We are the only sentient civilization currently known to man, and sight is an integral part of both our everyday lives as well as most major technological advances throughout human history. Without the ability to see long distances, we may have never yearned to reach the horizon in ancient history, so there may have been no desire to explore beyond our immediate surroundings. At the very least, the printing press, which really jumped civilization forward a bit through mass production of books and media for spreading knowledge, would have been implemented differently, where instead of adding ink to pages it adds some form of texture (similar to Braille), which seems to me like it would be less effective than print at a massive scale. And finally, computers as we know them are heavily reliant on sight. Most of the way we interact with them is through visual means, either through displays for PCs/tablets/phones, or even with visual indicators such as LEDs on the wide range of other computer-powered devices we interact with each day such as cars, microwaves, etc.

Now, imagine a world where the dominant species is one without sight, as defined as the ability to take electromagnetic radiation and convert it into an image. How could such a species overcome this huge disadvantage to eventually become a space-faring civilization? Some thoughts I've had:

  • Echolocation (or something analogous to it) could provide the means to navigate the immediate environment. However, this likely would not allow for "sight" over longer distances.
  • Perhaps this echolocation analogue could tell the difference between different textures on an item, and up close was able to provide spatial resolution that approaches that of our eyes.
  • There is always a potential for some sort of neural interface, but then you would have to explain how they developed such advanced technology.

Feel free to come up with any (biological, physical, mental, emotional) traits for this race to help explain how they could accomplish this.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Your question has something in common with this earlier one: How could a blind alien race interpret video broadcast into space? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ One might think of why eyes evolved in the first place, and how they contributed to the evolution of human intelligence. In a setup (world, solar system) like ours, your guys will likely (by evolution or artificially) develop long range electromagnetism sensors, or other long range sensors to pick up abundant signals that humans aren't aware of. Let there be light :-) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Lostinfrance Thanks, I guess my search-fu was lacking a bit. And that one led to a few other semi-relevant questions, all of which may help a good bit. $\endgroup$
    – macraw83
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 1:36
  • $\begingroup$ Do they have non-imaging electromagnetic senses? (Do they feel radiating heat, or can they say, whether they are staying in direct sunlight, or not?) $\endgroup$
    – b.Lorenz
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ To me, there seems to be two separate questions here. The first is how could a species without sight reach a modest level of technology (such as the printing press). The second is how to go from that level of technology to space travel, which is probably not all that different from how we did it because, once you have technology, you start developing sensors that sense things you can't. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 17:54

11 Answers 11


Electromagnetic radiation is awesome

For two main reasons:

  • it's abundant
  • it goes in straight lines through the atmosphere

Why is that important? because this makes the information (for the sake of discussion a photon is a bit of information) very reliable. If the information you have is slightly less reliable (e.g. photons go in a curvy fashion) this dramatically hinders your ability to sense things that are far away or sense close things with a high resolution.

If the information is reliable but not abundant, I guess you could get by if you have the time to collect enough information to make any decision.


As far as I'm aware, there's nothing else that has these qualities except radiation. Sound doesn't go in a straight line and therefor it's very hard to locate it. All forms of echolocation rely on waves in the air (or whatever intermediate material) and are therefor inaccurate.

You may say that dark matter is a viable solution, but since it goes through everything it provides no information at all.

Consider the way we use light: our eyes have millions of sensors (rods and cones) that operate side by side. This only makes sense because each sensor receives slightly different input, because of the location of it in the eye and the focus of the retina. This enables us to do extraordinary parallel computing of the data, something that we don't come close to doing in any other sense.

Possible solutions

If the species doesn't rely on any kind of radiation for information, perhaps a solution would be to invent a new type of atmosphere and a type of material that can go through it in a straight line. In our universe, unfortunately, I don't know of any other solution.

Edit: It was pointed out to me that I didn't actually answer the question :)

Technological solution

Could technology help the species succeed without eyes? Yes. This lab and others work on a "sensory substitution device" (SSD) that converts light to sound and help blind people see. The theory behind it is that the brain is plastic. The brain areas that are meant to handle vision can learn to handle sound as if it was vision. Now, a blind species wouldn't have these areas, but imagine you connect this kind of device to every child for millennia - eventually something will happen.

