Fighting an astronaut -- so easy even a caveman could do it!

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/08/16 02:56 -04:00, original URI:

So I found myself talking (well, e-mailing) with an old friend last night from way back when.

Always an interesting experience, in this case because of the reason (she wanted to know which episode of the TV show Angel had the big argument about Cavemen and Astronauts),

Since we aren't dating and never have been, I don't care too much about which is worse (that she assumed I would know this sort of thing, or that I actually did know it?).

They both seem kind of lame in how they make me look. But there is no pressure to not look bad so I can embrace this secret shame. :-)

The transcript of the most important part of the episode (Hole in the World) is something like this:

Spike: It's bollocks, Angel! It's your brand of bollocks from the first to last.
Angel: No, you can't ever see the big picture. You can't see any picture!
Spike: I am talking about something primal. Right? Savagery. Brutal animal instinct.
Angel: And that wins out every time with you. You know, the human race has evolved, Spike!
Spike: Oh, into a bunch of namby-pamby, self-analyzing wankers who could never hope to---
Angel: We're bigger. We're smarter. Plus, there's a thing called teamwork, not to mention the superstitious terror of your pure aggressors!
Spike: You just want it to be the way you want it to be.
<<<Wesley walks in>>>
Wesley: Sorry. Is this something we should all be discussing?
<<<Angel looks embarrassed>>>
Angel: No.
Wesley: It just... sounds a little serious.
Angel: It was mostly... theoretical. We...
Spike: We were just working out a b--- Look, if cavemen and astronauts got into a fight, who would win?
<<<Spike crosses his arms and looks expectantly at Wesley>>>
Wesley: Ah. You've been yelling at each other for 40 minutes about this?
<<<Angel and Spike both look embarrassed. Wesley thinks about the issue>>>
Wesley: Do the astronauts have weapons?
Angel & Spike: NO.
Spike: Harmony just pulled me out of a very promising poker game down in Accounts Receivable, so this better be good.
Spike: Oh, and, by the way, all the guys down there agree that astronauts don't stand a chance against cavemen, so don't even start.
Fred: But that doesn't make any sense.
Lorne: I just call it like I see it.
Fred: But the cavemen have fire. That's what they live with in their caves. The astronauts should at least have some sort of weapon.

Now reportedly, this little subplot came after a huge discussion/argument between the writers about the very issue.

I started asking people in the building what they thought of the issue and found a huge amount of diversity in responses. People were very creative!

(Note that this was an informal poll and although I'm convinced someone could study this further if they wanted to, I'm not going to publish any data or a study myself. Think of this as a preliminary report on results....

Now most of the opinions were divided on particular lines:

Like by discipline:

Or by seniority (people asked spanned the gamut from IC to lead to manager to director to general manager), and the higher people were in the org correlating well with asking fewer clarifying questions before stating their opinion (but then asking plenty afterward, sometimes changing their mind based on answers sometimes not).

Is that a sign of a strong manager that they always are willing to make a decision and are also willing to change their decision based on circumstances? Maybe. :-)

But the funniest comments were really in the clarifying questions, like

And some of the really funny answers:

Of course the whole GEICO cavemen thing adds a weird dimension to it -- everyone who considered the idea decided that these more evolved, wimpy cavemen would definitely lose. It is depressing to think that part of evolution is starting to lose fights, but maybe that's what we are dealing with here (even more depressing when you think about the new TV show coming based on those commercials!).

One of the conclusions several people made were that this might even make a decent interview question if you add to it (after they answer) that they should explain why they answered as they did.

I am on the fence about the status as an interview question, though it might be okay during a lunch interview.

Of the many people I asked, there were a few who really got into it, most people had some fun with it (the question was especially fun in groups!), but there were a few who just never really got comfortable with it. Given those latter folk and the fact that the whole notion of cavemen is widely believed to be historically inaccurate, perhaps this wouldn't be so great as an interview question (or one should have a backup in case it bombs).

Anyway, does anyone out there have any particular opinions on the matter? Astronauts vs. Cavemen -- who do you think would win?

The follow-up question was easier for people and was a side effect of a question related to the size of the people fighting. It was basically a competition between midgets and supermodels. The concensus was that the midgets would wipe the floor with the supermodels (unless Tyra Banks was one of them, in which case the supermodels would win.


This post brought to you by (U+2f73, a.k.a. KANGXI RADICAL CAVE)

Rosyna on 16 Aug 2007 4:22 AM:

Well, you always have this....

Kemp on 16 Aug 2007 7:30 AM:

I'm going with cavemen. The astronauts' gear will slow them down and the cavemen are stronger and used to hunting prey that is stronger yet.

I guess the astronauts could use an EVA pack thingy to start a fire in the hopes of keeping the cavemen away, but that's a stalling tactic at best.

Gene on 16 Aug 2007 11:33 AM:

> It is depressing to think that part of evolution is starting to lose fights

Well, that's actually part of Spike's point:

"[evolved] into a bunch of namby-pamby, self-analyzing wankers who could never hope to [kick butt]"

Maurits [MSFT] on 16 Aug 2007 11:51 AM:

I'm with the cavemen too... astronauts are preselected by the qualification process to be incapable of original thought, doing only what Mission Control instructs them to.  In the absence of a leader they will be helpless.

Cavemen, on the other hand, are preselected by the brutality of their environment to be survivors.

Clarifying question... why are they fighting?  Surely some kind of compromise could be arranged.

Wayne Steele on 16 Aug 2007 1:58 PM:

This is a great question.

I have to go with the cavemen, but not because "Evolution has wimped down the astronauts". Just because they're raised from birth in an environment that rewards strength, stamina, patience, and fighting ability.

Cavemen can also use teamwork and creative thought - they just can't write. Plus if the team of cavemen are all kin, they've probably been operating together as a team all their lives, wheras the astronauts (despite their best efforts) don't have the same degree of familiarity with working together.

Although if the fight were in an office building, and against older shaman-type cavemen, things would be different...

-Wayne Steele

Marc on 17 Aug 2007 4:28 AM:

Buzz Aldrin already fought that fight and won:

Cheong on 17 Aug 2007 11:01 PM:

If the astronaut is armed (of course have bullets), he has high chance to win.

If it's unarmed-combat, I don't think the hand-to-hand combat skill of an astronaut can be better than caveman... who probably doing this daily to defend their right in tribe.

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