This is Alex the Parrot; from a planet located in one of the spiral arms of whirlpool galaxy..
This is Alex the Parrot; from a planet located in one of the spiral arms of whirlpool galaxy..
SO a parrot and an ape can use, when taught, what might be considered intelligent language. Considering how many millions of other species there are, I still say its rare and special. Unique? Possibly no, but definitely still special.
Intelligence is a concept that's hard to define in an absolute; the border is rather fleeting.
Tool use? Repetition/learning of behaviour? Self-conscience (aka recognising yourself in a mirror)? Planning and teamwork? Sacrifice of the individual for the good of the tribe? Religion? Language/Speech? Writing/Art? Mathematics?
All of that can be found in various degrees and configurations over most of the animal kingdom. We've specialised in all of those, true; but compared to what might be, I'm not sure if we're even now truly intelligent.
I don't know, dogs/wolves are pretty good learners for example...
Plenty of animals display intelligence, and learning. It not a unique an ability as some would have you believe. I'm thinking of primates especially and to a lesser extent dolphins & cephalapods.
A more unique ablility that we have developed has been described as extelligence, the ability to write down ideas in order to communicate across time. Art is another form of this. When you think about it, it is truly remarkable that we are privy to the thought processes of people from thousands of years ago.
Last edited by Peace Makes Plenty; 2008-May-15 at 11:00 AM. Reason: bad grammar
I love threads like these =)
Humans can survive alone without instinct, we are self-aware. We know we are self-aware. We can study our brains, our conscious mind, we can sit here on computers that convert electric pules into 1s and 0s to discuss this very subject. A 2 year old has more intelligence than many animals. Keep in mind I said intelligence, not educated knowledge.
Dogs are educated. We had to teach them do do tricks. We discovered and retained all this information, passing it down orally, creating written languages and using them as well. hell we decoded the human genome and are using genetic engineering to unlock innate parts of other genomes in birds to bring about properties from Dinosaurs.
The social network we have is also in another class entirely. I'd say we are pretty unique and special. When a monkey or dolphin create fire or go to the moon, I'll be impressed =)
Before this century is out, I think we might find a way of increasing the capacity for certain species to communicate with humans. Whether that will be achieved through genetic engineering or neurotechnology I don't know. But I suspect that one we can communicate with those species, which might include dolphins, dogs, various apes and quite probably the African Grey, we will find that they have much greater intellectual capacity than we give them credit for.
We might even find that their minds are qualitatively different from our own in many ways, so that even if we can communicate using a language that is mutually understandable, we might find their thought processes inscrutable. African greys, dolphins and dogs are very different in lifestyle and behaviour to humans- we might find that we have little in common.
I watched an interesting show on Discovery covering how early mammals starting evolving parts of their brain which allowed better eyesight, and larger brains which led to them becoming carnivores to support them. That ultimately led to mammals becoming a dominant force.
A proficient, continually expanding, technical competence is the key, and humans have it to varying degrees. I expect that we will find it throughout the MW.
I think at a certain point (the point where our social and tool complexity begins to increase from generation to generation without bound) we have grounds to point out a qualitative, as well as a quantitative difference.
Wolves may be intelligent animals, but I don't anticipate wolf packs ever developing anything more than other wolf packs on significant timescales. Ditto with chimpanzee tribes - they may have hands, but they're a long way from having the same kind of technological build-up that humans had. First they would need a language of some bare minimum complexity. Then they would need to pass it on.
Geology and Climate history suggests that we had to adapt to a new environment or contract or become extinct. We had to transform from being a tree dweller into a ground dwelling animal. The fossil record now suggests that there were a number of different branches of hominid that started to evolve this way. Some got bigger and stronger some stayed small. Some evolved to eat tough foods that would be difficult for humans like us to cope with and some followed a more diverse diet.
All of this suggested that evolution did what it always does allow variations to try and fill new environmental niches and those variations that make a success of it go on those that don't die out. Very often it is the most highly specialised species that are the first to become extinct, it is the generalists that are more versatile that go on. Evolution has never been the survival of the fittest but the survival of the most adaptable.
