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Thread: Why do we use sound to communicate?

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    Why do we use sound to communicate?

    Vision is higher-speed, higher bandwidth and just as capable of conveying all the nuances as sound. Humans in particular are far more visually oriented than most mammals. So why do we still use sound to communicate?
    Last edited by parallaxicality; 2021-May-13 at 04:48 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    Vision is higher-speed, higher bandwitdth and just as capable of conveying all the nuances as sound. Humans in particular are far more visually oriented than most mammals. So why do we still use sound to communicate?
    One guess: it allows us to multitask. We can communicate with others without taking our eyes off of a task, a threat, etc. What would a car radio be without sound?

    Another: sound doesn't care if it's dark. Not one bit.
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    Sound goes around corners and into enclosed spaces when things are out of sight, such as predators.

    Primate A sees a cheetah approaching but primate B is distracted or behind shrubs. Primate A Screams. Primate B runs away having never seen the cheetah.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    Vision is higher-speed, higher bandwitdth and just as capable of conveying all the nuances as sound. Humans in particular are far more visually oriented than most mammals. So why do we still use sound to communicate?
    Because we have speech center in our brains. Sound is omnidirectional, turns corners, and leaves your hands free. We do use writing and gestures and sign language, but without verbal speech I doubt we could continue to maintain a modern civilization.
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    Well, it works in the dark, round corners, through bushes and with your eyes closed.
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    In addition to sound being hella useful, it's what our brains, ears, and vocal chords evolved for. We use sounds to communicate because that's how we're put together.

    We have invented wheels, yet we still walk around on our legs all the time. We cook foods, but raw fruits and vegetables still get eaten. We have smart phones, but we still think and remember... OK, scratch that last one.
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    All our senses together provide situational awareness.

    If you can see something but not hear it, you will be aware of it.
    If you can hear something but not see it, you will also be aware of it.
    If you can smell something, that clues you in too. Touch, taste...

    Plus we live on a planet with an atmosphere that does a good job of transmitting sound, and we conveniently evolved ears.

    As for communication, sound is an efficient way to do so, and many species communicate with sound.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    Vision is higher-speed, higher bandwidth and just as capable of conveying all the nuances as sound. Humans in particular are far more visually oriented than most mammals. So why do we still use sound to communicate?
    Interesting point.

    Our nearest relatives, chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas, communicate more by gesture than by sound, although they do use sounds too.

    And we humans are of course quite capable of using our hands and eyes for communication.

    I'm doing so right now, with my keyboard...

    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    One guess: it allows us to multitask. We can communicate with others without taking our eyes off of a task, a threat, etc.
    Very good guess, I think.

    Using sound, we can not only receive communication from others without taking our eyes off a task. Also we can send communication to others without taking our hands off a task.

    Our ancestors seem to have done more hunting than other apes. By using sound to communicate, they could keep their eyes on the prey, and their hands on their spears.

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    For human to human communication, in person, I'm pretty sure sound has far higher bandwidth than anything you can do visibly. Sign language interpreters always appear to be working pretty hard; and you have to learn how to do it. Communication through speech develops very naturally in almost everyone at an early age.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    For human to human communication, in person, I'm pretty sure sound has far higher bandwidth than anything you can do visibly. Sign language interpreters always appear to be working pretty hard; and you have to learn how to do it. Communication through speech develops very naturally in almost everyone at an early age.
    Babies learn speech from their parents, and they can learn a sign language the same way.

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    I’m pretty sure we used night a lot more as hunter gatherers. We do have fairly good sight in moonlight but sound is so useful at night for tracking and communication. Many prey animals have worse sight at night, relying on the sense of smell, and hearing. The compromise in evolution between eating and talking has been cited as a major step in human advantage as social species. Speech can convey orders of magnitude more information than signing, modern signing is based on speech rather than atavistic gestures. And of course speech and oral tradition existed for hundreds of generations before writing and reading which nowadays competes as a communication medium.
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    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    Vision is higher-speed, higher bandwidth and just as capable of conveying all the nuances as sound. So why do we still use sound to communicate?
    Well, we do in a way... we convert sound into em signals then back again when we use radio. For short range communication sound is generally more than quick enough and has many other advantages as pointed out already in this thread. Reyling on just on one form of communication would limit awarness capabilities, so like most animals we have evolved to use what is at our disposal. Then humans have taken it a step further by utilising technology to enance communication even further.

