1
$\begingroup$

Suppose that the species in question is not at any ecological competitive disadvantage--they live in an environment (e.g., the deep ocean floor, caves) where very few, if any, creatures can see.

They can communicate through touch (see, e.g., Protactile ASL), and write with something like Braille. Nevertheless, there would seem to be some issues with socialization if you can't tell who you are talking to, or that someone wants to talk to you, until they have already touched you; or if you can't find someone to talk to without stumbling into them--or can you? After all, deaf-blind humans somehow manage....

So, what kind of conventions might arise for social organization in such a species, and could they go so far as to develop civilization? The only physical characteristics of individuals that are set in stone are that they are completely blind and cannot create sounds useful for communication; if answers depend on any other particular physical morphology, feel free to assume whatever physical form is most convenient.

$\endgroup$
8
  • $\begingroup$ By civilization you mean "technological civilization" or just "sapient culture"? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Aug 13, 2021 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander Neither; I mean a society characterized by urban development, social specialization, and government on scales above the Dunbar number (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilization). $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 13, 2021 at 22:52
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean above the Dunbar number for humans (150)? Is your question assuming individual identity is preserved, I'm just thinking of deaf-blind eusocial species that seem to fit all-but the Dunbar number criteria (and still a bit unclear how the Wikipedia definition of "Civilisation" wouldn't fit ants or termites). $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 13, 2021 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ @ARogueAnt. Whatever the Dunbar number happens to be for the species in question. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 13, 2021 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ better question can a large blind mute species survive. keep in mind the places you described are seriously short on food, so it may be a mute point you are not going to have these creatures in collective groups, there is not enough food to feed them. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 14, 2021 at 21:41

7 Answers 7

5
$\begingroup$

They communicate through the release of scents or, more likely, pheromones. Ants, bees, wasps, and other insects use this for a large part of their communication.

When someone is missing, or not using, a sense, their other senses are heightened. For example, when one closes their eyes to meditate, they are not looking at anything, but their sense of smell and taste and hearing and feeling gets heightened. They can feel their phone in their pocket or remember the taste of lasagna they had for lunch better than moments ago when their eyes were open. The same idea works for when the organism literally has no way of using that sense in the first place. Their brain and nervous system can pay more attention to other receptors.

Communication can be in the form of pheromones or scents they release. There would be different one released depending on context, of course. Males and females would have different ones. There would be a pheromone released during mating season, or when there are predators nearby, or when it is time to hunt.

Also, like many organisms, each individual would have a genetic "key". Let A and B meet today, then let A, B, and C meet tomorrow. A and B will know each other, and have to introduce themselves to C, who has never met them. Years later, they all bump into each other again and recognise each other based off this key. This is a real universal trait we see in our own lives and wildlife. These keys would be remembered and to ensure they are exchanged, their species may have this type of exchange as a requirement (or just a diplomatic) way to start a conversation.

Good question

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ pheromones in an aquatic environment may not work well with the water currents. $\endgroup$
    – Sonvar
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 13:55
3
$\begingroup$

They are the equivalent of a social insect.

Cells in a body communicate by contact and the release of chemicals which are tasted /smelled detected. The same is true for social insects. Termites are blind and mute. Your creatures exist in a mass of their kind. Groups go out to collect resources with the resource type dictating the size of the group.

Over evolutionary time, individuals of this species evolve the ability to differentiate and acquire specialized functions - like castes in social insects or cells in a multicellular organism. The need for differentiated individuals will depend on the circumstances and environment that the colonial organism is in.

One of the differentiated abilities can be intelligence. Colonial creatures with intelligent members compete more effectively with their conspecifics and the ability to differentiate intelligent castes spreads. Human intelligence is flexible but among these creatures there might be more specialized types of intelligent castes.

Urban development could be possible via intelligent castes that modify the environment, or even environment modifying castes that we would consider nonintelligent. Social insects build urban environments. Colonial organisms like corals build reefs.

