The topic was: why haven’t more species on Earth naturally self-uplifted to full sentience? With dolphins and apes sharing a similar intelligence level, and with parrots, crows, sea lions . . . and even prairie dogs being not too far behind, is there some kind of sentience “glass ceiling” that prevents bright creatures breaking through? And, if so, how did humanity manage to break through it and progress so far?
The questions David Brin is asking are timely. Because a recent discovery suggests that perhaps certain animals have the ability to push their limits further…
Research shows that a beluga whale called NOC made vocalisations that sounded extremely close to human speech. What’s more – this wasn’t exactly easy for the whale involved. As an io9.com article explains further, it had to adjust its own vocal mechanics and inflate part of its blowhole (through which it usually breathes) to make these sounds.
Is this an example of a whale trying to reach out to us and meet us halfway? Could this open up possibilities for communication between different species?
And then that raises an even bigger question. Should it now be our duty and obligation to offer other “pre-sapient” species a helping hand? We do, after all, now seem to have the tools of science to be able to do so – as shown by this article on making monkeys smarter using brain implants. Or would that just be the ultimate form of arrogance?
These are among the questions being raised not just in the interview above, but also in David Brin’s classic and award-winning Uplift books, which are soon to be re-released in the omnibus editions UPLIFT (UK | ANZ) and EXILES (UK | ANZ). And he also portrays the beginnings of the uplift process in his latest book: EXISTENCE (UK | ANZ), released as a paperback this November.