Is it feasible? absolutely not. Not only would creating any kind of device would be virtually impossible for a blind species, not to mention the amount of global cooperation that's put in place for any kind of manufacturing, also the theory, the knowledge that there's such a thing as radiation and that they could work hard for millennia and unleash it's power is utterly unattainable.

The only real solution is a different species that gives them the technology to translate radiation into something they can understand, perhaps even to brain stimulation.

  • $\begingroup$ While your answer has been well received, it doesn't actually answer the OP's question. Yes it does make a good case for why visual perception is a powerful sensory mechanism, and may be quite irreplaceable. This is a challenging question. Sightless sapients going into space has me stumped. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 11:35
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android you're right, see edit $\endgroup$
    – Dotan
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ Sadly not quite what I'm looking for. I realize there are ways to convert light into other things that could be detected through another sense, but the question is how would they discover such technology. $\endgroup$
    – macraw83
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 0:39
  • $\begingroup$ You had every perfect right to ignore my comment. I salute you for having the fortitude to improve your answer. Plus one from me. I agree it is extremely hard to see how a sightless species could develop space technology. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 3:25
  • $\begingroup$ @macraw83 Sometimes the answer is no to what you're asking for or it is too difficult for mere mortals to devise an answer. You have raised a very challenging question, don't be surprised if the answer you want doesn't emerge. There's nothing wrong with your question. It's just that it may take time for a good answer. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 3:32

Echolocation can be very accurate if well developed however it doesn't work in space, what they could "see" would stop at the walls of their space ship. they might have to develop technology that sees light and converts it into a sound.

It will also really slow down their research into space since they would not know anything was out there in the first place. Without extreme technological substitution or outside intervention a species that relies on echolocation might stay earthbound.

Echolocation has advantages, it can possibly see in 360 degrees, but it is also slow the faster you are going the more distance you loose. in a plane that breaks the sound barrier they become effectively blind.

It can see through solid matter, they could see all the parts in a device without taking it apart. I imagine they would make amazing mechanics for this reason. They might be able to see flaws in material making them excellent engineers since they would not have to rely on technology and surface features, everything would be partially transparent to them. They might have very little concept of privacy since it is very rare for them. They would be excellent geologists since they would grasp seismology much more easily.

This species would have little problem developing other technology but high speed flight and space travel would be drastically delayed if they develop at all.

As for printing they might print with lead on paper using drastically different densities instead of color. As for computers they might actually have an easier time than us, since they might be able to make sound systems that project a 3D "image" for them. You would have to worry about bleed over from other people's computers. Imagine a computer with a simple speaker could achieve for them the same effect as a 3d hologram has for us.

  • $\begingroup$ I imagine it would take more than one speaker to create a 3d "image", but I expect they would have a much greater appreciation for the effects they could make with two or more speakers. I hadn't really considered that possibility, where they are generating images through sound, and would perform a lot of research in this area. $\endgroup$
    – macraw83
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 1:11

Cave-Dwelling Radio "Telepaths"

Maybe they don't see visible light, but what if these organisms developed biological radio for communication? While radio is electromagnetic in nature, its wavelength is too large to properly resolve images in everyday life, so radio detection would probably not fall under the category of "sight". However, it has other uses: it can be used to transmit information a great distance away, allowing your creatures to communicate "telepathically". Low frequency radio can even penetrate dirt and rock, which would be useful for a social cave-dwelling species.

They wouldn't see the stars the way we do, but the ones who left their underground home might "hear" their radiation by pointing their biological radio dishes skywards. This could lead to curiosity, which could lead them to develop space travel.

What would make this even more interesting is if they started picking up radio signals from other civilizations... they could actually hear it directly, without the use of equipment. (They wouldn't hear sound of course, but they might recognize its complex pattern and realize it was being produced by something intelligent.)

