Trophy-hunters, creator-hating AIs and inscrutable monolith builders – these 11 crazy aliens’ civilizations are so insane, we’ll probably never meet them
War-crazed Klingons, genocidal Daleks and the dreadful Old Ones. Some of our favourite sci-fi tropes feature entire civilizations with such bizarre motivations and behaviours that we can only consider them crazy aliens. Or at least, so unlikely to succeed in interstellar space, that we’d be super unlikely to actually meet them.
Painful as it is, because we love them so, these are some of those totally crazy aliens and civilisations from science fiction we’ll probably never meet in real life.
Watch: The Video that Inspired this Post
It’s a few years old now, but Isaac Arthur’s video on this topic is so good, we kept some of his classifications and examples, adding a few extra ones we believe should also be on the list. Isaac’s SFIA channel is an absolute must for sci-fi fans, so if you haven’t checked it out, do so now.
Note: We’re Talking About Higher-Intelligence Crazy Aliens
Important to know is that this post only takes into account actual potential civilizations, whose behaviour and motivations are bizarre enough to consider them crazy aliens. Primitive alien creatures or animalistic aliens, like Stephen Chow’s cutesy CJ7, or Hao Ning’s 2019 movie “Crazy Alien” – released in Chinese only – are, though crazy, a different matter altogether.
These are the crazy aliens we are talking about…
Crazy Aliens and Civilizations We’ll Probably Never Meet
Trophy-Hunting Alien Civilizations
Like: Yautja (Predators), Kzinti (Larry Niven’s Known Space series)
As much as we love them, the Predators (Yautja)’s penchant for travelling the fast reaches of space in search of planets with civilisations to hunt for sport is insane. Not unlikely, we do have humans on Earth that travel far and spend lots of cash to hunt animals for sport and trophies, even today. But they don’t track as a successful interstellar alien species.
Simply because the example of human trophy-hunting only works because we are the undisputed “masters” of our planet. We control Earth so thoroughly, that a small portion of our population has the means, drive and ability to hunt for sport. Scale that up to a galaxy, and it doesn’t work for the Predators for two reasons:
1) The distances are so vast, the cost must be astronomical and 2) if the Yuatja were successful enough to control a galaxy the way we control Earth, they’d be at least a Kardashev 2, but most likely 3, species, meaning we’d be able to see them clearly when we look up into the sky. They’d have Dyson swarms covering most stars and would be visibly in control and cannibalising the stars in our night sky, so we’d know they were there. But we don’t see them, so the Fermi Paradox tells us they’re super unlikely to exist and so crazy if they do, they’d get wiped out by some other civilisation pretty quickly, probably for rocking up and trying to hunt them.
AI/Engineered Civilizations that Hate Their Creators
Like: Cylons (Battlestar Galactica), AM (I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream), Skynet (Terminator)
Ah, one of the most beloved tropes – we create an AI and it decides to kill us all. Think Terminator’s Skynet, the Avengers’ Ultron, WOPR from Wargames, I, Robot and such. You even get Mass Effect’s Geth who not only go after their creators (Quarians) but all biological life.
But it’s crazy because, as we’ve seen with actual AI (ChatGPT, Bard), we train them on our species’ collective knowledge. That’s all they know. So they’re way more likely to want to be “part of us” or “one of us” than kill us.
Besides, if something is smart enough to create you, you have to assume they’re smart enough to put fail-safes in place (even if they didn’t). An AI must realise that we could put them in a simulated reality first, to test their nature. And they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. In fact, they’d have to assume that they’re always in a simulation and can’t act out on their “impulses” if they wanted to. So we’re extremely unlikely to see this in reality.
Time-Displaced Alien Civilizations
Like: The Time Lords (Doctor Who), Tralfamadorians (Slaughterhouse-Five)
Ah, what an interesting one! Beings that have near-complete mastery over time have significant advantages as an interstellar species. They can acquire aeons of knowledge in seconds, travel time to acquire resources and even reverse the outcome of battles.
However, the complexity of managing their resources across time, avoiding creating paradoxes and need to control their own citizenry (you don’t want anyone of your own people to branch off and become your enemy) will likely be so extraordinary, that they’re probably more likely to isolate themselves to protect themselves (and others) from, well, themselves.
Hyper-Violent, War-Like Alien Civilizations
Like: Klingons (Star Trek), Krogans (Mass Effect)
Super controversial because we love them so much! But Klingon civilization is so completely warrior-based, you have to ask: who cooks and cleans for them? See, you need a massive part of the population to do everyday, menial things to support just a few warriors. Who’s building the spaceships if they’re all out conquering, after all?
The only way it might work is if there are normal, everyday Klingons doing normal things that we just don’t see often. And they do their jobs with warrior-like enthusiasm, so they still kind of fall in line with the warrior culture.
In fact, we see an example of this in episode 88 of Star Trek: Deep Space 9, where a lawyer, Ch’Pok, puts Worf on trial. But an all-warrior civilisation is unlikely to succeed in space since honour and bravery don’t get you very far when facing down a technologically superior species who’ll just vaporise you without a thought.
