Imagine you’re able to design an organic body to house your mind completely from scratch, without the limits of having to adapt your current form. You want to design a bodily format that would allow you to most efficiently navigate the world, handle objects, and sense the world around you. You can draw on animals for inspiration, i.e. perhaps you would include octopus tentacles for their dexterity. Or create something entirely new. For the sake of simplicity, lets say you are designing this for a terrestrial earth setting.

What would you design?

  • $\begingroup$ For what set of tasks? I imagine an aircraft mechanic's requirements would be quite different from a builder's labourer. You can use the edit button to clarify for us. $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2021 at 0:05
  • $\begingroup$ Are we assuming that this body needs to be able to move around on land? $\endgroup$
    – Karst
    Feb 19, 2021 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ This appears to be opinion-based. Any two answers will reflect the answerer's priorities, since none are given in the question. Also of note are the circumstances - "sufficiently advanced" that civilisation will provide any need prompted the War of the Worlds Martians, which even outsource digestion; "survive alone" must rely less on infrastructure. $\endgroup$
    – Anon
    Apr 21, 2021 at 2:45
  • $\begingroup$ Most useful for what purpose, to echo my own comment. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2021 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ As of now it's too opinion based, because a "what would you design?" type of question holds equal value to all answers. You need to specify what exactly you mean by navigating the world. Does it need to access any place that isn't necessarily submerged? Does it need to be able to travel long distances? What kinds of locations it needs to be able to navigate through? What traits need to be covered by the best design/answer? Without answering these the question is too opinion based (ps the ability to fly is clearly a must because it's obviously the one that grants the most mobility overall). $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2021 at 0:25

2 Answers 2


Ok let's break this down into multiple things we want to optimize for:


  1. Speed
  2. Flexible morphology - squeeze into any size space


  1. Strength
  2. Manipulator size range
  3. In-built tools


  1. Sensor sensitivity
  2. Sensor variety
  3. Processing power to make sense of the inputs

Assumptions I'm making:

  • Terrestrial Earth
  • In the size range of humans (as opposed to ant or blue whale sized)


The fastest mode of travel outside the ocean is flight, but making something flight capable would be really hard on everything else so I'm assuming "running fast" is the speed target.

Flexible morphology is antithetical to running quickly since you need strong bones to push off and also absorb impacts.

The best trade-off in that respect is a feline body plan, fast moving but also able to squeeze into small spaces.

So a cat-like basic body plan to start with plus slightly bendier bones.


Opposable thumbs are a must, and the addition of sharp and blunt instruments would be great too. However the more complicated the manipulator the more delicate it becomes, so ideally limbs would end in something sturdy, like hooves, with the delicate tool-enhanced manipulators able to be retracted for movement.

Two manipulator limbs is good for me, fewer complications the better since we need to save as many neurons as possible for the Perception section.

For biological machines strength is just a function of muscle cross-section, so we can't really optimize for strength beyond the maximum musculature possible on the number of limbs. We could maybe use more advanced actuators instead of muscles but that's an engineering implementation concern and doesn't affect the overall design of the creature.

So now we have a cat-like body plan, with hooves for moving around on and retractable "fingers"/"thumbs" with a variety of built-in tools for dexterity when manipulating things is required.


Humans can sense Light, Sound, Temperature, Texture, certain chemicals, electrical currents. Some animals have sensitivity to electric and magnetic fields as well, so that can be added to the list of known biological sensors.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetoreception https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroreception

So sensitive versions of Eyes, Ears, Nose, Taste receptors (maybe as a manipulator tool like butterflies have on their feet so that you can test chemical properties safely), touch sensors and magnetic/electric biological sensors.

The risk with highly sensitive sensors is that they can easily be overloaded and cause harm, so the ears/nose are closable, eyes have eyelids and maybe can retract into the skull a little for safety, and the electric/magnetic ones have biological circuit breakers to avoid causing damage in the event of sudden, strong fields.

So now we have a cat-like body plan, with slightly bendier bones. It has hooves for moving around on and retractable "fingers"/"thumbs" with a variety of built-in tools for dexterity when manipulating things is required. The creature has huge eyes, ears and large nostrils. It also has a long snout with plenty of space for nasal sensory machinery. It has a huge cranium, since there are a lot of sensory neurons and they have to go somewhere for processing. It has regular face whiskers but all over its body it also has other whiskers periodically to sense all kinds of air currents.

Now finally does this body look like a weird but recognizable existing animal? Or is it exaggerated until it becomes bizarre and unsettling? That depends on if this body has to hunt/forage for food and avoid predators or are we part of a post-scarcity society where such needs are satisfied by default? If it's the latter then the body can essentially just be a giant brain and sensory/tool apparatus on legs. It likely has some photosynthetic capability to reduce the energy requirement but running all that computing will likely be impossible without some kind of sustenance. If it needs to hunt/forage it has a mouth with lots of kinds of teeth and digestive tract, if not it has a simple port for input of optimized nutrient slurry / electrical power. Or an inbuilt RF receiver for wireless power, whichever is the easiest to obtain.

And so that's the design I'd go with, kinda weird looking but effective at all the things we want it to be effective at.


A body that mimics a spider, whose legs can double back in directions that an ordinary spiders cant, and which has "hands" to grab onto tools instead of just clinging to surfaces. But it would have to be just the right size, not too big, as super sized bugs become too heavy. If you go with no exo-skeleton you might be able to get a little bigger, but still not too much. It could have a regular skeleton.

Octopus is too "wobbly" to be good on land.

Hummingbird with tentacles to grab things would've been nice, but would be too small to be effective, and if you up-scaled it, it would be too heavy to fly and need way too much energy.

A double or triple jointed spider, with hands, and regular skeleton, not exoskeleton, about the size of a dog, with strong but lite musculature, would be my vote.


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