The one thing you can say about the human physical form is that it is pretty useless at a lot of things other animals with different body forms do much better. We cannot run as fast as most ground dwelling animals but we can climb trees and rockfaces better than most of them, though not as well as apes or monkeys. We can swim on the surface of the water and we can dive below the surface much better than most other mammals save those that have specifically evolved for an aquatic life (how many dogs, cows, horses or monkeys can swim down to a depth of 20 feet on one lungfull of air, humans can do this). The human is the classic "Jack of all trades (except flying) and master of none". However there was a price for all this versatility and this is we were fairly vulnerable to any more specialised predator that happened to be around. The only things we had to ensure our survival were hands which were freed from walking and our brains to make our hands do some new. If ever there was an evolutionary incentive to develop intelligence to make full use of those adaptable devices on the ends of our arms that was it. And once we started to do that the rate of progress towards improving our survival was far faster than any evolutionary change through bodily adaptation could deliver.
Put simply when the first hominid found that a well aimed rock hurled at a leopard and striking it on the nose was a good way of not becoming catfood you can be sure lots of other hominids picked up on that example and it would deliver positive results far quicker than waiting for generations of hominids to evolve with longer legs to outrun leopards. The brain hand combination combined with need to survive in an environment not suited to a slow moving tree climber would have been a powerful force.
Humans are specialists - we specialize in intelligence and tool use. No other life form we know about can come close to matching us in those two arenas.
We started off with two basic features - Hands that which at first were probably not very dexterous but which with the right controlling software had the potential to do delicate things. A Brain with a powerful memory compared to most other mammals, the basic brain configuration was something our ape ancestors needed in the complex social groups along with the need to remember the locations of diverse food sources.
All that then happened was for that animal to be placed under some environmental stress that forced it to break out of established instinctive behaviour and start doing things differently. From then on the feed-back loop between brain and hands became an increasingly powerful combination. We were not specialist tool users by design we simply became so through necessity and our bodies which were unspecialised for other things simply had the right potential to go in that direction.
As to the earlier post about humans having very good bodies! It depends how you look at it. In one sense we do. We are capable of doing just about what every other animal can do except fly. We have a good sense of balance (how many animals can balance for any length of time on one limb). When we fall over we can somersault and right ourselves very quickly (another useful ape legacy. Our upright posture enables us to turn on the spot in tight places and if needed face any threat quickly. In many respects the very instability we have through being an upright biped is something we have drawn on by developing good balance ability. However that said when it comes to climbing things we do not compare to Orangutans our running speed is fairly pathetic compared any other ground living mammal, though our running endurance is fairly good we can run for longer without over-heating than any mammal that does not sweat. We can dive and swim better than most land animals but do not even remotely compare with seals. In many respects we can do remarkable things given the body form we have but we are still a utility animal - If Tigers are the tanks of the animal world and Cows are the buses then the human being is a sort of amphibious Jeep.
It's a chicken-and-egg argument - we have the bodies we have today preicsely because our strength is intelligence and tool use instead of being able to run away the fastest or fight the best - we use intelligence and tool use instead, and so don't need to be superlative at more phsyical approaches to solving survival problems.
Seeing the billions of years that other lifeforms were in existence before humans arrived, and the relatively little fossil evidence we have of them, there could be numerous intelligent species that lived before us (but went extinct before they got the tech to produce lasting evidence of their existence).
I think it likely that intelligent life would have evolved in or near great bodies of waters (the oceans). All evidence of buildings and tools would have been destroyed or washed out quickly, and fossils need very special conditions to form.
One author that treats this topic well in several of his short stories is HP Lovecraft, interestingly...
It is, but many creatures still live there. Alien to us, definitely, but still Earth life.
About the destruction - that depends on how far they got. Intelligence and technology are not directly related. Think of early stone age coastal settlements, even after a few millennia not much is left. The sea is very effective in destroying anything manmade. And it's so vast that we can't start figuring out where to look.
Not saying it's likely, just that it's not impossible.
I think that once; society and culture develop; there is a different trend in evolution. Selection for creatures who speak well; or have pretty hair. Or who whistle a good tune. Or make good axes.
Perhaps "optimally useful axes" would be a better category. If a "good" axe takes too long to manufacture, a neighbor may interupt the process. The road to progress can have many bifurcations. Evolution is more a jester than a puppet master.Or make good axes.
