The Progenitor race appears to sense, and possibly even manipulate, local fields an untrained human cannot perceive without mechanical aid, including at the very least electricity and magnetism. This sensitivity creates entirely new worlds of artistic endeavors for the race-or it may be developed into a powerful combat awareness that can foil any attempt at surprise.
– Prime Function Aki Zeta-Five, “Alien Analysis”
The world is bigger than we think it is. Not only in a physical sense – we can only ever visit a very limited number of places, and thus there is ever more world out there which we’ve never seen or will ever see. But this bigness also applies in a more subtle way – there are things we can not perceive because we quite literally lack the sensory apparatus necessary for apprehending it. Ultraviolet and infrared light, for instance, are imperceptible to the human eye, but it is nevertheless there as a thing in the universe. Some animals can see and react to it, and their visual experience of the world is greater than ours.
The fact that we can not see these things does not diminish their reality. It does, however, mean that the process of exploring the universe becomes ever so gradually detached from our sense of vision. We have to develop tools and technologies for perceiving what we can not see. Since we are blind without these tools, we become dependent on them to tell whether what we know to be there is actually there or not. Over time, we develop machine vision – a technological means to glimpse into what would otherwise be beyond our ken.
This means we have to put a non-trivial amount of trust into these machines. Not only do we have to trust that they are in full working order, we also have to trust that they work as we intend them to do. Given that these machines are our only source of information about these invisible phenomena, a flaw in the design specs might have disastrous consequences. Likewise, a faulty air traffic control radar monitor is a security risk for everyone involved.
Of course, a prudent course of action would be to seek multiple sources of confirmation before making a decision one way or the other. Science is nothing if not the art of corroborating data. But the sheer intimacy of these machines has a built-in tendency to make them invisible, as it were. They become extensions of the human body, as close as shoes or eyeglasses. To paraphrase Sean Cubitt: machine vision is implicit, immediate and imminent. In a very intimate way, the machines are us.
The Progenitors have the advantage over humans in that they can see more than we can without aid. Not only does this confer the immediate advantage of being able to navigate the world faster (due to having more information about it) – it also confers the long-term advantage of being used to making sense of it all. Even if given goggles that levels the visual playing field, a human would still be confused by all the additional input. A red blob over in the distance might not mean anything to the untrained eye, but a progenitor might instantly recognize it and move in to seize the tactical advantage. Merely having access to new planes of reality does not mean these are fully understood. Humans know how to build machines that can perceive field modulations; the Progenitors know how to make the fields sing.