Re: Universal Translators

Michael Lorrey (
Thu, 07 Nov 1996 20:42:23 -0500

James Rogers wrote:
> >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
> >animals.
> 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
Comparing a humans ability to echolocate an object in a room to a whale
creating a topographical image of the entire pacific ocean with one honk
is quite a bit of a stretch.

I would like to find out where you get the information that dolphins had
a greater brain/body mass ratio. What I had heard previously was they
had about 80% of our capacity at best.

ANyways, this is WAY off topic, as neither whales or dolphins have
anything like technology, so my argument still stands: We will have no
real big probelms communicating with an intelligent technological
civilization due to mathematics and science commonality.

Just the fact that dolphins and whales have such comparable brain/body
mass ratios, yet have not developed technology as we have proves my
other point, that the most likely body scheme for an intelligent
technological alien would be bipedals, with hands, as technology is the
result of an omnivorous creature with hands and no real defense
capabilities other than its hands and brain. Cetaceans have no need for
hands, and thus technology, so are stuck in an evolutionary trap
preventing them from becoming a technological civilization, unless we
"uplift" them a la David Brin.