Humans as they exist today weren't the first on the scene to develop this intelligence. We are just the survivors of many attempts.
And quite a few others, many of which overlapped. All of which predate modern Homo Sapiens Sapiens in their "debut", but some of which existed along with us. I think the general nature of our abilities allowed us to spread geographically unlike any other mammal species. Competition for limited resources left us as the survivors in all locations due to our superior intelligence. Once we were the only ones left then here we are, "last on the scene with a relatively short existence".
If bears, for example, could spread geographically like humans did, at some point we may end up with only one remaining species of bear. That species would be the best and most adaptable. Since they can't spread geographically, evolution is permitted to take a more regional path allowing for polar bears, black bears, grizzly bears, etc.
I'm not saying we are the best nature could ever do in terms of evolution, but we are the best nature has done. Once you find your keys, you typically will stop looking.
What evidence would be left over from, say, a bronze-age society after a billion years anyway? I think such remains as might survive a billion years could easily go completely undetected today, even if we were actively looking for them.
well, i must reply to this.
there are numerous examples where animals use tools and even build specialized tools for hunting and general surviving.
reports by Jane Goodall from Tanzania show that hungry Egyptian vultures use rocks to break eggs, they will fly up to 50 miles looking for a proper tool that they can use to hammer on the egg with to get it to open.
Along with and a few other birds, the Egyptian Vulture is one of the species that are known to use tools. It uses small rocks to crack thick-shelled ostrich eggs by lifting a stone with its beak and hitting the egg in a strong swing of head and neck. Presumably, this is culturally-learned, by observing others in the social group. This is very effective in survival for the Egyptian vulture.
The woodpecker finch on the Galapagos islands uses a cactus spine to pry grubs out from their homes.
The green heron is an amazing bird, they will steal small pieces of bread and use them as fish baitThe finch manipulates the tool to dislodge invertebrate prey such as grubs from trees. The same tool can be used many times on many different trees. Scientists have observed that the finches may shorten the stick or spine to make it more manageable. The finches may also try various sticks or spines at one site before finding just the appropriate one that can reach and extract the prey item.
andSometimes they drop food, insects, or other small objects on the water's surface to attract fish, making them one of the few known tool-using species.
granted, only a few have learned how to do this but they have nonetheless learned.The green heron drops a small object onto the surface of the water. Fish swim to the surface, hoping that the object might be prey. The heron then snatches the unsuspecting fish which come along to inspect its bait.
alsoThe practice of bait-fishing is rare among green herons. The fact that few herons use bait-fishing indicates that it is not an innate behavior.
The Hooded monkey or Capuchin monkey
and from here:These monkeys were faced with the challenge of extracting yogurt from narrow plastic tubes. The tubes were too small to probe with their fingers and were bolted to the table to prevent the monkeys from pouring out the contents. The hooded monkeys cleverly fashioned spoons from pieces of wood which were available in the experiment room.
and they seem to be self aware.The Tufted Capuchin is especially noted for its long-term tool usage, one of the few examples of primate tool use other than by apes. Upon seeing macaws eating palm nuts, cracking them open with their beaks, these capuchins will select a few of the ripest fruits, nip off the tip of the fruit and drink down the juice, then seemingly discard the rest of the fruit with the nut inside. When these discarded fruits have hardened and become slightly brittle, the capuchins will gather them up again and take them to a large flat boulder where they have previously gathered a few river stones from up to a mile away. They will then use these stones, some of them weighing as much as the monkeys, to crack open the fruit to get to the nut inside. Young capuchins will watch this process to learn from the older, more experienced adults.
During the mosquito season, they crush up millipedes and rub the remains on their backs. This acts as a natural insect repellent.
The Chicken-Eating Tarantula: is an interesting subject when speaking of intelligence.
most spiders just eat everything that moves including their young if the hapless spiderlets don't leave the nest on their own.
but this unique spider which may be related to Theraphosa blondi actually lives in packs and have been shown to keep frogs for unknown special services
needless to say, nature is very adaptable and shows very high intelligence when it comes to survival.We also discovered that those spiders appeared to be keeping a pet. There was a little frog that lived down in the hole with the spiders. It may offer some sort of service to spiders, like sweeping up ants that might bother the spiders.