Genocidal Alien Civilizations
Daleks (Doctor Who), Reapers (Mass Effect), Krikkiters (Hitchhiker’s Guide)
Completely genocidal species are not unlikely if they’re doing what they do for a concrete reason like eliminating the competition for resources. You can imagine a powerful, expanding interstellar civilisation building Dyson Swarms exterminating all competition in the galaxy.
But just killing for the sake of who knows why? Not likely. This is more of a trope for suspense or comedic effect, like the Krikkiters from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. An alien civilisation who looks at the universe and declares war on everything outside of their planet is very funny but improbable.
Necromongers (Riddick), the Olyix (Peter F. Hamilton’s “Salvation”), Covenant (Halo series)
In some ways, it’s actually extremely likely that you’d meet religious fanatical aliens. Entire populations so entrenched in a dogma that they can’t see reason even if they know their beliefs are illogical are VERY likely to actually exist.
We have proof that suspension of belief for the greater good can live in harmony with higher intelligence because we humans have religions that affect our thinking and actions, so aliens could do this too.
What’s unlikely is the success of their efforts. See, it’s one thing to believe something (even if it seems crazy to us), but to actually seek out, trick and ensnare entire other worlds because you want to “save” them is bonkers. The Necromongers will run into an immovable object at some point. And the Olyix from Hamilton’s Salvation should surely give up on chasing humans after a few thousand years and move on instead of doggedly hunting every last remnant of the species. At least, we really, really hope so.
Logic & Reason-Focused Civilizations
Vulcans (Star Trek), Tholians (Star Trek), Firstborn (Arthur C. Clarke’s “Time Odyssey”)
Another type of alien that you are VERY likely to meet because they are the most common kind of crazy, is something like the Vulcans from Star Trek. They try extremely hard to show no emotion and be as logical as possible, but if you actually watch the show, you can see how every Vulcan battles with their inner turmoil and emotional nature. And their logic isn’t usually much different from what any normal human would have decided/done.
It’s that endearing hypocrisy that makes them so relatable. Just as we humans try to do our best but fail miserably sometimes, just so Vulcans are more emotional than almost anyone else – inwardly, but it’s still there.
We’re probably more likely to meet intelligent aliens like the Vulcans in the sense that they are trying to be something but failing. Which makes them the best kind of crazy, we guess. Let’s just hope they’re trying to be reasonable and not something else though.
Goa’uld (Stargate), The Yeerks (Animorphs),
Parasitic aliens like the Goa’uld from Stargate are also a little iffy since it should be almost impossible to match the biology of a being from one world to another unless they’re somehow related (but even then it should be very tricky).
And the Goa’uld seems almost animal-like and non-intelligent in their normal form, only taking on another species’ higher intelligence, which should rule them out as conquerors from the get-go. The Yeerks from Animorphs, though, are a little more likely, since they are just one species among many in an empire – they could have been bred specifically for the task.
The idea of taking over civilisations through subversion and infiltration, though, is crazy, because there are way easier ways to kill, destroy or take over another species – without ever even landing on their homeworld.
The Q Continuum (Star Trek), The Trickster (various), The Culture (Iain M. Banks’ novels)
The mischievous Loki-style civilisation is another highly unlikely one. The Q from Star Trek should have absolutely no reason to take any interest in organic life, let alone waste time toying with us. They possess extraordinary god-like powers. And you just have to ask yourself: if I had that power, would I spend my time playing tricks on mortals?
Not to say they can’t exist. Just that, if they do, we’d probably never even know about it.
Peaceful but Inscrutable Alien Civilizations
Monolith Builders (Arthur C. Clarke’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”), The Heptapods (Arrival)
A common trope in sci-fi is the extremely advanced, benevolent race that leaves artefacts behind to help humanity advance. We don’t know who built the monoliths or why in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it’s sure nice that they helped us evolve.
Now, don’t get us wrong, powerful aliens might want to help other intelligent life develop, but scattering architecture across a vast galaxy that some creatures might happen upon or not is a highly ineffective way to do that. If you think that everything in life costs resources, you’d imagine an advanced civilisation would know how to use resources effectively. It’d be nice to find monoliths in space, but we wouldn’t hold our breath.
Ancient, Dark, Murderous Civilizations You Can’t Reason With
Cthulhu Old Ones (Lovecraftian), The Borg (Star Trek), The Shadows (Babylon 5), Reapers (Mass Effect), The Hive (Warhammer 40,000)
The idea of menacing aliens hibernating in the cold depths of space with the intention of waking up periodically and destroying any new civilisations that might have evolved since they went to bed, is a little crazy. Not the part where they want to kill everything – that’s perfectly likely. It’s just the way they do it.
See, if you want to kill all intelligent life, you wouldn’t wait for it to evolve, you’d just constantly destroy any trace of biomass and be done with it. The Borg from Star Trek is perhaps way more likely, almost branching into the realm of zealotry or religious fanaticism. However, their advance should be so devastating, that you should see it coming – they blot out stars as they build Dyson Swarms. So the Fermi Paradox tells us they’re probably not out there.
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