More than Meets the Eyes #14 Discussion *SPOILERS*

Discussion in 'Transformers Comics Discussion' started by Nope, Mar 5, 2013.

  1. Anguirus

    Anguirus Well-Known Member

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    You don't think that's been considered? And simulated?

    You don't call the third sex shit, because it can't exist. You can't evolve it.

    Asexual reproduction, quantitatively speaking, is king. Evolution maximizes fecundity, and asexual organisms are the most fecund. Though it is a topic of HIGH theoretical interest, there is actually no consensus on how sexual reproduction managed to evolve at all.

    That said, there are advantages to sexual reprodiction, and you can get it to evolve in a simulation if you mess around with the parameters enough. What you get from sex is the ability to mix genes. You get a functionally, practically infinite number of potential gene combinations from sex, which is why sex can produce billions of offspring no two of which are identical. That's on top of all the other processes that cause genetic change in asexual, clonal reproduction.

    What is REALLY HARD to successfully simulate, model, or explain with an equation is how this mixing of genes increases fitness enough to survive in competition with a comparable organism that reproduces asexually. The asexual wins, crushing the sexual organism in any competition. It reproduces faster and doesn't have to spend time and energy finding a mate (and possibly failing!)

    One theory I've read suggests that the key may have lain in the immune system. Clonal organisms are much more vulnerable to pathogens over the long term. So it is easier for asexuality to evolve from sexuality than the other way around, but the sexual lineages had more staying power over millions of years. Getting to some familiar territory, there is evidence supporting this in vertebrates. Parthenogenic female-only lineages that are pretty young have evolved from sexual ones (i.e. the whiptail lizard) but they don't have enough staying power so that, say, any of the major families of vertebrates is entirely parthenogenic.

    So yeah, having three sexes has no additional advantage (functionally infinite remember?) while exponentially multiplying the disadvantage (every organism has to find and copulate with two partners). Such a system would be unstable even if it were poofed into existence and given time would become asexual or bi-sexual.

    The only way I can think of something like it even making sense is if you had two "males" that fertilized an "egg" that lacks genetic material, but I'm not sure that could be stable either given that an organism that exclusively produced "eggs" would be at a huge disadvantage itself (yes, evolution applies to different sexes differently, and there would be no selective advantage for the egg-layer to evolve behavior conducive to copulation...actually if anything it would only copulate with its closest relatives by kin selection and you'd get inbreeding depression right away).

    Granted you can get some odd stuff going on with eusocial animals like ants, where not every individual is fertile, but if you go and work out the genetics and the game theory each individual actually is working to promote its genes being spread (kin selection). :D 
     
  2. SMOG

    SMOG Vocab-champion ArgueTitan

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    Yep, everybody has that grand idea of what they would have done, had they been "serious" about it, and also super-cool and clever and aloof. It's the defence mechanism fantasy of all us nerds.

    But all things considered, maybe I didn't take it too seriously (by my flippant response, you might infer as much), but rather it just wasn't a very good sarcastic joke, leaving instead just a clumsy insult with no contextual mechanism in place to read it as anything other?

    I don't generally consider you a feeb, no. I'm glad you picked up on that.

    Everyone's own opinion carries more weight than other people's. That's generally how opinions operate... unless someone else convinces them otherwise. That's the problem isn't it? However, this does not make all opinions "equal". I do value my opinion more than many other people's, which is pretty normal. If I find opinions that challenge me, I generally assimilate them, or resign myself to some ambivalence and flexibility (which is probably the only correct stance on some very complex issues).

    That's why I noted the difference between Opinion and Preference. An opinion is supposed to be based on an assimilation and interpretation of outside factors. An opinion is not a whim or a ghostly voice from your soul. Opinions should be considered and weighed (and yes, openly challenged). An opinion that doesn't go through this process of self-evaluation is probably not a very credible opinion, nor should opinions be defended from the position of "well that's my opinion, so you're not allowed to be critical of it". They are not sacrosanct by virtue of their very existence... this is some kind of myth of entitlement that is especially strong on the internets, usually among those whose opinions are most questionable.

