Alien perception

Being human, we inevitably see the world around us through the prism of human perception. Our minds pick out faces and bodies, hands, smiles. We intuitively map natural phenomena like fire, rolling hills, howling winds to emotions we understand, such as rage, peacefulness and despair.

Yet if an intelligent creature were to arrive on our planet from somewhere else in the galaxy, much of what we perceive would seem alien indeed to this visitor. This hypothetical being might have no equivalent to faces and bodies. And our human version of emotion — a legacy of our evolutionary heritage — might be equally foreign to such a being.

I know there is no easy answer to this question, but I wonder what it would be like to view the world with an intelligence that is not a human intelligence. Would there be a fundamental difference? Would certain objects that fascinate humans — fire, mountains, trees and clouds — become essentially invisible, whereas others would assume an importance that would be beyond our comprehension?

I wonder whether it would be possible to do a rough exobiological mapping of perception: Creatures like this tend to see the world around them like that. Unfortunately such a mapping is likely to remain conjectural, since we don’t have many data points.

Although I suspect that the most intelligent of our fellow species, such as the dolphins and the elephants, may see the world in ways that are interestingly different from the way we see it.

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