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My urban fantasy story, set at the turn of the milennium, has a species of humanoid beings called the untethered. The most distinctive thing about them is that they lack eyes of their own. Rather than seeing the world in first person, they see it in second and third. Not only do they have the ability to view themselves like a video game character (from any direction, and with depth perception, but always aimed at their head, and always at a distance from their head roughly equivalent to how tall they are), but they also have the power to see through the eyes of anybody whose field of vision they are currently in, as long as at least one square inch of some part of their physical body (attached to the body, not cut off) is within the observer's field of vision.

Their other senses besides sight function the way they would on a normal human.

Their species also tends to produce a disproportionately high number of soldiers and bodyguards due to their unique psychological quirks, which brings me to a concern I have regarding the untethered and firearms.

While this is a setting with several things about it that give melee weapons a far larger use case than they would normally have, guns and other ranged weapons still see a lot of action and are the ideal pick for a lot of situations. However, the untethered's unique way of viewing the world feels like it might present particular obstacles for learning to wield a firearm effectively. Their head is always in the center of their field of vision, and blocking whatever is in a straight line ahead of wherever their third person "eyes" are looking at. Not to mention their "eyes" are always further away from whatever they're aiming at than a human's eyes would be. At first glance those seem to be pretty damning disadvantages when it comes to aiming a firearm, so I'm trying to work out how they'd make do.

How, if at all, would someone who sees the world in third and second person be able to aim a firearm most effectively?

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    $\begingroup$ learning hand eye coordination is going to be very difficult, they also will lack depth perception which makes for a ranged combatant. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Oct 28, 2023 at 0:51
  • $\begingroup$ So what happens if they look at their face close, but hold up a mirror? if they have an owl on their shoulder do they keep losing and gaining use of owl eyes depending on where owl is looking? $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2023 at 2:34
  • $\begingroup$ @GaultDrakkor The way I currently envision it, only sapient beings trigger second person vision. So humans and other monsters. Which isn't to say there aren't monsters who can shapeshift into owls if you're going somewhere with this... $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2023 at 2:53
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    $\begingroup$ A lot of 3rd person games have crosshairs and other aids to help the player. Do the Untethered have any mechanic like this? $\endgroup$
    – Rhymehouse
    Oct 29, 2023 at 2:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Rhymehouse Unfortunately no, that's unlikely. If they were a younger species that might actually be possible, but their species' origin predates video games so it isn't in the cards. $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2023 at 4:58

3 Answers 3

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Laser Sights

As an example
And in practice

So, traditionally - Lasers are used as an enhanced to your Optics (Iron Sights, Red Dot, Holo, Scope etc.) and to give a good estimation of Point of Impact for a given range.

However, in a 3rd or 2nd person view - this would be the perfect choice for a reasonable standard of marksmanship (within CQB distances at least) to make Firearms a viable option.

This is fine for Bodyguards (where the typical engagement ranges would be in under 10 meters) - for Soldiers, the real issue you'll have is that at the turn of the Millennium, is when you started to see the rise of the average infantryman using an Optic. USMC I think adopted the ACOG in 2005, it was used by Special Forces from 1995 onwards, The SUSAT was standard issue for the British from 1987 - this pushes your typical engagement distance(s) out past where you can reliably see and engage a Human sized target (which is about 400 m).

Try seeing a Laser dot at 400 m.

I don't know if their method of vision is very sharp (like an Owls for example) where they could see a laser dot at that distance.

So TL;DR - Turn of the Millenium for Bodyguard and CQB type engagements - an Laser attachment would do just fine - for standard infantry engagements, they will struggle unless they have super-vision.

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  • $\begingroup$ Agree (+1), but would add that using optics is critical to modern night fighting. If the untethered can't look through a "starlight" scope, they are effectively useless for half the time - they can't even detect lots of enemies who are able to target them. (Or maybe they can detect the enemies because they are in their line of sight, but trying to figure out exactly where an enemy is with respect to yourself when you can only see yourself through their eyes, which are looking at you through a PVS4A...) $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2023 at 0:08
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Alrighty!