Social stratification is already there in the nature of these organisms and their caste system.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

They use Hearing

While they are mute, they cannot possibly be totally silent. Between the lungs, heart, stomach, and all other sorts of parts they'll produce plenty of sound on a near constant basis. And if their hearing is good enough, then this should be more than enough to find others and tell them apart

As for the actual communication, then the touch-based methods you described seem sufficient

$\endgroup$
1
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hearing needs to be good enough to compensate for the lack of vision. They may lack a larynx to create the vibration to modulate and/or a mouth connected to the larynx for modulation. But they will definitely need an organ to produce sound, be it only because they will need ecolocation to orient them in space (if the ability to sense space is missing, goodbye civilization). Just clicks as those sounds may be, one can imagine a language based on a Morse-code like encoding. Granted, the bandwidth for such speech will be lower than human verbalization, but they will develop a speech. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 14:13
1
$\begingroup$

Specialized tactile organs, such as antenna or whiskers. Many aquatic species have highly adapted whiskers to sense motion or vibration in the water to help location of prey. it may even help in detection of unseen obstacles.

This can then be repurposed by evolution to detect others of their own race. Now, if they also develop a specialized fin or a muscle in their gills or something, they can create high energy vibrations in the water. These vibrations would be detected by the whiskers and translated as communication from others.

Now, this is kind of cheating as this is basically how mammalian ear and vocal cords work, but since its using different organs, I think it may work out.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ I just realized I answered wrong. I was thinking blind/deaf, not blind/mute. but same differnce $\endgroup$
    – Sonvar
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 20:09
0
$\begingroup$

How desperately do you want it to happen?

Wat is your speculation tolerance?

The main reason we do not know if ESP or telepathy is real or not is that we really do not need it. We can communicate quite well without it. It was never a necessity, so it never grew any further than the primitive level. Sight and sound are much better at distance communication, communication in crowds, and in the control of domesticated animals. Also, these senses are much more reliable in sensing purely physical events such as landslides and threatening animals. Thus, ESP in humans seems to be stronger in babies, and simply gets extinguished as we get older through non-use.

If we never had the ability to perceive site or sound, that would emphasize the use of ESP or telepathy, if it were real.

There is no absolute scientific or evidentiary reason why you could not propose that these creatures communicated telepathically, and perfected that sense out of necessity.

A 'telepathic boson' we just haven't bothered looking for, so we haven't found it?

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

It would be EXTREMELY difficult for them to create anything that we will call civilization, as for this you need some sort of language that is natural for that species and that is flexible enough to allow those people to express abstract ideas.

To progress technology you need:

  1. ability to observe the environment for possible solutions to your needs. Seeing is the best for it as it allow to spot things from large distance and without the risk inherent in touching things. Light observing sensors give us image resolution that is impossible to reproduce through various other methods of distant observation as it uses very specific waves of EM spectrum. A radio frequency "eye" would have poor resolution even if this frequency waves would be as common as light. Also, shorter waves penetrate objects rather than reflect so gamma ray "eye" would not give the same abilities as visible light eye.
  2. Ability to create the the tools for various uses. Again, being able to observe through sight make this step much easier as, for example, you can see what shape the tool you need has to be.
  3. You need the way to communicate abstract thought, like description of the use of tool to the other members of your species. We do it through showing and describing with words. It is hard to imagine how would you teach others about just created tool if you only could use pheromones.

So, your creatures may be intelligent, and even sapient, but being blind and unable to generate articulated sounds they may easily end up as "just another animal" being unable to express their intelligence through tool creation. On the other hand, if they develop some form of communication that can transfer abstract ideas they may succeed. Maybe through generating sounds with parts of their bodies (like clapping maybe?) and develop it enough?

$\endgroup$
3
  • $\begingroup$ Language is not a problem. Tactile languages exist in the real world are are quite flexible enough for abstract ideas. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ @LoganR.Kearsley sure, but but it only works person to person (so there is no way to teach a group, for example. and how would you create technical documentation necessary for tool making?). And I am not sure it works for people born deaf-blind as opposed to those who lost one of the senses after learning one of the languages (either sign or alphabet). $\endgroup$
    – Archelaos
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ If you have more than one arm, you can talk to more than one person at once, and they can talk to others. And writing can be copied and distributed--braille is a thing in the real world, as is khipu (which doesn't even require a writing tool). As for being bon deaf-blind... I dunno how well it works for people, but these are aliens. They are adapted to it. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 19:08
0
$\begingroup$

They would develop science to perfection that works as visual aid. That means, primitive implants, that convert visuals to electric fields that stimulate the tongue or other receptors. Same for smell or into touch-scematics. Such aids of course could be detested by religous groups, who abhore the new synthetic senses.

$\endgroup$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .