My alien race is supposed to have the ability to communicate a lot of information extremely fast, more akin to uploading something to your partner's mind than telling him. This should happen via simple touch; optimally touching hands should do it, but having to hold heads together or connect some form of "cable" will work too.

I don't want any magic or technology, maybe some kind of exchange of chemical messengers of connection of nerves or neurons. (I have little knowledge in that area so that is the core of my question.) This mechanism of communication should have evolved naturally, an optimal answer includes an evolutionary pathway to this ability.

I would also like this ability to be limited to the wider family of an individual, meaning if two individuals are more than 5 generations unrelated they should have a hard time communicating and after 15 generations they should not be at all compatible. (I'm unsure if generations is the right word here.)

Basically the closer two people are related the better this communication should work. (Reproduction still works beyond this, so abduction and rape of females to gain clan members capable of communication was historically a common practice, as were marital alliances.) Furthermore it would be nice if there were a way to destroy this ability (akin to cutting out someones tongue) to create lower class slaves. It would be great if this would damage the subject mentally.

They still have normal human senses, proprioception (way better than ours), smell and taste (worse than ours), vision (wider visible spectrum, starting at yellow and going far into UV as their star is a F-type), hearing (technically worse than ours, yet better due to denser atmosphere).

If it helps they are about 4m long and look as if Cthulhu, the Xenomorph and an octopus had a baby: each has 7 tentacles, with the tail one (climbing/hanging and locomotion, rarely manipulation) being the strongest, the lower (mostly locomotion) and upper (mostly manipulation) pair being of medium strength and the middle (carrying stuff, body hygiene and caring for offspring) pair being the weakest).

Their bodies are relatively small (slightly larger than a human body) and their heads can be turned in every direction and are quite elongated. Their home world is a tidally locked habitable moon with low gravity and a dense atmosphere. They developed in hundreds of meters high jungles near the south pole, but they have since expanded to the more moderate arid regions.

They are oviparous, but carry their young around like kangaroos.

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    $\begingroup$ Would a mechanism like the one depicted in "Avatar" work for you? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 16:24
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, something like that would work, but I would prefer it to be faster working and to be mor casual. So no singing rituals required. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 17:37

3 Answers 3


Communication between humans works by one human encoding symbols into a medium and transmitting those serially to another human. The bandwidth is limited by three things: the ability to transmit the symbols, the receiver's attention span, and the receiver's ability to process more then one symbol stream.

Usually, the encode and transmit link is slower than the receive and decode link. We understand an audio stream played faster. We can read faster than we can write. Yet, our attention and focus limits make it rare that a person can listen to three speakers simultaneously, or productively read a physics book while attending to a mathematics lecture.

Mechanically, your people can send information much faster. Cover their abdomen with tiny transducers that vibrate in the thick air, and register those vibrations from another person who is close. Locality, limited range, wavelength division, and phased arrays give you many higher bandwidth channels between people. The listener has a greater ability to attend to the communication - just because they evolved to.

To disable someone, cut scars into this sensory array, both disabling the communication and marking their status.

How did they evolve? They lived in a complex world with many threats and food sources to report each other. Although they were social, they rarely encountered each other, and some force (weather, predator) limited their time together, so they had to be fast. As their intelligence grew, the information became denser.

I don't know how you dimish the mental capacity of a slave. Maybe you don't, but mistake their stunted capacity for mental defect. The slaves develop their own communication methods, creat a new culture, and conflict ensues.


High Bandwidth Neural Tentacle

Assuming that this species is biologically similar to us, you're not going to get a hard science solution. Memory is not readily transferable - and, in fact, is extraordinarily plastic, stored in multiple locations in the brain.

However, you don't have hard-science, and you do have telepathy in your tags, so we can inject a bunch of handwavium.

Humans serialize our memories for transmission via sounds or written media. It is not impossible that a species with a mechanism for higher-bandwidth transmission could evolve. This makes the generational thing more plausible too - learning how to serialize information for rapid transmission would be taught from childhood, but because of its intimate nature (touch being required), would likely be taught in family groups. "Dialects" would evolve, diverging as families diverged, so the country cousins would "thoughtspeak" with a bit of a twang, and people from the next country over would be completely incomprehensible.

As suggested in Alexander's comments, some sort of "head tentacle" with densely-packed but chemically and electrically-insulated (in our own anatomical case, thickly-sheathed) neurons that could make contact with a matching tentacle on the recipient would probably be the only way this could reasonably work, because you'd need parallel connections to transmit useful information at speed.

It's safe to assume that this would be incredibly crippling to lose, which introduces your slave caste mutilation mechanism.

It goes without saying that this is effectively magic. But it's magic with a handful of pseudoscience mixed in, and that's usually enough for soft sci-fi.

  • $\begingroup$ Hm, I see. Do you think that there is a way to make this way of communication more realistic, for example by lowering the communication speed? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ Not really. Neuron-to-neuron connection doesn't really work in real life (between people with different neurons), because electrical synapses are about 3 nm apart. Skin is 500 000 nm thick. Neurochemical transmission has synapses in the 40 nm range, but it's still an enormous difference between synaptic distances and skin contact - and for good reason. Synapses (and nerve cells) are fragile. Exposing them directly tends to kill them. You could only toughen them up so much and leave them functional. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 18:16

Ants' feelers (antennae)

Ants can produce scented chemicals also known as pheromones ... Their pheromones are used to communicate with their family... Pheromones are detected at the tips of the ants super sensitive antennae ... Ants that have missing or damaged antennae become very disorientated ... There are about ten to twenty different pheromone perfumes, each represents a ‘chemical word’ that the entire colony understand. https://antark.net/ant-life/ant-communication/pheromones/

"Ten to twenty different pheromone perfumes" allows for a very large alphabet. The creatures could communicate with hexadecimal for example.

Just watch ants communicating with their feelers. I used to spend hours as a kid watching them. When two ants from the same nest meet they can spend several seconds face-to-face with rapidly moving feelers touching repeatedly. They are obviously doing something pretty complicated so that factor can be added in as well. I'll see if I can find a video of this.

The following video talks about ants communicating as a superorganism https://youtu.be/55tXhnlZoOg?t=913


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