A more mundane, but similar answer: they just develop radio technology for communication and detect radio waves coming from the sky. After analyzing them they would realize that stars existed even if they couldn't see them.

  • $\begingroup$ This is an interesting direction to take. Only problem is making the antenna, detector, and transmitter, all out of organic materials. I know that human bodies can at least modify the radio signal in some way (I have a long story essentially about using my body to augment an antenna to watch tv once), so that part should be trivial. Not sure how realistic the rest is, but it's certainly a start. $\endgroup$
    – macraw83
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 1:06
  • $\begingroup$ @macraw83 It's not hard for an animal to receive radio waves in principle - a radio dish and an eye are basically the same thing. The main difference is that you need a bigger receiver for longer wavelengths, and the resolution will be worse. You will probably need something that looks like an antenna or radio dish. Generating waves could be harder - I'm not sure if there are any chemical reactions that produce them. Worst case scenario, your creatures can incorporate metal into their bodies and use electricity, the same way artificial radios work. Not sure how this would evolve, though. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 8:09

Though a true answer lies after, I will start by answering your question with a question to put my answer into perspective:

Mock question

Hello fellow dolphins who live under the waves of Dearth with me. I have come to worldbuilding.stackexchange.dearthnet to ask a question about aliens. As you know, our leading scientists believe that we might actually be descended from non-intelligent dolphins from another planet, and the religious folks too point to their bibles which state that dolphin-kind came from the third planet out from a yellow dwarf star; even though I find those verses hilarious, since they also state that those dumb ancestors had something called "eyes" that allowed them to sense EM radiation, and furthermore that there were creatures with eyes but no echolocation, it does make me wonder since such creatures could not possibly get a good 3D view of the world around them and would likely be their own doom as they swam into objects because of their lack of depth-perception as we are accustomed...

Now, imagine a world where the dominant species is one without sight echolocation, as defined as the ability to take electromagnetic radiation sound waves and convert it into an image. How could such a species overcome this huge disadvantage to eventually become a space-faring civilization? Some thoughts I've had...

Now to get to the real answer, and let's think of it from the perspective of the Dearth dolphins.

As demonstrated above, humans themse-, I mean ourselves, have a similar problem already. There are numerous energies and forces which we cannot directly sense with our organs, and most of the EM energy itself is included in that. In the case of EM though, we have a leg up since we can at least sense part of it, seeing wavelengths from about 400-700nm.

Some of the things that humans cannot sense are things that other animals can sense. Take magnetism for example. There are many animals which have a sense that we unfortunately cannot tap into: magnetoreception. It does wonders in helping animals get around. I wonder if the birds looking at our airplanes think "How can those humans possibly have figured out how to fly a plane, and to reach such distant locations accurately nonetheless, when they cannot sense the earth's magnetic field like we can?" I also wonder if the birds can pick up at all on the magnetic fields of the sun or of other celestial bodies; probably not, despite the fact that you can tune in to hear Jupiter's static on a good radio.

How did we do it?

So, how have humans accomplished the feat of "seeing" energies and forces which we cannot directly see? We hypothesize the existence of something, figure out a way to test it, verify, create devices to detect it, then finally we convert the data into a different format which we can see.

Take an EEG graph for example, generated by an electroencephalograph. It is something that we cannot detect without the EEG, but we then turn it into a visual graph as on the linked page.

We do the same with devices that create graphs of electrical current and with seismography and many other things. We can view the data in a meaningful way that allows us to act on it almost as if we had sensed it personally.

Now, this gets more interesting when we generate full pictures of things we cannot see. A great example of this is with an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Better than the bird's magnetoreception, an MRI allows us to look inside of a person, generally for medical reasons. The below image uses magnets to show us a picture via the EM that our eyes see, but it also has the added benefit that the picture is an fMRI showing an added layer of information (the colored spots) which we can do because we use technology to combine all the data into an image in the format we desire.

If you look at the picture below, you will be doing the same thing we are talking about. By observing the picture below, you are looking inside someone's brain by "seeing" magnetism even though you have no biological way to do.

