Re: Universal Translators

James Rogers (
Thu, 07 Nov 1996 13:05:49 -0800

>The fact that any one human can have such diverse thoughts shows that we
>have the diversity of thought to communicate with many different modes
>of intelligent existence. Now I know the first objection is gonna be
>"What about the whales? we can't understand them and they have such big
>brains they MUST be intelligent." Wrong. Their minds are almost totally
>occupied with the vast signal processing required by their sonar
>system. Did you know that they can create a sonic image of the whole
>pacific ocean? That takes major processing. That does not leave much
>room for abstract thought. Plus if you look at their brian mass to body
>mass ratio, they would still be far below humans, as are all othr earth

Actually, there are a few cetaceans that have a higher brain mass to body
mass ratio that humans. The dolphin is one of them. The dolphin also has a
more convoluted brain than humans. They exhibit complex intelligent speech
patterns as well.

I disagree about the signal processing issue, though. Cetaceans have
excellent audio capabilities, but mediocre, non-stereoscopic vision and
vision processing. Humans have mediocre audio capabilities, but very good
visual processing capabilities. Humans receive something like 90% of their
sensory input through their eyes.

I used to work on DSP applications, mostly audio, but occasionally graphics
oriented. Visual processing applications almost always require an order of
magnitude more processing power than audio ones. I have heard the argument
before, but I have a difficult time believing that cetaceans use more of
their brain for audio processing than we use for vision. State-of-the-art
audio rendering software can run in realtime on a processor capable of less
than 200-mips.

Also, our hearing is more capable than most people think. I have seen
experiments where blind people were able to echo-locate objects with a cross
section of 1 square inch in a room using their own voice, and could detect
changes in position of 3" at a distance of 15' of objects with a
cross-section of 1 square inch. Non-blind people tend to only have a range
of 3-7', but everyone possesses the capability. I actually took one of
these tests. My effective range was 5-6'. Most people don't know they can
do it until they try.

-James Rogers