    So yeah... my opinion is better than other opinions. Except when it isn't. Critical debate and discussion are the tools that allow us to contextualize and evaluate other opinions, and our own.

    Attaching ownership ("well that's MY opinion") is also part of the problem, since it implies that we only have ONE emphatic critical standpoint, one opinion that is stoically immutable (or else protected by some obscure notion of one's "rights"). We all have "opinions"... most of them are things we picked up along the road, dusted off, examined, and decided to keep (or not). They aren't the fingerprint of our soul.

    Uh, that's not really a "joke". That's a criticism versed as an exaggeration... not unlike the proverbial "straw man". The tone may have been teasing, but I think (especially online) one should pay attention to the content of their words, not the simply the desired tone.

    Honestly, I thought I was playing that same game by returning the "you thought you vanquished me, did you?" response, in the spirit of sarcastic jabs ("vanquish" is after all, a bit of an ostentatious word, even for me). It's almost as if there should have been a smiley face attached to that very comment.... oh wait... hey, what's that? Sort of looks like a...
    Gee, sorry I'm "taking it so seriously". Maybe I should have posted some pony memes, to show how not-seriously I'm taking it? :p 

    "As a comic book fan"?? That's reductive, essentialist reasoning, you jerk! Show comic book fans some respect!! :lol 

    Transformers is a lame fiction. There's no two ways about it. When I said that "in general, comic book fans have low standards", I meant it... and that goes double for Transformers fans. 99% of the Transformers fiction written between 1984 and 2012 is commercially-compromised, lowest-common-denominator kiddie garbage. I have my nostalgic attachments, my materialist attachments, and sometimes I even come across something I think is actually good.

    I digress, but that's at the core here. Transformers has always had a strong goofy escapist fantasy aspect, and the same can be found in many comic/scifi fictions. And that's cool. But what always made Transformers a bit different for me was the way it could also be used as a distancing tool, as a metaphoric and conceptual framework that allows us (even at a childhood level) to ask questions about those things we take for granted in other fictions (the concept of "gender" in robot aliens being one such example). I wouldn't have put it in those words when I was 9-years-old... but that WAS part of the fascination, which is why my fixation on this fiction persists, even as my MOTU and GIJOE attachments have largely fallen by the wayside (the allure of military fetishism and Flash Gordon-style kiddie pulp being limited).

    So yeah, I realize that Transformers is on the cusp of "easy fantasy" and "challenging conceptual metaphors", and that neither is particularly inappropriate for the fiction... but I just like to see it go the other way more often, because that's where part of the appeal has always been for me.

    I may use actual (layman's) biology occasionally to illustrate a point, but more often than not in service to deconstructing a societal convention that has been presumed to be a universal truth, as a way of reframing the discussion. Generally I try to look at Transformers at a remove from conventional biological concepts.

    In short, because it feels like some kind of organic process that distorts the industrial-mechanical foundations of the Transformers aesthetic. For similar reasons, I dislike spontaneous reformats, BW-style protoforms, and a whole host of other story and animation shortcuts that have become imbricated into the Transformers canon over the years. This is largely a problem with the physical depiction of the budding process. The idea of Sparks "dividing" or "spawning" new sparks isn't completely without possibilities, so long as it doesn't look like a scene from Gremlins, dig?