Brain fMRI including activation areas

Image public domain courtesy Wikipedia at same link as above

There are other cool images we could dig up that do similar things. I wanted to include some of x-ray visuals, microwave/radio-wave visuals, and the like because there are cool instances of those, but those are technically EM radiation, just not the wavelengths our eyes detect, so I'll forego that here. You can use Google images to turn up plenty of them, especially for astronomy.

Now here's how they do it

Now let's bring this all back around to our dolphins of Dearth example case.

Information Distribution

As you pointed out, the printing press may have developed differently. Yes, that is likely. As you suggest, something more like braille is likely. For creatures primarily dependent on audio, audio recordings would also be likely. A phonograph cylinder is a device which can be used to record and playback audio, and it does not require any electrical components; it can also be made using very basic mechanical components.

There are simple designs which are easy to create; here is a link to one you can buy which records to and plays from a wax candle. I once saw a TV show where a small team (3-5 people, if I recall) was left on an island with limited resources and were given objectives they needed to accomplish, including documenting wildlife; one of the guys used wood and wax to create a recording cylinder - they recorded bird songs with it. It was dumb simple. Your creatures can do similar, and you can use a playback to record another cylinder, though the quality will degrade quickly. Every time you want to re-boost your quality, you would need to recite the recording again, preferably in the presence of a room full of recorders, then distribute those to remote re-recording centers. Also note that sound travels much easier through water, so in my specific example of dolphins sound will travel easily and far. Phonographs are their printing presses; slightly less efficient but they will get the job done.


After discovering electricity (Doesn't require light or modern technologies), they realize that something keeps interfering with it. While experimenting with their electronics, they discover that electric signals in some conductors produces interference with other conductors. This can take many forms but they all amount to the same thing; we get this phenomenon in devices as simple as a wire carrying the signal from a microphone to a speaker (our dolphins likely figured out microphones and speakers much sooner than we did; it's their primary sense after all), and in that case you will literally hear the interference. A bit more on electricity further below.

And this interference leads to...

And finally, EM detection (aka "seeing light")

Some bright dolphin comes along and decides to deliberately cause an electrical "interference" to be detected remotely for the express purpose of wireless transmission, and thus the blind dolphins' radio technology is born. They do not even understand light yet, nor do they have any idea why this works since they do not understand EM. They will, however, continue to experiment and progress until they have figured it out, much the same way we have for energies and forces that we can only measure with devices.

As soon as the blind, intelligent dolphins realize they can use their radios as radar, they build the biggest ones they can and point them where they cannot go: up. They find an empty expanse in the sky. Disappointing. "What if we keep building bigger?" some ask, "We might find something way far out, like millions of miles out!" "That's absurd," some will say, but eventually it will be done and other planets will be detected. So begins radio astronomy for our blind, intelligent dolphins, and they are surveying space.

Obviously the general populace wants in on this action, so their scientists invent helmets which fit them and include a surround-sound echolocation system to transform the EM data into audio data so that they can all see it in their natural sensory format.

There is another point you may have thought by now: What about detecting the energy put out by the other planets, and stars etc. for that matter? They will undoubtedly, and soon, realize that they can "see" even without the radar using passive radio detection, which might come before the radar detection of other planets mentioned above, or it might come after, depending on the frequencies they are using. Either way, they will soon see everything. We have come full circle and seen the steps they would go through.

Disclaimer (Handwavium and more on electricity)

The only hand-waving I did was "and they discover electricity," but that's not even a stretch since humans started using electricity thousands of years ago for electroplating; maybe some people understood what was going on, maybe not, but we know early humans stumbled into electricity at the very least and knew how to make a battery and use it. I don't know how they discovered it either; I just know they did, so this might not actually be hand-waving after all. As pointed out in the comment by @Mormacil, dolphins are likely to have a better up-close-and-personal demonstration of electricity than other creatures because there are marine creatures capable of generating and using electricity such as electric eels. Perhaps these dolphins even farm electric eels to use as their generators.


