemies, lovers and nihility
by Khanda Uzoma

Hi, my name is Khanda Uzoma. As a chief researcher in the field of Rykani Sociology, I’ve spent my last 47 years here, at the ICRA, studying the confusing world of alien social relationships. To be fully honest, the word “confusing” doesn’t really even begin to describe the complexity of the topic at hand today, but I’ll try to make things as easy to understand as possible.

You see, just like us humans, the ryka are social creatures that harbor an incredible variety of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and opinions within their minds. Also like us humans, they’re not always necessarily forthcoming when it comes to communicating those ideas, and since our kind has yet to develop the same brain-interfacing devices that the ryka use in their everyday lives, you can imagine that the research done within my departments of the ICRA has often times proven immensely difficult. Even beyond that, the many linguistic, cultural, psychological, societal and historical differences between us humans and a species from another planet continue to pose additional challenges to our efforts. With all these difficulties in mind, you might find yourself asking if my team and I even possess the expertise needed to be confident in the research we do, so allow me to quickly address your concerns here:

Yes, today we are very confident in the results of our research, but that isn’t to say that we have forgotten any of the gross misconducts from past decades. While I don’t wish to simply hand more arguments to the many senseless critics of the ICRA effort, my title of ‘scientist’ requires me to admit that some of our early studies on rykani sociology had no right to even call themselves “scientific” in their nature. The damage done to interspecies relations by popularized “research” articles talking about the ryka “killing each other for their own amusement” or “regularly abusing their sentient AIs” is both incalculable and inexcusable. This article certainly isn’t the place for me to lecture you about my own efforts as leader of the sociological departments of the ICRA, but I will mention that our cleanup efforts over the last forty years have raised the scientific standards of our studies to a bar that often times even exceeds those of the biological and chemical departments.

If you remain unconvinced about our betterment and wish to learn more about the updated scientific procedures, you may ask the leading researcher of your course, or any of his assistants, for further information. The staff working on the Rykani Exchange Program have all been chosen from the cream of the crop of their respective departments, and every single one of them had to endure endless lectures on the proper scientific method in order to reach their current position. Once you have gained adequate proof of the harsh scientific standards I enforce on my colleagues, we may move on from this little foray and start learning about rykani relationships.

As stated above, the ryka are social creatures at heart. Similar to us humans, they not only desire social contact as an act of recreation, but also require such interactions for proper mental development. Luckily for us, we humans share a lot of our means of verbal and non-verbal communication with the ryka, such as, for example:

  • The drawing of symbols and writing of words
  • The reading of expressions, body language and gestures
  • The vocalization of words and other sounds
  • The making of physical contact
  • The excretion of certain chemicals
  • And many more…

Interestingly, the ryka have developed two methods of communication that are currently thought to be exclusive to their kind. The first one is a specialized form of visual communication based on miniscule musculature movements we call “Twitches”. The ryka originally inherited the trait to read these small movements from their ancestors on Tvi’ Rykaa, with current theories proposing that the ability to communicate silently had proven itself as evolutionarily advantageous during their predatory food hunts. Over time, the ryka went on to develop these twitches into a multitude of fully fledged languages that all allow for encrypted communication of thoughts within certain closed groups like shatils or companies.

Their other exclusive way of communication has been mentioned before in this article: “Neural Interfacing”, also often called “Mind Reading” in popular culture. With the overwhelming majority of all ryka possessing devices that allow for easy neural interlinking between individuals, the development of modes of communication through direct transmissions of neuro-signals should come as little surprise. It should be noted, however, that this type of communication isn’t just limited to the transmission of thoughts and ideas. Some ryka regularly share feelings, emotions, and sensations with their “friends”, while others even go so far as sharing large parts or the entirety of their brain with other individuals. The ryka call this process “Synchronization” and it is considered to be a show of ultimate trust. Our ryka assistant Ulumu’ will teach you more about rykani neural interfacing technology in her own chapter later on.

So, now that we know how the ryka communicate, let’s shift our focus towards the question of why they communicate: The three primary goals of social interaction are the same for the ryka as they are for us: Recreation, the sharing of information and the forming of social bonds. The first two of these goals are similar enough to our species that they don’t necessarily require further elaboration. Rykani social bonds, on the other hand, diverge from those of us humans in many important ways and require some elaboration from my side.

Prof. Lashkin already mentioned in his ‘Short introduction to the ryka’ that their kind likes to form long-standing groups of individuals called “shatils”. While the social dynamics of shatils are interesting – interesting enough even for them to receive their own entry in this series later down the line – they won’t be our focus for this article. Instead, we will talk about all the other kinds of relationships that the ryka like to form between each other.