    It doesn't go anywhere. It just stays there... off-panel/screen, where nobody happens to be looking at it. If Optimus leaves it somewhere, Roller can haul it back to base. Anything else is stupid. Solved. :) 

    I'm not even sure which particular aspect of this whole larger gender/repro embroglio we're even talking about anymore, but I suspect it's already all been said. Fifty times. By me. In a dozen different threads. :p 

    Oh, I can't believe you thought I was being serious. You know me... always kidding around. Geez, lighten up. You're always so afraid someone may take offence when someone responds to your critical jibes, thinly couched in conviviality, with their own slightly edged, sardonic replies. I'm so completely NOT serious that it would make you look like a buffoon in comparison to my cavalier frivolity. There is no way your light sarcastic aloofness could possibly make you as immune to critical recourse as MY supercilious nonchalance. After, all... on the internets, the most unperturbed wins, right? :D  :p  :rock  :lol  ;)  :tongue:  (where are my dancing pony smilies??)

    ahem :peoples: 

    Already there.

    zmog
     
  3. SMOG

    SMOG Vocab-champion ArgueTitan

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    I know it's not a new or particularly crazy concept. But saying that it "can't exist" doesn't answer the question or deal with the caprices of fiction that dominate our chosen subject (Transformers). It simply obviates it behind the curtain of "this is what we know to be true, so this is all there is".

    True, when you step outside of the most common (and most apparent to the eye) notions of "animal life".

    Um, yup.

    Isn't that contained in the whole "survival of the fittest" thing, and the idea of a beneficially diversified gene pool?

    Like so.

    Or if most of the individual members of such a system didn't conform to normal biological standards, may have had their ecology mapped out by a pantheon of space gods, and had an operational generational duration of 4 million years - ∞?

    Oh, wait... that would be un-possible! ;) 

    (which is not to say that I'm suggesting that Transformers have a third sex (or any sex), but just to illustrate the domain in which we are having this conversation)

    And yet, if it DID happen, where would that leave you? Redrawing the map, of course. If such a thing occurred somewhere, whether on a distant planet, or in some recess of an oceanic trench heated by volcanic vents... what would you call the third sex (besides illogical, redundant or unviable)?

    I love how you keep stating that we don't have names for these things because we can't conceptualize how such a thing would exist... which kind of dodges the point of the question entirely, doesn't it? :) 

    Okay, that's some biologist humour that went over my head. I'm not sure if the smiley told me it was funny, or just confused me more. :lol 

    zmog
     
  4. Anguirus

    Anguirus Well-Known Member

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    Well the reason I bring this up is not to be stubborn or blinkered. In fact I consider it eminently likely that we have not successfully imagined what any form of life with an independent origin is like (and clearly Transformers are alive if they are anything).

    However, the basic principles of evolution, before even getting into any system of genetics, are just as immutable as the laws of physics and can be imported to computer simulations, nonliving systems, etc.

    For this reason not all speculation about exobiology is created equal.

    And if I may get a little devil's advocate-ish, I just thought this was a good opportunity to talk about some of this stuff, which I think is basic and non-jargony enough so that people will get it, but that I wasn't introduced to till my first year of grad school!

    Superficially, yes, but quantitatively no. Ergo it is still a subject of considerable interest. My feeling is that the answer lies in the immune-system thing but I in no way am qualified to defend or even properly explain that argument.

    What's a normal biological standard? Aside from the physically impossible shit (comic book) they get up to there is really nothing weirder about Transformers than I suspect actually is out there in the universe.

    As soon as you bring in gods you've moved up the question to "how did the gods evolve"? If Transformers started as tools or products of other races, their origin doesn't have to make evolutionary/ecological sense...but their subsequent existence can, and will, be explained by these principles.

    For instance, one of the things that is very obviously true in IDW, but skirted around, is that the Transformers are on a sharpish extinction curve. By far, most of the TFs we see in flashbacks are dead. Megatron has some vague plan for making new robots after he kills everyone else, which seems rather shortsighted. If anything, their personal immortality has made them rather complacent about their own viability as a species (and before you ask, immortal species are very rare but actually are a thing on Earth. Senescence isn't quite universal, but it is heavily favored because the best thing you can do for your offspring is get out of the way and stop competing with them, and the best thing you can do for yourself is delay all of your horrible genetic flaws and diseases till an older age AFTER you reproduce).