As you said yourself, computers as we know them are reliant on sight. The original computers and their output did not utilize monitors as we know them. Their input was not with keyboards, and their output was not by light. So this issue kind of resolves itself. I imagine early vacuum tube computers could have been attached to the audio recording devices mentioned above to provide output even easier than the paper printing that some of our early computers used, so the output device is already covered and likely invented before computers and can interface easily with our original human computers. Input might be more of a concern; my example of dolphins for example, hopefully they have better graspers, or maybe they can use audio for input as well (that could indeed be translated the other way from mechanical audio playback into the mechanical early computers). Also note that there were technically ancient computers too, even more advanced than the abacus, and some early computers even controlled devices such as this computer-controlled artificial lion from the 1400s and there were humanoid robots too. Computer technology, even computer science theory, is actually older than the electronic computer as we know it.

Now DASA (Dolphin Aeronautic and Space Administration) uses the telescopes from above, possibly in conjunction with computers (whether electronic or mechanical), and have made a major discovery; DASA has released a publication about the third planet from Sol possibly having large oceans of water. These dolphins are looking at Sol wondering if there really could be intelligent life there, or anywhere else in the universe for that matter, and we have come to the point at which our young dolphin of planet Dearth asks their worldbuilding.stackexchange.dearthnet question that I led with at the beginning.

  • $\begingroup$ As an ocean bound animal they could encounter something akin to an electric eel. This could introduce them to electricity quite early on. $\endgroup$
    – Mormacil
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking of lightning as an introducer, but yes that works too. And for a story that would work better with dolphins. $\endgroup$
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 21:34

Our skin makes an excellent visual sensory organ. It absorbs EM spectrum and reacts to it. And we can reprogram it in humans to be usable for sight. See this article in the section about "BrainPort" and tongue sensors: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2014/04/28/blind-sight-the-next-generation-of-sensory-substitution-technology/#.WExH7rVOLYU You trivially know which way the sun is from your skin. It's a short hop to more discrimination of that incoming information.

It is thus my contention that any species that is exposed to useful EM fields is going to develop sight, so your species is going to have to be cave dwellers initially to pass my believability test. If they are so deep to avoid all light, then their first hurdle will be even seeing the stars to know there's a reason to go up to space.

Maybe they heard about it from other animals. They could develop the equivalent of seeing-eye dogs, animals or lesser sentiments that see for them. That could cover a wide range of activities, and maybe lay the groundwork for how they interact with other alien species they meet -- already used to multispecies conglomerates.

  • $\begingroup$ Great idea! Seeing skin could take the place of eyes. Also, your idea about sighted companion animals is a good one. The aliens themselves don't need to be sighted or fully sighted. They could combine their seeing skin with echolocation. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 11:39
  • $\begingroup$ skin will evolve into eyes to produce a better image, just like it did several times on earth. You don't need to make them cave dwelling, just make their atmosphere largely opaque. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ That was my point. Skin becomes eyes, so if they aren't cave dwelling, I find the absence of vision improbable. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ I can think of a few scenarios where a species could evolve without being exposed to EM radiation: the atmosphere is toxic, so this species evolves in deep underground caves, either eventually discovering a method for filtering out the toxin, or the toxin gradually retreats upward from the surface over thousands of years. Alternatively, the atmosphere blocks most or all of the EM spectrum until some event changes its composition. Regardless, you may be onto something with the bit about feeling sunlight with the skin, at least as a route for discovering EM radiation. $\endgroup$
    – macraw83
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 0:51
  • $\begingroup$ @macraw83 -- the discussion is about the opposite: why would a species that is affected by EM not evolve? My contention is that such a species doesn't exist. If you're affected by EM then you evolve vision of some sort. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 1:48


Although you define perception of the electromagnetic spectrum as sight, I think your echo-location provides you with an easy analogy to sight, in that both of them provide some form of spatial image, albeit echo-location has no colour.

Some animals' perceptions are dominated by an enhanced sense of smell - so the world within which they live is very different to those who use either sight or echo-location - everything is dynamic, fading, all the time.

