I'm designing an alien species who have a natural ability to gain future forknowledge. However they don't see the future. What they actually see is a collage of all possible futures superimposed. Think of it as a form of Accelerated Probability.

This means of course that the more varied the possible futures are, the more it's difficult for them to gain useful knowledge and that distant events are harder to see than imminent ones as the different possible events branch out exponentially.

So while they can usually see extremely clearly what will happen in a few minutes, they'll have a lot of difficulty seeing much of anything past a few days or weeks in most cases...

...Unless you put them in an controlled environment where you decided in advance what would happen in the latter for months or even years in advance. In that case they'd be able to see pretty clearly for the entire stay.

With all this in mind you can draw a somewhat direct analogy for their ability with one of our sense: Sight. You only have to replace light with order and darkness with chaos.

  • They can see things closer to them better than things further away.
  • They can see clearly in an ordered environment but things become very blurry when they're in a chaotic environment (say around a bunch of temperamental bipedal apes).

From this you can extrapolate that, much as you fear/dislike the dark because it may contain threats you can't see, they would be evolutionarily predisposed to fear/dislike chaos because they can't see future threats to their survival. This is compounded by the fact that precognition is one of their primary senses.

My main question is this: How would these precognitive aliens react/deal to being in a highly chaotic system/area?

When people are in a dark room they squint and stretch out their arms. What would these aliens do?

What would they use instead of a flashlight/torch to "light up" their surroundings in chaotic places?

How could they perhaps make a visit to earth more enjoyable and less distressing?


closed as primarily opinion-based by L.Dutch, Frostfyre, sphennings, Mindwin, Azuaron Jul 20 '17 at 14:29

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm more concerned about stubbing my toe on the furniture in a dark room than I am the treats I can't see. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jul 20 '17 at 12:00
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    $\begingroup$ Reminder to close-voters: The problem cannot be fixed if the OP is not made aware of it. That being said, questions asking "How would X react to Y?" are almost always closed for being too-broad or primarily-opinion-based. In this case, you're asking about the entirety of an alien species reacting to a situation a bunch of temperamental, bipedal apes would have trouble identifying with. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jul 20 '17 at 12:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre Isn't stubbing your toe a threat? Also I'd like to clarify that I'm not asking about these aliens as an entire species (as in I'm not asking how their society would be set up), but rather about individuals (how an individual would immedietely react to being in the detailed situation) and potentially a small group visiting earth (what solutions might this group come up with to get around the detailed problem). $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Jul 20 '17 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ Stubbing a toe is a threat, but you said 'treats' in your question. -- If you're asking how an individual or a group would react, then this becomes too story-based, as it is asking about "[a]ctions of individual characters," which is off-topic. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jul 20 '17 at 12:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre Oh. Was a typo, my mistake. In addition I'm not talking about an individual character. This individual alien posseses no characterization and is just a stand in for the general behaviour of any member of this species when faces with a situation, when I talk about individual I mean not tied to social dynamics but rather genetic predisposition. As for it possibly being too story-based, I can simply restate the question as: "How could aliens with ability x adapt to visit earth?". $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Jul 20 '17 at 12:20

I believe your analogy is flawed.

The situation these aliens would find them in is not akin to us humans being in the dark, it's more like us humans in an overly bright situation.

What do we do when there's too much light? When there's too much noise?

We artificially dampen our senses.

We hold our hand over our eyes to reduce incoming sunlight, we wear sunglasses, we carry around parasols, we wear ear protection, ...

These aliens would need to develop a similar tool, to avoid their senses being overwhelmed.

What form that could take is hard to say, since it very much depends on the details of their senses.

For example, they might carry around something highly predictable to them, like maybe a music player, whose music they already know by heart. They could focus on that bit of 100% guaranteed future and try to ignore the rest. But this only works if they do not see the possible futures as indivisible wholes. So that's up to you to decide if it would work or not.


Go towards the light

When you're in the dark, if you see some dim light source somewhere, you'll naturally go towards that light. With the same perspective, your precog aliens would tend to favor the already most probable outcome of a chaotic environment. Let me go with an example :

Your alien is in a prairy with 3 sheeps : one white, one black and one brown. He can see that a wolf is coming to devour one of them, but they have almost equivalent chances to be eaten, creating a blur in the precog vision. However, the brown one seems to be more clearly the victim of the wolf (that is your dim light). Your alien then proceed to break the legs of the brown sheep, assuring its demise. Now the future is clear : the brown sheep will be the one that's gonna be devoured by the wolf ! Your alien went towards the light.

Create your own light

This one is easier : in a chaotic environment, try to remove immediate chaos ! The same way you would use a flashlight to eliminate the shadows.

Your alien is in the forest, surrounded with small animals. They all have chaotic behaviours, blurring the near future with their possible outcomes. Everyone of them is either about to catch a prey, or fleeing a predator, or trying its best to seduce the opposite sex... no one can predict the outcome of such a mess. So what do your alien do ? He makes loud noises to scare them off ! Now the future is clear : they're all fleeing him ! And on the plus side, the chaos source is going away from your alien's immediate sourroundings. He just shone a light around him, effectively removing the darkness of chaos.


They'd start with a very rigid society, with very small groups. Fewer people means fewer decisions being made so fewer possible outcomes. People with a tendency to dither would be social outcasts, there would be a strong bias towards people who make decisions and stand by them.

Their reaction to being in a chaotic situation would be to try to reduce the environment around them to an environment which they could control. Reduce the volume, reduce the number of people, reduce the number of possible paths through the situation and hence the number of possible outcomes.

They'd hide under the bed until the chaos went away.

