If Sentience Had Arisen In Another Species

What would it be like? What species would be the most likely candidates for sentience? How would they have changed if sentience developed? Is it possible that sentience in another species might out achieve us in terms of intelligence and technology?

Sometimes I find myself asking these questions. I’ll never have adequate answers unless some course of events causes a sentient species to spring out of nowhere in my lifetime. But, I can always take a stab at guessing. That’s what science fiction tends to be concerned with; the multitude of paths the future could take, and all the plausible changes therein.

 

Circumstances alone can sometimes aid in the development of an intelligent species. Dinosaurs were dominant on Earth until the asteroid impact knocked them out, giving early mammal ancestors a chance to take hold. Early birds also showed up some time after.

 

I’m going to favor birds in this topic, because they are less obvious than chimpanzees or dolphins, and thus most people don’t notice them as much. Rarely do you hear of everyday people thinking of birds as contenders in the game of intelligence, but they are actually quite impressive. Corvids (crows and ravens), Psittacines(parrots), and even pigeons are counted as the most notable. They are known for problem solving abilities, and also being emotional.

 

Birds, in general, are very social animals, much like us. They are helpless from the moment they hatch out of the egg, and must be fed at regular intervals by their parent/s. They grow and learn to live in flocks, foraging for food, competing, sometimes working together, and pairing up to mate and raise young.

 

Intelligence is also supposedly linked to bipedalism, and birds are bipedal while not in flight. I wonder if that doesn’t give them a leg up in the statistics between animal groups.

The thing is, I tend to believe intelligence could arise in many species given enough time and the right environmental circumstances. Social species, even including insects and some reptiles, could become potential candidates in development toward sentience.

Some birds have a call system of vocally produced sounds, and also some physical gestures they seem to pass between each other.

Some birds have crests that they are able to erect on their heads to display great excitement or aggression. Tail wagging, similar to a dog’s, is a sign of contentment, and fanning out the tail feathers can be used as a threat display. Some birds, especially cockatoos, will tap their feet as a sign of dominance over their territory.

 

Posturing is also important in the world of body language for birds. Bowing with the head facing another bird is a request for grooming. If the head and body are rigid at attention, and feathers are flared out, this is a signal to others that the bird owns the territory. Aggression is expressed when a bird holds a rigid crouching position with tail feathers flared, ruffled feathers, and head down. Birds may also add a hiss as extra warning.

 

There is even a form of name that a parrot will call her chick by, which I learned only recently. It really impressed me. The parent will use her own natural call with an added new note toward the end in reference to her young. The chick then begins repeating this call as it’s own, eventually passing it on in the same fashion.

 

Youtube video from the Cornell Lab or Ornithology

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ed9A4HPdXgQ&list=FL3MgjOpviL5Lo796UYSR7uQ&index=131&feature=plpp_video

 

In talking about this subject, I realize that there have hardly been any avian-like aliens in fiction that I’ve read. The only example I know of is in Richard K. Morgan’s “Broken Angels”. Good read, by the way.

There were ruins described in the book that the civilization left behind, and it was not too far off what may have been a city for a sentient bird species. As such, they were quite difficult for flightless humans to access.

I have to wonder also what kind of technology this sentient species would develop, being that birds are quite particular about their various habits, likes, and dislikes.

Another idea is what they might create as art. Birds not only have vision that is excellent, but they see in the UV spectrum. They also have polarized vision, which aids in migration. So, with all the color they are able to see, I can only wonder what they might paint, sculpt, or carve. Like one of our early ancestors painting on a cave wall, would they illustrate what they saw, or even chronicle a time or journey in some un-thought of medium?

 

I can only wonder, and guess with the best of them. Then again, I am a daydreamer. Who knows, this may be good fodder for another project for me, or for others.

 

~Lynn

Evolving Stories & Current Distractions

It is nothing new to a writer when a story has to be written over at one time or another. Whether it’s the plot that needs changing, or characters that need cutting out, or changing the subject matter completely just because you’re bored with it. I’ve done this at least four to five times with one project, and then for the first time with a newer one.

At times you just need an infusion of something new when your previous fascination now dulls your senses. There is no need for feeling guilt over a change. If the work is yours, you should feel free to do as you damn well please with it.

I’ve also found that pre-planning a story from start to finish never worked for me. I’ve only worked a few chapter outlines at a time, and let things develop from there. I sometimes have a vague idea of where I’d like the story to go, and how it might end, but I don’t like to visualize it until I’ve worked my way there.