The difficulty I have though, is finding a reason to explore space if you cannot see; without perception of the electromagnetic spectrum the sky offers nothing more than a great absence. As you get higher in altitude, sound diminishes - as do smells, and vibrations - everything other than vision is weakened by the lack of an atmosphere.

The deep - oceanic depths, I would have thought, would be far more interesting to the unsighted - for the same reasons - increased density could be seen as an enhancement of one's senses.


So, putting aside all physical senses, I guess one could start with some form of telepathic empathy - maybe the beings can sense great loss and suffering from above and strive to do something to assist.

There are real risks - not being aware of the electromagnetic spectrum, these beings would be prone to all sorts of radiation exposure. It may lead them to develop artificial eyes - sensors, and so on - but then they would still need to interpret the results in a meaningful sense, which would not necessarily tap into their existing sensorium.

I don't see any particular reason why they couldn't develop technology - and even manage to escape the gravity well. But their understanding of the huge distances would be very difficult to comprehend without being able to measure distances; let's say that their empathic ability allows them to measure distance very well - so then they can guess at the distances they need to travel.

Then they are faced with all the problems that we have today when it comes to interstellar travel. I have suggested elsewhere that the best way to travel between stars is to wait until the stars get very very close. Every now and then a star comes maybe only 70k AU away from the sun, so this would be an opportune time to travel (unless you want FTL also).

Star-hopping is far more unexplored as an idea in SciFi - maybe because we are so impatient - but what if these beings are not so short-sighted - and are willing to wait hundreds of millenia to travel between stars - as they would have ample time to populate each solar system, the overall expansion of their sphere of influence would exponentially speed up, so although it would be a slow start, they could (in stellar time) populate much of the galaxy quite rapidly.

  • $\begingroup$ Turning inward to the oceans is an interesting point. I'd wager part of the technologies needed for that could help them getting into space. $\endgroup$
    – Mormacil
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 17:20

Without sight, I don't think a race would explore space without being uplifted by another race. The reason is the same reason that a race from a perpetually overcast world wouldn't get into space. They don't know it is there.

You have to know enough to ask the question before you can start answering the question. If they can't hear, feel, or smell/taste it, does it exist for them? I would imagine that on that planet, nothing can see. Otherwise, anything that can see will have an overwhelming survival advantage. Therefore, they likely don't have anything that flies. They may be able to leap (and pray for a good landing spot) or throw toward a noise but everything in their experience is that since nothing stays up, there must not be anything up there.

I would imagine that if you encountered such a race (and somehow learned its language), that explaining where you came from would be difficult. A long way away would make sense to them but they would get the wrong idea. Saying "up there" would make them think you came down from a mountain or something like that.


I think blind people are severely underestimated here.

It's true that being blind is a huge disadvantage in our society, but that's only because everything we build is made with the target audience of two-eyed humans. Which of course, we did because we use our eyes all the time, even for things where they are not the best tool. Among other things, eyes are slow and suffer from tunnel vision. A very simple example: traffic lights. You have to stare at them, and keep staring at them. In some cases for minutes. And they expect you to react right away when they turn green. (Some countries have fixed the latter by lighting up orange before switching to green though) The traffic signals for blind people are not as widespread, but when they are available, you'll notice that they are much more user friendly than their visible counterparts, even for people that aren't blind.

I think the assumption that blind people could not create advanced technologically is false. Blind people tend to take a backseat in our society, but when everyone is blind, we are not collectively going to sit on hour hands. We are certainly not going to wait for a predator to pick us off one by one. It's our ears that will safe our skin. Compared to those, lack of eyesight is a minor disadvantage. We create tools that offset our weaknesses. We make spears, because we have no natural weapons. I'm sure we can come up with something that prevents us from running into trees. It's true that no amount of tools will help someone from present day society if he has just lost his eyes, but if a species never had eyes to begin with, they wouldn't be nearly as helpless.

