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100 Ways to Pass as Human

Nicole Sbitani is a professional diplomat by day and a short fiction writer by night who currently lives in South Korea. She blogs at nandm.sbitani.com and the-exponent.com, and she writes microfiction @nsbitani on Twitter. The content of this post does not represent the views of the U.S. Department of State or any other U.S. Government agency, department, or entity. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and in no way should be associated with the U.S. Government.

1. Breathe.
2. Say "What?" and then process what the person said before they repeat themself.
3. Never get a perfect 100% on a test.
4. Have at least one idiosyncratic habit, two would be even better. It may be difficult to produce three reliably and regularly.
5. Sleep.
6. Combine two human food items that normally do not appear together and proclaim the combination's deliciousness.
7. Blink.
8. Periodically modify your body, not so subtly that nobody notices but not so extensively that people think you are having what is commonly referred to as a " Crisis."
9. Sing. This should be done without tuning or rhythm assistance and is particularly recommended in the shower.
10. Participate in grooming behaviors, such as haircare.
11. Calculate incorrectly.
12. Wrinkle your nose at garbage, even if it doesn't smell that different from humans.
13. Admire plants.
14. Have more than one name.
15. Make sure none of the names is your serial number.
16. Earn a nickname from a human companion.
17. Choose to love or hate the nickname you have received.
18. Accept you will likely be addressed by that nickname in the future regardless of your preference.
19. Lose at chess.
20. Lose at Sudoku.
21. Lose at trivia.
22. Win at Farming Simulator; nobody will notice or care.
23. Argue with someone anonymously in the comments on a controversial article.
24. Share a small piece of fake news.
25. Defend your decision to share the fake news if challenged.
26. Yawn.
27. Carry weapons if needed. Most humans do not have built-in weapons.
28. Same for computing devices.
29. Misspeak once in a while, preferably not in matters of life and death.
30. Pick a birthday.
31. Care about the birthday and expect cake.
32. Pick an astrology sign.
33. Make sure the astrology sign matches the birthday. Change birthday or astrology sign if needed.
34. Make eye contact sometimes. Many humans say they don't like this, either, but for some reason they still do it with disturbing frequency and intensity.
35. Join social media.
36. Lurk on social media.
37. Accidentally react to an old post of someone on social media and attempt to undo the reaction before they notice.
38. Do not learn too many human languages too quickly.
39. Eat and drink. You can always regurgitate the compost later.
40. Cry when humans cry.
41. Express joy at the sight of at least one type of human pet.
42. Make sure the pet you express preference for is not smart enough to identify you.
43. Blow your nose once in a while and throw the tissue away. Don't worry if it's empty; no one will check.
44. Do not recoil at all physical contact, especially from human companions.
45. Recoil at some physical contact, especially from strangers.
46. Avoid slang. It changes too quickly and might give you away.
47. Stretch periodically when in familiar locations.
48. Quote movies.
49. Order a random item for delivery.
50. Exclaim you do not recall ordering the item once it arrives.
51. React badly to insects.
52. Except butterflies and "pretty" or "cute" insects.
53. Schedule bathroom time.
54. Remember to lock the door when you go to a private bathroom. This is an excellent opportunity to check hardware and update software.
55. Learn the human etiquette rules for public bathrooms and adhere to them.
56. Dance, but not too well.
57. Memorize several life stories in case a human asks.
58. Take a personality quiz.
59. Commit your results to memory.
60. Defend the personality quiz and your personality type vigorously.
61. Look like you age, especially if you maintain the same human companions for 10 or more years.
62. Pick an aesthetic.
63. Have at least one comfortable, horrendously ugly clothing item.
64. Have at least one uncomfortable, strikingly attractive clothing item.
65. Do not say "calibrating" when processing.
66. Say "uh" when processing.
67. Have a (human!) celebrity crush.
68. Tell humans you are meeting that you are on your way when you have not yet left.
69. Take photos of food, especially brunch. Humans love brunch photos.
70. Argue with someone and realize mid-argument you are wrong but keep going anyway.
71. Make a joke. If you are not funny, a pun will suffice.
72. Read a book at human pace. This may be more pleasurable than you expect.
73. Accept less money with a quicker payoff rather than waiting for a better payoff. Yes, this one makes no rational sense.
74. Contact customer service with an outlandish demand.
75. Scratch body parts.
76. Comment on the food or drink you consume as you consume it.
77. Finish food or drink you don't enjoy because you ordered it.
78. Develop strong opinions about religion.
79. Deploy your opinion about religion against any missionaries you encounter.
80. Lose at arm wrestling.
81. Win at drinking games. Drunk humans are less likely to be suspicious.
82. Shiver when it is cold.
83. Sweat when it is hot.
84. Watch sports. It is not necessary to understand them: just cheer and groan along with the cues of your human companions.
85. Listen to music.
86. Make sure at least some of the music you listen to was made by humans.
87. Look at your reflection in mirrors.
88. Purchase a gym membership. Do not use it.
89. If you exercise at all, take a photo and share it with others.
90. Sneeze.
91. Change clothes, shoes, and accessories consistently.
92. Cough.
93. Scowl at younger humans.
94. Roll your eyes at older humans.
95. Develop strong opinions about child rearing practices.
96. Volunteer for or donate to human charities once or twice.
97. Humblebrag about your modest philanthropy.
98. Binge watch something.
99. Pretend to enjoy human companionship.
100. Enjoy a little human companionship.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, April 12th, 2022

Author Comments

This story was inspired by The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, which got me through some of the worst parts of pandemic lockdown. I've always found the lens of science fiction useful as a means to explore philosophical questions--in this case, what makes us human? Is it something physical or emotional or behavioral or something harder to name? I hope humans find it fun and non-humans find it helpful.

- Nicole Sbitani
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