Damn, I ask a lot of questions.

People like to anthropomorphize things around us.  Yes, I said “us”.  I am a people, too.  An-thro-po-mor-phize – attribute human behavior or characteristics to non human things.  Why do we do it?  Is it narcissism, or just a lack of imagination?

We customarily name inanimate things like storms and ships, we humanize products or services for marketing purposes.  Excessively so, in my opinion.  The pharmaceutical industry seems especially fond of this marketing angle, what with cartoon bladders and actors wearing  colon costumes.  Fortunately no anthropomorphized representations of erectile dysfunction – yet.

Is this a mechanism we use to try to understand certain concepts, and if so, why?  Does it further our understanding of tropical storms to think of them as angry women with a grudge against certain Carribean islands and coastal cities?  Do we really need dogs to speak to us for us to know that they like bacon?

What started me down this particular trail of thought was this article in Smithsonian Magazine entitled What will Extraterrestrial Life Look Like?  It seems that the way we imagine extraterrestrial life (at least in the movies) to be very much like us is kind of like the way we anthropomorphize the things around us.  In this instance the illustrator goes out of his way to avoid anthropomorphization by using a combination of science and imagination to come up with several possible life forms – none of which resemble humans in the least.  It’s as if he hasn’t seen Star Trek or Star Wars and doesn’t know all life forms are at the very least bipedal.  Of course I am being facetious – we all know the depictions of extraterrestrials in those shows are reflections of budgetary restrictions.  The same reason all the visited planets have Oxygen rich atmospheres.  But I digress (as usual).

To me, it’s one of those aspects of human nature that don’t make sense to me, but seems so universal that it must be built in and therefore there must be an underlying purpose that is served.  What it is I don’t know – do you?

I said I asked a lot of questions – I didn’t say I had a lot of answers.