    What might be cool is if it would be ever possible to develop some form of telepathy

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    I think if you asked most people if they would forego verbal sound in order to communicate strictly visually, they'd laugh you out of the room. Some things are done just because they're done, and no one wants the alternatives.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I think if you asked most people if they would forego verbal sound in order to communicate strictly visually, they'd laugh you out of the room. Some things are done just because they're done, and no one wants the alternatives.
    That’s probably true. But just personally speaking, if someone asked me if I would forego visual communication to communicate strictly verbally, I would laugh at them as well.

    I’m not saying that acoustic communication is less important—I fully agree it’s more important, but I think that visual communication also has its own positive function that I wouldn’t want to give up.
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    In response to the question, I generally agree with others. Sound is omnidirectional so you don’t have to be focusing on the source of the sound to be able to communicate. Also, you can hide behind a rock visually but the sound will still travel.

    Visual communication is nice but only when you’re close together.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    That’s probably true. But just personally speaking, if someone asked me if I would forego visual communication to communicate strictly verbally, I would laugh at them as well.

    I’m not saying that acoustic communication is less important—I fully agree it’s more important, but I think that visual communication also has its own positive function that I wouldn’t want to give up.
    No one here said otherwise, or implied that visual communication was not important.
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    If we had an organ that could actually produce light then we could potentially communicate via light. Since we don't, we can't. Gestures don't really count as communicating with light in my book.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bearded One View Post
    If we had an organ that could actually produce light.
    They had one of those in Close Encounters of the Third Kind...but you probably meant another kind of organ. Back to the OP question of...

    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    Vision is higher-speed, higher bandwidth and just as capable of conveying all the nuances as sound. Humans in particular are far more visually oriented than most mammals. So why do we still use sound to communicate?
    Biologically, there has been no significant evolutionary pressure to communicate any other way. Vision may be high speed and high bandwidth but if your head gets bitten off by a Smilodon while you're focused on miming sweet nothings to your potential mate, it kind of kills any chance of reproductive success. In a sociotechnological sense, the same goes for stepping into traffic while you're s/texting your boo.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bearded One View Post
    If we had an organ that could actually produce light then we could potentially communicate via light. Since we don't, we can't. Gestures don't really count as communicating with light in my book.
    Glad you mentioned the word "book"...

    It's impossible to read a book without a light source, natural or artificial. When light is available, the information from the printed page reaches our eyes at the speed of light, because photons carry that information to our eyes.

    In my book, communication via the written word, as well as via gestures, semaphore, or signal beacons, is definitely communicating with light.

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    Put two people in a dark room and ask them to communicate using light. They can't. They can still talk to each other though.

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    The speed required for living organisms has increased from using pheremones and the sense of smell through to sound. Light might as well be instant. Different frequencies of sound have different penetrations just as scent has a gradient. The use of light as a communication rather than just a picture of the world, is very recent in evolution. We developed complex sight processing while other animals got better noses and ears, but evolution favoured our ability to talk, pass on information and cooperate. So our tongues and mouth parts are key to being human. So there is the explanation. We did not need EM communication and postulating the evolution of telepathy for example, seems plausible now that we know how to do it artificially. Indeed now we use EM such a lot that an assisted path to telepathy is now probable.
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    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    Vision is higher-speed, higher bandwidth and just as capable of conveying all the nuances as sound. Humans in particular are far more visually oriented than most mammals. So why do we still use sound to communicate?
    Hi parallaxicality,

    I think we use and developed sound for the advantages as pointed out by others. Other methods of communication developed are innumerable, a reflection of our intelligence. Since recently, we communicate electronically without a second thought. With technologies such as Neuralink's on the horizon, will we communicate with thought only?

    Cheers,

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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    Hi parallaxicality,

    I think we use and developed sound for the advantages as pointed out by others. Other methods of communication developed are innumerable, a reflection of our intelligence. Since recently, we communicate electronically without a second thought. With technologies such as Neuralink's on the horizon, will we communicate with thought only?

