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Jackie Higgins


Today’s conversation is with Jackie Higgins about the fantastical scensorial abilities of the creatures we share this world with and what we can learn from them.

Sentient Higgins

There are a lot of conversations today about worlds beyond earth. As billionaires burn their tax difference slips for fuel in hopes of being recognized as astronauts, curious authors and scientists more importantly, look to question and test what life might be like thousands of light years away.

Unmapped territories far beyond what humans think is reachable are comfortable places to project our desires. There is less residence in deciding what is plausible’ when it’s on another planet then saying out loud why not here’. Questions of what alien life might be like stretches our imaginations and assumptions of what is plausible. This inevitably raises questions about how we as humans define intelligence? or, would other forms of consciousness beyond our own be even recognized? 

Extraterrestrial is a wonderful word. Jeffrey Nesbit and Guy Trangos discuss it in their issue of New Geographies (a conversation we had together here on Ep.073) Extraterrestrial means not only as being off’ world or beyond earth but also extra-terrestrial as in excessively terrestrial, hyper terrestrial, Earth Plus, or as Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel would say.…..This Earth goes to eleven. 

Trying to place oneself in the position to comprehend other ways of seeing’, sensing or communicating beyond our own narrow bandwidth, doesn’t require voyage beyond earth. Here on earth are species like the octopus, the Goliath Catfish or the Star-nosed Mole that rival the most imaginative creations of science fiction in book or movie. What makes them unique isn’t just how they look but in how they experience the same world we inhabit. We may very well occupy the same earth, but they are seeing an entirely different world than us! You as listeners might be able to reference an image in your head of these creatures but we have no means to full comprehend how they perceive and sense the same world we all share. 

We as humans experience a small bandwidth of the available information (colors, sounds, chemicals,) that flow around us. Humans then of course made the assumption that our experiences should be used as the baseline that all other creature must measure against. This has perpetuated a rather narrow perspective of what intelligence, consciousness and experience might be here on our planet. 

Earth is far more alien and extra-terrestrial than it is ever given credit for.

Thanks to Richard Devine for Sample permission: Etch n Sketch’ 

Jackie Higgins

Jackie Higgins is a television documentary director and writer, who read zoology at Oxford University, as a student of Richard Dawkins. She made wildlife films for a decade, for BBC as well as for Channel 4, National Geographic and The Discovery Channel. She then joined the BBC’s science department, researching and writing, directing and producing programs such as Tomorrow’s World and Horizon.

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