Rules:

  • The Untethered do not have eyes of their own.
  • The Untethered use the eyes of others.
  • The eyes of others must have some portion, any portion of the Untethered's body in their field of vision.

Assumed Consequences:

  1. The untethered already know how to use their vision to interact with their world (whether e.g. eye-hand coordination would be possible or not is irrelevant to the question.) They must, just to exist. Otherwise they'd have trouble lifting a glass for a drink of water.

  2. It's perfectly legitimate that they use the eyesight of people more or less looking at the back of their head. Or any other part of their head. Unlike the rest of us, they have the possibility of looking in any direction around themselves.

Those two consequences are important. Most firearm experts will tell you that the sights on the e.g. pistol aren't as important as good eye-hand coordination. The Untethered would have mastered this long ago since they can't look directly at anything. Given that they would have excellent eye-hand coordination and can readily obtain any view around them, I believe the use of ranged firearms is easily rationalized.

In fact, I think they'd be the best trick-shot experts in the known universe.

They do have one whopping limitation, though. They need those other non-untethereds to provide the vision they depend on. They might be the best bodyguards and soldiers in the world... but it's a hard sell when you need other people around to facilitate that value.

In other words, especially when considering soldiers, you need an army on the field just to let these people be an army on the field.

Good shots? You bet! Good bodyguards? Maybe. Good soldiers? Not really. Good infantry support?... absolutely. No one has a grunt's back like the Untethered!

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    $\begingroup$ One correction: The person whose vision they're seeing through doesn't have to be looking at their head. That's the rule for what their "third person camera" is constantly aimed at, whatever angle it's currently viewing them from. They can see through someone's eyes as long as that person has any exposed part of their body (hair, skin, etc, it just has to be connected to the main body) within their field of vision. $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2023 at 23:06
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It's trivial for me to imagine myself, indeed to close my eyes and see myself, on the other side of the room, ten feet away, interacting with something on the counter.

Personally I do not have any trouble feeling my body position. So I would suggest, for example, to consider how a gun slinger shoots from the hip. It is a form of practice which results in a carefully timed and executed motion which maximizes the likelihood of sending a bullet toward the center of mass of an opponent.

Assuming the untethered have an acute sense of the location and distance of their opponents, how to aim shouldn't be a huge problem.

As for how to train, probably the usual, like laser tag, or for example paintball gun training - because for the untethered, seeing requires exposure to a living opponent or otherwise second person view. So naturally untethered would undergo unit training simulations with other untethered and also with regular humans in order to learn how to differentiate combat strategies and behaviors of the two - there may be subtle differences that one kind or the other may not notice about the other usually. Typically coexistence results in common language, behaviors and even body language. But subtle differences may still exist, so it is perhaps worth while in a law enforcement training context to consider what those differences amount to detective style.

Second person view is not much different to third person, but rather simply happens from a different angle that one cannot control. I imagine this would be the most difficult form of sensing, but I would also assume a kind of innate capability or wiring in the brain which develops in response to simply having this capacity. Neurons don't care, they just grow toward signals and try to make themselves useful to their owners. Good little neurons, they're wonderful things.

So I think the answer lies somewhere in the strange sort of inner experience of these humanoids and I would suggest using a lot of thought experiments to work out how to feel ones way through activities with altered senses, for example trying things blind folded or reading about lip reading techniques as these topics will be readily available and easiest to start from to get ideas. Be careful to consider that what I mean by "feel" likely doesn't mean the same thing it means to you because my life experience and inner experience is likely different than yours. You could frame this by asking the question "Do bats 'see' in 3D?", before moving on to multiple viewpoints, perhaps simultaneously.

How to Harm Yourself Visually

If you have a VR headset that you can root and do weird stuff with, you could try to force your own brain to figure out how to stich together very different viewpoints, but that may not be recommended and would probably be unproductive for a significant period of time before making much useful progress.

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