    Cheers,
    Our modern EM communication uses modulation of carrier frequencies, sometimes agile carriers and so on and these are not easy to imagine as biological functions. We modulate our sounds in both frequency and amplitude, and the slow speed of sound is not an issue. I guess if we had the ability to produce radio waves we might go the same way using both frequency and amplitude of a conducting organ. It would be plausible if we had current in our vocal cords and coils in our ears to evolve from sound toward radio links. But at the moment using the term bandwidth is a bit confusing because we do not use a direct equivalent To a carrier frequency in sound communication. We do use a particular range of frequencies, and other animals stretch that further. Telepathy , presumably at the speed of light, has been claimed and tested, but without a causal explanation.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Our modern EM communication uses modulation of carrier frequencies, sometimes agile carriers and so on and these are not easy to imagine as biological functions. We modulate our sounds in both frequency and amplitude, and the slow speed of sound is not an issue. I guess if we had the ability to produce radio waves we might go the same way using both frequency and amplitude of a conducting organ. It would be plausible if we had current in our vocal cords and coils in our ears to evolve from sound toward radio links. But at the moment using the term bandwidth is a bit confusing because we do not use a direct equivalent To a carrier frequency in sound communication. We do use a particular range of frequencies, and other animals stretch that further. Telepathy , presumably at the speed of light, has been claimed and tested, but without a causal explanation.
    I thought well-founded telepathy tests have produced results that are no better than random chance? Why is that even in this discussion?

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    Quote Originally Posted by schlaugh View Post
    I thought well-founded telepathy tests have produced results that are no better than random chance? Why is that even in this discussion?
    Indeed so, it is part of answering why we do not biologically use light or EM generally. And I was questioning the context of bandwidth in the OP. When I said claimed and tested, I meant to imply failed as is the mainstream view.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Indeed so, it is part of answering why we do not biologically use light or EM generally. And I was questioning the context of bandwidth in the OP. When I said claimed and tested, I meant to imply failed as is the mainstream view.
    OK, understood. Thank you.

    Bandwidth is an interesting question as to the OP. How do we measure bandwidth as it relates to verbal sounds? For humans, do some languages "compress" more information into a shorter duration than others? In other words is English, say, more wordy than Chinese or German? I don't know the answer to that, it's just an example.

    In my earlier post I spoke of how a primate in the wild might warn others of the tribe that danger approaches; the message is clear with no complication. So I suppose that "bandwidth" in this case of the OP, is an aspect of the information processing and information exchange between two or more subjects. (And I recognize that the OP was speaking of the frequency available for light as bandwidth so I expect I'm twisting things a bit here.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Indeed so, it is part of answering why we do not biologically use light or EM generally. And I was questioning the context of bandwidth in the OP. When I said claimed and tested, I meant to imply failed as is the mainstream view.
    I had assumed "assisted path to telepathy" meant something technological, not psychic. Via implants or induction.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I had assumed "assisted path to telepathy" meant something technological, not psychic. Via implants or induction.
    Yes, in my story attempts, I call it “techtel” (technological telepathy). Recent computer to brain interface attempts allow a person to mentally transmit at ninety characters (not words) per minute, and receiving is dead easy (just a speaker for the ears or a display attachment for glasses). The problem is the transmitting bit requires electrodes implanted in the brain. Still, it is getting close in a practical sense.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    Yes, in my story attempts, I call it “techtel” (technological telepathy). Recent computer to brain interface attempts allow a person to mentally transmit at ninety characters (not words) per minute, and receiving is dead easy (just a speaker for the ears or a display attachment for glasses). The problem is the transmitting bit requires electrodes implanted in the brain. Still, it is getting close in a practical sense.
    Yeah, about ten years ago maybe during an Open Campus event there was a machine that allowed you to "drive" a car simulator by using an EEG cap. If you thought hard about turning right, the car would actually follow the thoughts. It was pretty basic then, but as you say I think it's gotten a lot more accurate.
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    Quote Originally Posted by schlaugh View Post
    OK, understood. Thank you.

    Bandwidth is an interesting question as to the OP. How do we measure bandwidth as it relates to verbal sounds? For humans, do some languages "compress" more information into a shorter duration than others? In other words is English, say, more wordy than Chinese or German? I don't know the answer to that, it's just an example.
    From what I've read (I don't remember any sources), all languages basically transmit information at the same rate. For example, in tonal languages like Chinese more information is conveyed by the use of tone, so in response the time for each syllable is longer than in a language like Spanish or Tagalog which are essentially flat with few vowel types. I think the hypothesis is that the speed of language is not really limited by the sound but more by the time it takes our brains to process the information, either on the transmitting side or the receiving side (I'm not sure which...)
    As above, so below

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