In practice their response to a situation would be as individual as the people themselves. Some would seek the thrill of not knowing what would happen next, some would hide away and seek only the single predictable path. Some may be pattern seekers, the minor variables, such as the movement of individuals in a crowd, blurring into grey but Leto's Golden Path or Hari Seldon's Psychohistory showing through in the observations of large masses of people.

You could also hide people away in the mountains in monastic retreats where the only deviation from the pattern of day to day life would be events that affected the whole planet, allowing the monks to see far into the future.


In agreement with Falc; but I will extend the answer: The solution to too much chaos is to increase predictability by changing your environment.

In truth, I see little difference between this "sense" and normal human cognition; our brains are constantly, relentlessly predicting the "future" on every level, even the subconscious level.

Otherwise, why would I be surprised if a 1-foot tall Tyrannosaur suddenly appeared in my living room? I would be surprised, because my subconscious is constantly predicting, based on what I am seeing and what it has learned about persistence of objects and how my living room "behaves", and when its predictions are met it raises no alarms; when its predictions are wrong it raises alarms, in the form of surprise, adrenaline rush, hyper-focus, and so on.

The same is true for the more non-magical things: We are surprised if there is a loud thump sound coming from above; because it varies from what the subconscious is expecting.

So what do people do, IRL, when chaos reigns? Take the explosion of a terrorist bomb, or a terrorist shooting: They duck, they hide behind things, they lock doors, they run -- all things that increase safety, which means lowering the probability of future injury, pain or death. Ducking reduces the immediate physical profile to make it less likely to be hit by projectiles (including bullets). Hiding does the same; locking doors does the same, running increases distance. Presuming the chaos is localized (like with an explosion), the further away you are in any direction the less likely you are to become a victim of falling objects or flying bullets.

I do have one quibble with the OP's alien premise: Precognition of your own imminent torture or death is not likely to be a calming influence in any way preferable to not knowing what will happen, since the unknown at least bears some chance of not being harmed at all. (If it bears no such chance, then it is not the unknown!)

That said, one way in which your hyper-predictive aliens might act differently: Every move they make changes the future they see; so moving in a direction which increases chaos (or, and not the same thing, increases the certainty of harm) can be reversed; so they can consistently move in the direction of least chaos (or the greatest certainty of least harm).

This ability could also make them very difficult to lure into traps, and very difficult to ambush, trick or assassinate.

In fact, the ability may cause them to seek the chaos: If I am a politician about to give a speech, and I foresee myself getting shot in the head, I may immediately seek to move in any direction that breaks that prediction; and if all directions other than walking through the door to the convention center are chaotic, so be it: Better adrift in a sea of chaos than dead; and eventually traveling into the chaos it must dissipate somewhere and I will find a safe harbor with my head intact.

  • $\begingroup$ There are of course situations where these aliens would go into chaotic environments if they had no other alternatives, much as you would go into a dark room if every lit room was filled with hungry lions. These aliens simply don't like chaotic environments, but not enough for them to allow themselves to be killed rather than enter one. $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Jul 20 '17 at 15:58

It seems to me that your analogy of the dark is quite apt. Another analogy might be a fog that limits the range of perception.

Maybe more reflective of "chaos" specifically I'd imagine loud, penetrating noise, ringing in one's ears, possibly causing a headache. Descriptions of the sensory overload some people (especially on the autism spectrum) can suffer might also be useful to you.

Depending on whether you prefer the approach of simply limited perception (the possibilities blur into each other) or sensory overload (there's too many possibilities at once causing confusion) the approach to dealing with it might differ slightly.

One thing the aliens might do is concentrate on the very short term future as a parallel to stretching out their arms. The shorter the timeframe perceived the less possibilities there are and the easier they should be to process.

Depending on how exactly they perceive the possibilities it might also be possible to concentrate on a specific thread of events and exclude the other branches for the moment, testing specifically for the decisions they want to make instead of a holistic picture of the future. Squinting basically.

Those two methods are examples for changing the perception itself, limiting either depth/range or breadth/width. If this is something you're interested in, there's an urban fantasy book series, the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka, in which the main character is a mage with the sole power of precognition and his perception of the future is explained in some detail.

There is also the question of how large the area is in which the future is perceive and whether this too can be limited to ease the chaos. This brings us to the environment per se.

As the others have suggested, the aliens might try to build themselves a controlled environment on earth, possibly compensating for the outer chaos with rigid structures. Whether or not this works or is useful depends on the physical range of their perception.

  • $\begingroup$ Their range of precognitive perception is limited to the area that they can percieve with their other senses. This sensory "bubble" moves with them wherever they go. They can't see something happen far away from them. But they can see an effect near them that is caused by something arbitrarily far away from them. So building a room with sound proof walls is a very effective method of sharpening their precognition (I'm going with the approach that the possible futures blur into each other). $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Jul 20 '17 at 9:35

The alien species would build a portable version of the controlled environment.


Based on your idea of a controlled environment the aliens can develop a technology a little more advanced than the existing virtual reality to simulate a feeling of order.

This should answer all your three questions.

When people are in a dark room they squint and stretch out their arms. What would these aliens do?

What would they use instead of a flashlight/torch to "light up" their surroundings in chaotic places?

How could they perhaps make a visit to earth more enjoyable and less distressing?

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    $\begingroup$ What does that mean? How would that work? Care to elaborate? $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Jul 20 '17 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ It will depend on what you meant by controlled environment. $\endgroup$ – Nishanth Menon Jul 20 '17 at 9:04
  • $\begingroup$ Well, for example an empty room in which food is dispensed at preditermined times would be an extremely controlled environment should you lock one up in it. But this doesn't mean it's the environment in which they'd prefer to be in as they would feel claustraphobic and controlled. They don't need to be in a place like that at all times much as how you don't require to be in a very brightly lit room at all times. $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Jul 20 '17 at 9:12

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