RGB and space aliens

In science fiction, computer displays are often viewed by a mixed group of humans and various aliens. It just occurred to me that with modern computer displays, this would not work. Modern displays don't reproduce color accurately. They output only red, green, and blue, and set their intensities appropriately to fool our eyes into seeing other colors (like orange and purple). The intensities that computer displays use is tuned specifically for the human eye. To any other species (including, for example, pets), the colors would look wrong. Very wrong.

Of course, if we're willing to assume that species arising on different planets are cross-fertile, then I suppose identical color response isn't a stretch...


9 comments to RGB and space aliens

  • And who’s to say that the displays of the future don’t emit signals visible to alien visual systems in addition to human-friendly RGB? You and I might not be able to see them, but like Marge Simpson says, we can do anything now that scientists have created magic.

    • Economics. Handling 3 wavelengths will always be cheaper than handling all of them.

      On a place like Babylon 5, that’s meant to be a hub for many species to come together and interact, I can definitely see them going through the extra investment for displays that can reproduce arbitrary wavelengths.

      For something like the Starship Enterprise, there’s really not that much incentive, except to accommodate the odd half-Vulcan or Klingon crew member. Probably early in Federation Starfleet history, non-humans banded together and pushed through anti-discrimination laws for the RGB-challenged.

      I wonder if the anti-discrimination laws require the Enterprise-D’s screens to show infrared, ultraviolet, and all radio waves just for Geordi.

  • I’ve actually thought about this before.

    This also often leads to thinking about the difficulties in decoding video signals that aliens use, when their eyes aren’t RGB. You’d need arbitrary color-space mapping back to RGB for it to look anything close to truth to humans. Of course, false color is always an option and much faster.

  • as skeptical as I am about nanotechnology, some form of contact-lens-like micro/nano electronic prosthesis may be the best solution.

    “What would the culture do?” essentially.

  • There’s no such thing as Non-humans banded together and pushed through anti-discrimination laws for the RGB.I don’t think you could map to RGB very well, because there’s so much information lost in the recording process.I wonder if the anti-discrimination laws requires to show infrared.

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