Monday, December 18, 2006

Would Telepathic Aliens Use Keyboards?

Yesterday I came across two interesting articles. The first was David Morgan-Mar's amazingly eloquent explanation of Maxwell's Equations, which I enjoyed thoroughly. The second was a news story I didn't actually read about the current state of technology for reading brainwaves to control a robot or computer.

A week ago I spent a little while thinking about how a race telepathic aliens would invent computers. (I think I was in line at the grocery store.)

In the science-fiction setting for my RPG, the players are exploring a planet that once had a high-tech civilization but was mysteriously abandoned. I'm considering making that ancient and high-tech alien race telepathic.

How would high-tech machinery from a telepathic alien race work? For many machines language is not an issue. Piloting a vehicle or operating a shop tool are not usually language-dependent procedures.

But computer terminals, whether for a full computer or merely the access panel to open a door or use a computerized dispenser, are all about language.

If the telepathic aliens used a written language they probably would use some sort of "keyboard" appropriate to their appendages. After all, in real life typing is faster than writing even though our current keyboards are designed to slow down typing.

If the telepathic aliens lacked a written language (perhaps they have long lifespans, very long-range telepathy, or even a single global consciousness) then they might never have used keyboards. Then, given a reasonable assumption that their brains alse work using electrons so their telepathy uses some sort of electromagnetic waves, the aliens would probably have input devices that picked these up directly.

Ta da! Those science-fiction thoughts ran through my head. Yesterday I found articles about electromagnetic waves and real-life input devices that pick them up. Now you get a RPG blog post to read.