Now, as a human, you might think that there aren’t all that many different types of social bonds an individual can have with another. Realistically, it would even seem that most of our relationships can be described by only two axes: like – dislike and romantic – platonic, with strangers sitting at the center of the resulting plane.  For us humans, this might be true, but rykani relationships are a bit more… complex, to say the least. How complex exactly? Well, the fact that we have an entire research division of about 135,000 workers dedicated to researching this subject might give you a small hint of its convoluted nature.

At this point, with no way left for me to delay the inevitable, I’d like to introduce you to what the rykani call their “Relationship Chart” (abbreviated henceforth as RC). Under this innocuous name hides one of the most vital cornerstones of rykani sociology and even rykani society as a whole. In simple terms, the RC is nothing more than a collection of tens of thousands of known relationship types that may exist between two or more ryka. But while this short description may make the RC seem like an interesting study by rykani researchers into their own sociology that could even prove useful to our own scientific efforts of learning about their social dynamics, that sadly isn’t the case.

The RC had its start about 300,000 standard years ago, at a time when the ryka had already explored the first parts of the galaxy. Back then, it was nothing more than a fun, memetic image – shared through their equivalent of the Ubiquinet – that allowed a ryka to give names to his or her relationships with other individuals through a simple questionnaire. Since the results of the questionnaire were quite limited in scope and therefore incapable of representing all different types of relationships known to the ryka, some individuals took it upon themselves to expand on this concept further and further and further. Over many years, as the RC grew in scale, it also grew in societal importance to the ryka, eventually becoming an inherit part of their sociology that would end up changing their original perception of relationships forever.

The results of this development were dramatic. For the modern ryka, there are no relationships outside of the RC, meaning that either every type of relationship has to be inserted into the RC or that every relationship outside of the RC has to be made to fit some relationship of the RC. This eventually became a problem for the “Keepers” of the RC, as the Chart not only maps the relationships themselves, but also the types and numbers of individuals that can be in a certain relation, as well as possible transitions from one relationship to another and the required preconditions. As you can probably imagine, the complexity of the Chart, coupled with its vital importance to rykani sociology, eventually made changes or additions less and less feasible. Today, the RC has become a sluggish beast of incredible complexity that is nonetheless deemed societally indispensable by the ryka.

You might still think of the funny sounding “Relationship Chart” as a joke at this point, or as something that only plays a minor role in rykani society with only very few individuals adhering to it, so let me reiterate: For a ryka, there are no relationships outside of the Chart. Additionally, all relationship changes between two or more ryka have to be explicitly declared by either one or more members of that relation, so if you really want to understand rykani relationships, there is no way around the RC.

By now, you might already have a guess as to why exactly the RC is looked down upon by some ICRA researchers. The mapping of social dynamics to a single chart, like the ryka have done, adds incredible complexity to what would have otherwise been a rather liberal system of social interaction, but its verbosity is far from the biggest problem of the RC. Let me explain:

As I’ve already mentioned above, the RC not only maps the rykani relationships themselves, but also possible transitions between relationships and, most importantly, the types and numbers of members allowed in a given relation. Tracking the “Number” of members in a relationship may still make some sense to you, since certain human relationships, say a romantic one for example, can be confined to certain size restrictions depending on the surrounding cultural norms. The “Type” of members, on the other hand, may seem odd to you, and this is also exactly where things get sticky.

The “Membertype” was originally introduced to the RC with the dawn of rykani sentient AI technology. The addition of a differentiation between ryka and artificial intelligences allowed the Chartkeepers to introduce different relationship restrictions for both member groups. The idea of such restrictions is principally sound, given that, for example, a ryka and a virtual AI can’t physically reproduce in the real world, but the issue lies with the execution: The chart ONLY offers the Membertypes of “Ryka” and “AI”. As a direct consequence of this binary differentiation, there are no relationships that a ryka could possibly have with other beings, such as, for example, humans!

The number of problems this little oversight by the Keepers of the RC has caused us is impossible to put into writing without using words that would see me banned from authoring another entry for this series ever again. You see, the lack of any possible relationships between humans and ryka, not even “friends” or the basic “acquaintances”, made meaningful interactions with members of their species nearly impossible during the critical weeks that led up to the Treaty War. Only after a series of devastating confrontations did we manage to break the ice and finally make peace, but by then relations between our species had already hit rock bottom and a billion were dead.

