ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Human and animal sensation

Updated on July 10, 2011

Science Fiction Musings

This hub is intended to inspire what might be called "hard" science fiction. This science fiction feels the need to actually explain things, rather than just assuming the future is full of lasers and energy shields. Throughout this column there will be a great deal of comparison between humans and other animals (and sometimes plants, fungi, etc.). The idea that human beings are "alone" is ridiculous. We are just the only animal capable of complex social networking, or civilization. Beyond that we are animals, and the best model for creating an alien species is to look at our differences with other animals.

First there is the issue of sensory capabilities. Given that any intelligent species evolved in an environment completely isolated from humans indicates they would have vastly different senses. Just consider the phenomenon called echolocation. In environments where light is not a useful guide to the world, animals learn to navigate from sound alone. Many bat species can use echolocation to catch insects in the air at night. These same bats can locate their perch in a dark cave with astonishing accuracy. Now compare this to humans. You ever have your cell phone ringing but you can't figure out where it is, exactly? Humans do have some echolocation, but what might a bat think about a human that can't find a ringing phone ten feet away?

The bat would must likely look on humans as clumsy and limited. And how humans go on about the superiority of language, that doesn't let them operate in the dark! For a species with echolocation, the world is sound. When it comes to language, if one says something to five different people, one is likely to get five different responses from those people, especially if their culture is radically different. Echolocation does not share this ambiguity; it is precise. Given the same signals, five bats will always make it to the same location. (note, language will likely receive a great deal more attention in later posts) How on earth, the bat must question, does the human race even survive, much less become such a dominant species?

The point here to make about sensory systems, and of animal (or alien) sensory capabilities is that we often judge (or will judge) an any animal we meet based on our own standards and capacities. Hopefully the sci fi writer will try to get past these limitations of perspective. If you take our cognition away, human beings are basically like other animals and also share a number similarities between plants and other nonanimal life forms.

Even our cognition shows limitations. Despite the buildup of centuries worth of technology human beings seem no closer to ending war than they have ever been. So how much good is our cognition, really? It is wondrous, but not the center of the universe.The creation of a truly alien society, a hard science society must always take into account both the limitations of our own species and the vast potential of others. .

Check out some of my other hubs.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • starvagrant profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Missouri

      I would agree consciousness is a mechanism. I think one of the ways to better understand/use that mechanism is to better understand the mechanisms of other living things.

    • profile image

      Twenty One Days 

      8 years ago

      great hub.

      my opine is human consciousness is most definitely finite, a tool/mechanism. Oddly, it is the mechanism used to fashion other mechanics and keeps the wheel of the factory oiled.

      You're a rocker?! right on.



    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)