    Depends what it actually is. Some sort of weird mid-range gamete could almost certainly be conceptualized as a stripped-down egg or a sperm that's carrying a lot of nutrients...pick whichever's closer and say you've got two distinct variants of male or female. Some sort of genetic material-less egg would be a weird female that requires two males to fertilize it. Some sort of totally passive baby-holder for a male and a female is known as a "muftale" in Howard Tayler's Schlock Mercenary (I note this because I rather enjoy the name) but really is probably best described as neuter.

    No, it's raising a point that you don't seem to have considered. The universe can be weird, but still has to follow the laws of physics. Life is almost certainly weirder and more wonderful and less like us than we can ever imagine, but that does not mean that we can't say one thing is more likely than another, one thing you can envision evolving and one thing you can't. It's not really natural life if it's not evolving for its own advantage, not to just be arbitrarily weird from our standpoint.

    Oh I was just bizarrely pleased with myself for bringing up kin selection again in wrapping up.
     
  5. Escargon

    Escargon Meh.

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    Are we seriously talking about Reproduction in a thread about MTMTE?! What is wrong with you people?!
     
  6. Anguirus

    Anguirus Well-Known Member

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    Considering that this issue revealed something important about reproduction in Robertsland...nothing?

    If you don't like my longer posts where you can actually tell I'm a scientist, I'm sure you will find plenty of me mindlessly drooling over upcoming toys.
     
  7. SMOG

    SMOG Vocab-champion ArgueTitan

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    I think that here is the classic science/imagination divide, where without necessarily being overly beholden to it, your concepts of what CAN be (this includes the laws of physics, which I also consider to be mutable within the realm of speculative fantasy-fiction) are being overdetermined by your/our knowledge of what is likely, or what pertains to what we already know, but which ultimately runs up against how little we know, and how many times historically we've THOUGHT we knew something, only to look back and say "Whoa! We really weren't seeing the big picture!"

    So in other words, being a scientist, for argument's sake, only carries so much water... because scientists have been closing off possibilities (and then being wrong) for generations.

    But the secondary issue is even just in the delicate operation of the word "possibilities", which in this situation is NOT limited by what can be, according to our extant knowledge, but (in the fantasy-fiction sense) what is, and needs to be retro-engineered on that principle.

    Fair enough, though it's still reliant on a certain perspective and foundation of biological precedent, so it can be as detrimental to the dialogue as informative in that sense, in that it seeks to close down rather than to open up discussion, by drawing limits that frankly don't apply here. Which is not to say that some of this science can't provide informative models or comparisons... but they can only in this instance be considered theoretical models, not proscriptive ones.

    Except that they do in fact challenge our normal biological standards, if not in terms of their weirdness, then at least in terms of their core nature (being that they operate on an industrial-mechanical metaphor). I think that posing that question ends up being a bit disingenuous, since niggling over what constitutes a "conventional standard" kind of ignores the most obvious points of difference.

    Of course metaphors can go both ways (toward abstraction or toward easy corollaries), and strain even TARDIS translation principles. :) 

    In my experience, gods generally don't encourage that line of questioning. :) 

    Yeah, this is a theme that I think recurs throughout most serious TF writing, though occasionally it is inconsistent. Without wanting to sound like I'm fixated on cynicism, I think Transformers are clearly a stagnant, doomed species, and I'm mildly contemptuous of those writers who try to exalt them to a special status as galactic guardians and evolutionary dynamos who are "always transforming themselves"... and similarly exceptionalist and overly romantic notions. Even as space-fantasy, I don't think such romance and optimism suits Transformers very well.

    It's not that I haven't considered it. It's that I rejected it... at least within the parameters of this particular topic, which allows for a different degree of wiggle.

    That's fine. I paraphrased Foucault in a discussion of Transformers. We'll call it even. :) 

    zmog
     
  8. Infosaur

    Infosaur Well-Known Member

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    Kinda sounds like Wonder Woman to me. I'm not a BIG DC guy, but if what I've heard is true (formed from clay? really?) She's really only female in appearance.

    Also those pics look like some of what went into the Bayverse movies. I wonder if they came out before or after?

