Interstellar Dualists and X-phi Alien Superfreaks

by rsbakker

I came up with this little alien thought experiment to illustrate a cornerstone of the Blind Brain Theory: the way systems can mistake information deficits for positive ontological properties, using a species I call the Walleyes (pronounced ‘Wally’s’):

Walleyes possess two very different visual systems, the one high dimensional, adapted to tracking motion and resolving innumerable details, the other myopic in the extreme, adapted to resolving blurry gestalts at best, blobs of shape and colour. Both are exquisitely adapted to solve their respective problem-ecologies, however; those ecologies just happen to be radically divergent. The Walleyes, it turns out, inhabit the twilight line of a world that forever keeps one face turned to its sun. They grow in a linear row that tracks the same longitude around the entire planet, at least wherever there’s land. The high capacity eye is the eye possessing dayvision, adapted to take down mobile predators using poisonous darts. The low capacity eye is the eye possessing nightvision, adapted to send tendrils out to feed on organic debris. The Walleyes, in fact, have nearly a 360 degree view of their environment: only the margin of each defeats them.

The problem, however, is that Walleyes, like anenomes, are a kind of animal that is rooted in place. Save for the odd storm, which blows the ‘head’ about from time to time, there is very little overlap in their respective visual fields, even though each engages (two very different halves of) the same environment. What’s more, the nightvision eye, despite its manifest myopia, continually signals that it possesses a greater degree of fidelity than the first.

Now imagine an advanced alien species introduces a virus that rewires Walleyes for discursive, conscious experience. Since their low-dimensional nightvision system insists (by default) that it sees everything there is to be seen, and its high-dimensional system, always suspicious of camoflaged predators, regularly signals estimates of reliability, the Walleyes have no reason to think heuristic neglect is a problem. Nothing signals the possibility that the problem might be perspectival (related to issues of information access and problem solving capacity), so the metacognitive default of the Walleyes is to construe themselves as special beings that dwell on the interstice of two very different worlds. They become natural dualists…

The same way we seem to be.

Perhaps some X-phi super-aliens are snickering as they read this!