The funny thing is that a story can take on a life of its own, and instead of you being in charge, you are being lead by a muse, or something like it. I get bored less doing it this way.
In every little thing I read, or see, I may pick up new ideas to weave into the work I’m doing. It seems to me that an amalgum of concepts worked together in the right way can avoid the pitfall of a more formulaic premise. Though, there are writers who’ve managed to create fine works doing so. It’s just a little harder to do these days.

In other news…

I’ve been reading some of Greg Egan’s books. I really liked “Distress”. I just finished “Diaspora”, and “Crystal Nights & Other Sories”. I’m now reading “Schild’s Ladder”. I’ll admit right here and now that some of the physics bits go over my head. It’s definitely interesting nonetheless.

My other current distraction from reality is HBO’s Game of Thrones series. I have watched all of season one, and season two is nearly complete. It’s the most addictive story/series I’ve seen in a very long time. I’m not usually into too much fantasy, but this is so damn well written that it keeps me on the edge of my seat. I already have a few favorite characters, and the series goes a step further by having dragons and giant wolves involved.
I LOVE dragons, and giant wolves are also very awesome. I’d have one of each if they existed.
I may now have to read the books by George R. R. Martin, and I hear that they are quite thick volumes.

In real time…

I am trying to get more exposure for my art website. I’m trying to get more traffic there, and possibly more work using my skills. If you know anyone who loves wildlife art, please tell them to check out my website here:

http://vivid-dreams.jimdo.com

Feel free to pass the link around, and leave a guestbook entry if you really enjoy it!
Also, to avoid confusion, “Lynn DeRiso” is my writing pen-name, while “Angela DeRiso” is my artist name. I’m the same person. I do wonder whether I should just stick to one or the other though, and I do prefer my middle name “Lynn”.

Any thoughts on that?

Empathy For Fellow Lifeforms

I’m going to share some odds and ends of my thoughts in the last few weeks. You see, I’ve been rescuing all many of small creatures inside my apartment, some of which most people wouldn’t hesitate to kill. I’ve been rescuing living things since my younger days, so this is hardly new for me, but being older gives me more insight into why I do it.

Not a wolf spider, but good pic anyway.

I had a small spider appear in my bathroom sink, and it couldn’t climb the slick surface to get out. I couldn’t help but think what a treacherous journey the crawl up the drainpipes must’ve been for the little thing. In terms of size, this would be trekking miles for a spider. Nevermind that having eight legs probably speeds up travel time, it’s likely still a rough patch to get through.

So, I maneuvered the spider onto some tissue paper, and placed it outside in a dark area. I believe it was a small wolf spider, and they’re harmless in terms of venom.

I’ve also managed to whisk away little house millipedes more times I can count. There seem to be an abundance of them in this area. They also like bathrooms.

Then there are the turtles. There are two large ponds in the complex, and many types of aquatic turtles live in there. I love going out there to see them. Occasionally, I will cut up a small amount of some veggies and fruits to feed them. They love bread, but it’s not good for their health, nor is it for the ducks either.

Some residents of the local pond. I think at this point they recognize me as an odd but convenient food-bringer.

I came upon a very small mud turtle making its way toward the pond in a parking lot. At the same time, a bunch of rowdy kids were coming down the stairwell nearby. I quickly picked up the turtle and placed on the bank of the pond so he could get away in time.

Some of the larger turtles are bold enough to walk up to you and beg like very slow puppies.

I’ve also come across much larger turtles walking in the street, and at risk of possibly being on the receiving end of a severe bite, I’ve still managed to get them to a water source. I just can’t stand the thought of one of them being run over for simply trying to get from place to place. It’s hardly their fault they are stuck living among human sprawl.

These are the two stragglers left. I’m hoping they beat the odds.

Then, in the last few days, I noticed three little ducklings alone without a mother. I learned from a neighbor that the mother went missing, probably killed by something, and these ducklings had been alone for the past few days. None of the others female ducks have taken them in, and they only have little bushes on the bank of the pond to hide from predators.

Ducklings are painfully cute, which makes leaving them to the wild hurt like hell. Just the other day, there were only two of them left. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for them, and the odds are stacked against them. I hope they manage to survive. If not, I can only hope that whatever takes them is quick.

I clearly have more empathy than I know what to do with. I like to think of that as a good thing, even though it can be a pain in the ass.

I should have an update on my writing projects and such in the next post or two. Thanks for reading.

~Lynn