    Facinating. *Spock Eyebrow*

    Turns out Primus is actually an Engineer from Toyota sent back to the dawn of time. Really.

    Otters got guns man, it's the future after all.
     
  9. 9.8m/s^2

    9.8m/s^2 What's in a name?

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    Sorry to horn in on the discussion, but I'm a sucker for topics of sci fi biology.

    One of the many issues with a discussion of Cybertronian reproduction lies in its foundation: what defines a Cybertronian as a) alive, and b) part of a species?

    Conventionally, we have classified life according to phenotype and, more recently, by genotype. Cybertronians lack either. They have no common physical characteristics (not all are humanoid, and not all can transform), and their entire somatic (if such a term can even apply) makeup can be removed, reformatted, or upgraded with ease. Likewise, the point of "CNA" (which is painful for me to even type) seems to be to work as a "zip file" of sorts, without the conventional genetic implications of traceable evolutionary and inherited changes.

    The only things I can see that actually unify Cybertronians as a species are the spark (a mystical object that can hover and explode with thermonuclear force, and yet also be stored in a glorified refrigerator) and the t-cog, whose workings are equally magical.

    On the subject of life, a "mature" Cybertronian apparently does need to metabolize, but how does it do so? The nature of Energon is highly plot-dependent. Are Cybertronian muscles powered by electricity, or by a chemical process, as in Earth life? What converts Energon into usable energy (and the Cybertronian equivalent of fat)? Given that Cybertronian body parts all move and shift in minute ways, how is power transmitted without an overburdening series of wires, arteries, or magic pipes (I know, I asked this a few weeks back, too).

    That leads me to ask whether Cybertronians, in their "mature" forms, are really actually alive, and whether the "robots" part of their self-identification is actually more accurate than we give it credit for.

    What if the primary life state of a Cybertronian is the sessile one, the spark growing like a potato under the ground? If Transformers are simply a brief motile stage of Cybertronian life (the transforming body being the thematic equivalent of a nautilus shell or a hermit crab's shifting homes), it would explain (partially) why they seem perpetually doomed as a "species" but unwilling/unable to discuss their reproductive...er...options.
     
  10. SMOG

    SMOG Vocab-champion ArgueTitan

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    I like this post. :thumb 

    Though of course it goes back to the problem of definitions and the discourse of creating "truths". The fact that our epistemology is not constructed upon principals that allow us to categorize Cybertronians as biologically (or conventionally) "alive" may actually have little or no bearing on whether they are "alive"... especially by their own definitions.

    But that said, you're putting some interesting ideas out there.

    zmog
     
  11. Anguirus

    Anguirus Well-Known Member

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    Your thoughts mirror my own!
     
  12. Kraken

    Kraken Is a vegiesaurus, Lex. Veteran

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    Mr. Gravity, I like your thinking and would like to prescribe to your newsletter.
     
  13. 9.8m/s^2

    9.8m/s^2 What's in a name?

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    Exactly! I was just thinking (while on the dentist's chair getting prodded) that one of the primary sources of argument in the fandom is that we lack a true common lexicon for discussion. Terms like "robot", "life", "endoskeleton", and even "transformation" are commonly used, but with no prior agreement between the parties involved as to the scope and limits of the definitions of those terms. Once we start applying proper science to the discussion, in addition to the literary topics, the lack of a commonly understood means for us to communicate our thoughts to each other makes for a vast range of misunderstandings, humorous and otherwise.

    Worse, we're trying to apply a method of empirical investigation to a set of sources that are known to be unreliable, and accepted in widely varying degrees (some folks ignore the TV "canon", others ignore Furman, and so on).

    I don't actually have a solution for this. The ultimate endpoint is, as we all know, that this is all claptrap written to sell toys, and trying to systematize a fictional universe written by dozens of authors is an exercise in pure futility. But that would ruin all the fun I'm having talking about it. :) 
     
  14. SMOG

    SMOG Vocab-champion ArgueTitan

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    Exaaaaactly. :D 

    zmog
     

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