Humans and Improvised Weapons: A Response to a Writing Prompt
2021 December 25

Humans and safety is a long history, because as they say if you make something idiot proof they will invent a better idiot. Just about any piece of industrial equipment can become a weapon when misused. Most other species in the galaxy weren’t that creative to misuse or find the failure points in their technology. We took a different path than humans did. Finding solutions that were safer from the get go, that a culture of safety was not needed.

First contact with the humans went something like this. We encountered their planet and found naked unshielded nuclear reactors, and factories still requiring manual labor. We then witnessed an industrial accident caused by some group advocating worker safety. They decided the best way to show the current methods were unsafe was to actively weaponize a chemical planet. This group decided the best way to do this was to sabotage a fertilizer factory. They found that the equipment itself would do more than enough damage to show it was unsafe the methods in place.

However the activists underestimated just how much damage could be caused by their little piece of activism. Their stunt caused a large part of the planet to be uninhabitable by the release of powerful insecticides, and overheating a chemical reactor. Just a few simple changes in the parameters of the control program would lead to a mass extinction event.

We had to step in and help them fix this after it damaged their atmosphere to the point of mass extinction.

We attempted to provide atmospheric cleansers. This is where I come in. I was the overall lead in making first contact with the humans, and handling the uplift. This is my encounter in helping to provide training to the humans in the operations and maintenance of our technology.

The instructions were relatively simple to follow. Make sure you empty the electrostatic catch basins, and clean the various intakes thoroughly. My first encounter with a human engineer was very illuminating in their design philosophy and how they actually protect people. They asked important procedural questions about lock out and tag out and how my people managed them. I said we didn’t because we are telepathic among ourselves. We know when someone else is operating on it, and what the next move of everyone else in our group would be.

What we discovered however was that humans always look for the failure modes of technology, and how they can ruin the workflow. They found issues in how our maintenance is laid out such as they discovered inputs aren’t always checked and values garbage would be accepted. They eventually figured out that given the right inputs they could cause the cleansers to fail. We always viewed them as a relatively safe technology. It’s not something that could easily turn a world uninhabitable like a reactor or the various chemical synthesis techniques or a grey goo scenario. These garbage values caused the cleansers to remove the breathable component and could actually leave the planet uninhabitable for the oxygen breathing life on Earth.

This led to humans being picked up as the official debuggers and QA team of my people. As they truly understand how a failure case (especially after the near brush with extinction) can lead to a weapon being unintentionally formed. Some people aren’t exactly happy about these debuggers, as they suspect they might be planting bugs or removing important features. However the safety we have gained as a collective team has had a great many benefits for all. We are rolling out this much more safe technology to our trading partners and it’s been very well received.

A couple partners aren’t exactly happy about this new group being uplifted as many of them like their legacy systems and are worried about exploits being found by this much more qualified QA species, as most species who have joined our federation were not exactly creative (we only just recently discovered the term), and were very much sticklers to the rules.


The above has been a response to the writing prompt below, mostly because I felt like trying my hand at writing fiction:

[WP] Humans can find a way to weaponize literally anything, without fail. Some aliens are terrified by humans as a result of this fact. Others appreciate that this quality makes humans the foremost experts on safety systems and idiot proofing.

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Written by Henry J Schmale on 2021 December 25