As for computers, I don't think it is much of a stretch either that we would have invented it by now. They wouldn't have evolved into machines with displays for output, sure, but thats hardly the only way we can interact with them. These days, even computers with displays have support for blind people. See screen readers and the Web Accessibility Initiative (a standard for websites to enable the use of voice interaction, etc). Remember that while those are crutches, they are only necessary because we didn't design computers for blind people right from the start. Besides, why would eyesight be required to create a machine that does calculations for you? Because of the details involved? Considering how huge the first computers were, I sincerely doubt that we couldn't take the same approach of starting big and miniaturize when we get more comfortable in the field.

Books would probably be produced earlier if we had been blind. Putting ink on paper in seemingly arbitrary patterns, is rather complicated compared to punching holes in a rectangular grid.

As for space travel. There's as much incentive for blind people to explore as there is for people with eyesight. Blind people, too, will wonder what's above their heads and beyond the water. In fact, they might have been even more curious than we are. Without eyesight, a vast, empty ocean is more of a mystery.

The majority of space is not observed with human eyes, by the way. Many of the pictures you see from space agencies like NASA are not even 'just close-up views'. The colors used are simply made up, because the observed phenomenon usually have nothing to do with visible (colored) light. We made tools for observering the stars, because our eyes are inadequate to make any meaningful observations. Well, we can take note of the location of stars, and how the moon is lit at this time of the month, but that's about it. We cannot even look straight at the sun!

If we're making tools for stellar observation anyway, and we build computers that interact with us in a non-visual way, then we'd make the same progress as we do now.

So, how would a blind species reach the stars? The same way we did, with passion and the occasional flash of brilliance.

  • They find hot rocks and craters appearing on their planet through history.

  • They figure out it came from the sky.

  • They try to send their own species higher and higher seeing if they hit anything.

  • They realize that communication between ground and sky become harder and harder the higher they go.

  • They eventually invent something that can send information (let’s say sound in this case) long distances and later something that works in space too.

  • They keep sending millions of probes, until they eventually hit something and there we go!

Basically, a huge waste on resources, time, and very reliant on luck.

In short: Throwing balls everywhere that tell you what they hit through radio signals.

I'm no expert.


It's important to note the role of sight in current humanity in forming the view of the world we hold. There's quite a few 'mind trick' games online that can show you a few pieces of how your mind processes what it sees and how it can be tricked...there are several things that our mind just draws in for us. As much as we like to think our sight is an end all, it's actually a picture in our minds that we derive from multiple sources and our minds will actively make assumptions in your perception of the world around you. All senses play their role, along with past experience, in forming our view of the external world. I bring up this just to point out not one sense can be employed to replace sight, but a combination of many.

Electroreception through ampullae of Lorenzini. You may recognize this as the sharks ability to detect the electric stimuli. It can also be extended to recognize the earths magnetic field which bird, insects, fish, and sharks all seem to use. This could actually have really interesting implications for computer use...monitors would draw images with magnets.

Echolocation. From the electroreception above...these creatures now have a 'magnetic' map of the world around them drawn in their heads. Layer on the physical location of things using echolocation and you now have a decent picture in their head of what the world around them is.

Layer in the other 4 senses to various degrees and I think these creatures can have what they need to get to space faring.

  • $\begingroup$ Magnetic imaging, that's interesting. Would a strong magnetic field interfere with such a thing? $\endgroup$
    – Mormacil
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ Probably, too strong of magnetic field would be like staring at the sun? maybe? It'd be relative though, I think it'd be detecting changes in the magnetic field around them $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 20:47

There is an interesting "rock" species introduced in a game : Litheor

While there is no description on the senses they use, I believe the most suitable sense they have developed, and alternative answer on your question is a sense of gravitational waves.

I imagine this species would have such refined sense that they can detect even minor gravity differences on their high-gravity home planet. Like echolocation, they have evolved to use this to navigate through their planet, and eventually they detect gravitational shockwaves from supernovas, and they learned about the space - just like our ancestor look up to the stars.

I can't imagine the details from this point onward, but they can figure out how to use this to observe the space, and eventually become a space faring species. Most likely they won't realize about electromagnetic radiation until later, because they lack the sense to detect it.


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