After hearing this, you’re probably wondering how exactly we eventually managed to interact with a species that wasn’t allowed to have any sort of relationship with us at all. Well, we have to thank the founder of our “Department for Xenorelational Studies”, Prof. Tiimo Hanes, for coming up with an idea that eventually broke the ice. Here’s the story:

During one of his awkwardly silent meetings with a group of rykani ambassadors, Tiimo went out on a limb and correctly guessed that the ryka, like us humans, kept pets, and that the ryka would sometimes talk to their pets without having the required relationship plotted on the RC. This little wager turned out to be a truly ingenious shot in the dark! After all, you wouldn’t really call your cat a “friend” of yours, would you? Well, at least your cat wouldn’t!

Prof. Hanes’s bargain quickly put an end to rykani apprehensions about talking with us, and things have been going a lot smoother ever since – although the ryka were apparently quite miffed that a human being was the one to find such a huge and obvious flaw in their revered RC. Soon after that, the Treaty of Equals also had the ryka promise that they would update their Chart to include the “Human” Membertype, although this effort has been ongoing for the last 270 SY without any results to speak of. For that reason, we have to express our sincerest gratitude to the small number of ryka, such as the ones working at the ICRA, that are willing to engage with our kind regardless. While we may still not be allowed to call these individuals friends, we all wait impatiently for the day that this changes.

Now, after hearing the story of Prof. Hanes, you might be wondering if all of this means that your ryka partner will treat you like a “pet” once the two of you finally meet. Don’t worry, it doesn’t, but also yes, it does. Essentially, all “deeper” forms of rykani relationships are currently off-limits for humans, that includes, but is not limited to, any sort of romantic, rivalrous or mentor-like relationship.

The easiest way of knowing which relationships are OK and which ones aren’t is by thinking back to your cat: You can be friendly with your cat, but you’d never go so far as to call it a friend of yours. You can play with your cat, but you’d never become gym-buddies with it. You can be angry with your cat, but you’d never seriously call it a rival or enemy of yours.  If you apply this same kind of thinking to your ryka partner, you two will get along just fine. There’ll be no kind of condescension coming from the ryka – we’ll make sure of that – and in return he or she expects the same kind of courteous, equitable conduct coming from you. There might be times when your partner will become apprehensive about your behavior, fearing that you two are getting too close to the territory of a proper rykani relationship mapped on the RC. In those cases, you’d be best off to simply apologize, slightly adjust your tone of conversation and move on.

And that was all you needed to learn about the Chart! Obviously, now that you know what the RC is, the important question emerges: “Do I need to know every possible type of rykani relationship before being allowed to talk to one of them?” Well, duh. There are only a couple tens of thousands of them, and just a few million possible transitions in between, so with a bit of determination and elbow grease you should be able to work through the Chart in no more than a year or two.

OK, jokes aside, you really don’t need to learn or even look at the RC for this Rykani Exchange Program. As mentioned above, there’d be no benefit to you doing that since you can’t even enter any of those relationships to begin with, at least for the time being. With that said, you do, however, need to be aware of the RC’s existence and the many consequences it has for your interaction with the ryka. Simply put, we don’t want you to walk up to your partner and to call him a “friend” on your first meeting. Additionally, we require proof that you can both recognize when your partner gets uncomfortable and that you have the required knowledge on how to deal with any such occurrence. Yes, we expect a lot from you, but that’s why you’re getting free food and accommodation.

As you could learn in this article, xeno-relationships are far from as easy as the stories of old made them out to be. No more are the little green men whose greatest weakness in communicating with humans was their slightly broken Old-English and funny voice. Reality has caught up with us from the sociological sciences, and now we get to deal with things like deciphering the social behavior of a species that doesn’t even use nucleic acid to store their genetic information. Oh well, my mother once said that my life would be difficult, if only she could have known how right she’d end up being…

Speaking about difficult things, I bet reading this whole article must have been at least half as exhausting for you as writing it was for me. Therefore, I recommend that you immediately head off to the supplementary material, use your remaining energy to fill out the practice exam, and then take the rest of the day off. Maybe you could spend the evening at the café and observe some human-rykani relationships in light of the new contexts this article has given you. Who knows, you might find yourself enjoying the observations and growing an interest in our field of study! God knows we could use some more competent sociologists in this place…

Anyway, next up are the basics of rykani linguistics, brought to you by my good friend Nóra. Keep your mind focused and those ears down!

</hide-adm>(@TheLashky01: Yes, Tim, I noticed you not mentioning my name in the last entry. That not only goes against the rules that you signed off on for this series, but is also needlessly petty. Next round of drinks is on you!) </hide-adm






One response to “Rykani Basics #002: Of enemies, lovers and nihility”

  1. AP-AAiS Avatar

    Posted with 21 minutes left in the day. Now that’s how you keep up a schedule!
    I’d like to wish all of you a great start to your week and a good night’s sleep. I, for one, have to get up at 6AM tomorrow, so that’ll be fun!

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