Intelligent Life on Earth

Posted 18 Feb 2007 at 20:38 UTC by ncm Share This

Here we all sit with these huge brains we're so proud of. Using them, we can throw a rock to knock down a bird. We can invent mathematics, and organza, and politics, and hard questions. Meanwhile, the lowly starfish creeps along the ocean floor, eon upon eon, nibbling, nibbling. It has no brain. It has no head to put one in.

All these centuries we thought starfish wandered aimlessly, a sort of aquatic Roomba. We thought so right up until somebody made time-lapse movies, and found that starfish have an active social life, and dominance contests, and are such deadly hunters that when one comes around the snails all flee as fast as each one's little head/foot can carry it. (Bugs hunt, too, but starfish have no brain.)

So, what is it about a brain? It's all these nerve cells wired together (although the wires are nerve cells, too). If you're in a hurry, you really have no choice but to stuff all your nerve cells into as nearly the same place as you can manage, because it takes so long to get a message from one to the next. If you're in a hurry, you have to keep them all working at the same time, and each one doing just one thing. After all, every millisecond counts.

But suppose you're not in a hurry. Suppose the same survival pressures drive you to evolve ever more elaborate structure, but days or months drift lazily by in your struggle to best your neighbors and prey. Where would you keep your nerve cells: all in one vulnerable spot, or spread out more or less evenly? Would they be on all the time, burning calories? Maybe they could be doing something else when they weren't called upon to think. Maybe they could be muscle cells, too, or bone cells, or taste buds, or all three and more.

How many would you need? When you're in a hurry, obviously, as many as you can afford. (Nerve cells are expensive to feed.) When you're not in a hurry, you can do the same amount of processing with many fewer, just more slowly. Each clump (if indeed they clump) of cells acting as nerves might worry at all stages of a problem, instead of handing off each intermediate result to some other ganglion.

What about the wiring? When you're in a hurry, nothing will do but to wire each bit as directly it can be to every other bit that might need to hear from it. When you're not in a hurry, a lot less wiring can do the same job.

The point is, suppose a slow creature was thinking big, slow thoughts. How would you find which bits were doing the thinking? How would you recognize that you had found them? How would you even know to look? We have no idea what use a great Sequoia tree might have for intelligence. If it had, we might never notice (not being trees), nor spot any anatomical feature big or small that seemed meant for thinking with.

Search for intelligent life in the universe? We've hardly begun here.

Problem of definition, posted 18 Feb 2007 at 22:23 UTC by wlach » (Master)

By your definition, might a city said to be intelligent? What about a country? It seems to me that there has to be more to "intelligence" (and its friend consciousness) than mere information transfer between physical artifacts. As something of a materialist, it bothers me to no end that I have absolutely no clue on what that might be.

Life, posted 19 Feb 2007 at 00:38 UTC by ncm » (Master)

Might a sufficiently well-organized beehive be intelligent? I'm prepared to let the aggregate-entities question slip, and concentrate on actual organisms. Purposeful behavior and logical reasoning can be faked, but absent somebody to do the faking, I'll happily concede consciousness wherever I find them.

There's a fungus underlying an entire forest, somewhere, that I'd like to question at some length. I hope my great-grandchildren would be able to understand the answers, and carry on the conversation.

higher order Intelligence is to link two alien bodies with , posted 19 Feb 2007 at 02:03 UTC by badvogato » (Master)

one common thread so as to kick off evolution/natural selection on both ends without destroying the original bodies or any single point of contact.

To give a lower real life example, i am totally absorbed, not in the least feel offended by this article 'OOP Concept explained: Polymorphism (Technology)'

Of course, the last part of it doesn't make much sense other than illustrating a psycho mal- function.

//now we loop through the holes and fuck them all with the same Penis

Penis p = new Man().Penis;

foreach(Hole h in holes) { p.Fuck(h); }

Non-programmers on another site can pin-point the weakest part of the exercise intuitively as one wise man wrote:

The recharge time must be considered for P to fill H after TakeALoad (). This waiting loop should be implemented somewhere:

public Recharge (P h) { 
    while(!P.isRecharged) { 
      this.desire ++; 
    (goto F*k) 
Straight from my text book, expert's example is astounishingly similar that I can plug right in our discussion:
Abstract Classes: If a derived class does not implement all the methods of an interface, then it must be declared abstract.

abstract class Hole { 
protected $plumage; 
protected $migratory; 
abstract public function __construct(); 
abstract public function fsck(); 
abstract public function sing(); 
abstract public function eat(); 
abstract public function setPlumage($plumage); 
abstract public function getPlumage(); 
abstract public function setMigratory($migratory); 
abstract public function getMigratory(); 
  • Private Methods Can't be Abstract
    methods identified as abstract cannot be private; they must be either public or protected. The reason is that an abstract private method is a contradiction in terms. Because an abstract class has undefined methods it cannot be instantiated ( it only exists to be the parent of a derived class). A class with abstract private methods could never be implemented because private methods cannot be inherited. The same reasoning would apply to a final abstract methods.

    Note: recall that a final method cannot be changed in a derived class. An abstract method cannot be final because it must be overridden - i.e., changed.

    How does a pure abstract class, with no defined methods, differ from an interface? An interface may not have data members or a constructor.

  • Interface or Pure Abstract Class?
    there are only syntactic differences between interfaces and pure abstract classes, but when should you use one rather than the other? In general, it's probably better to use an interface than a pure abstract class because of the flexibility of interfaces. PHP doesn't allow multiple inheritance for classes; a child class may have only one parent class. However, you can implement any number of interfaces.

    It makes more sense to use abstract classes when there is a mix of concrete and abstract methods. You can provide an implementation where identical, derived class behavior is expected, and you can provide an abstract method where behavior will differ. You could, of course, ignore methods for which you expect the behavior of derived classes to diverge, but by declaring a method abstract you ensure that it will be implemented in any derived class

  • Still my question to the original author of 'OOP explained' is this:

    but can you explain to me, why Hole is declared an abstract class but seldom do prgrammers think of the need to add an abstract layer for the Penis class?
    Someone immediately throws in an abstract class Phallus: Penis extends Phallus.

    If we realized that in a more classical sense: Clitoris extends Phallus as well. Now we may be look at the graduate level material...

    Other worth noting point of view :

    There are other types of polymorphism. In particular the compile time polymorphism [ as opposed to runtime ]. C++ Templates that let programmer 'write dick function that will not only work with any hole but don't spend a lot of time fumbling to get it in the right hole during the main event...

    I beg your pardon if you consider this digression a bit far stretching to link it with 'the intelligent life on earth'. I hope to grasp OOP concept at a new substantial level of sophistication so as to gain a true understanding about programming.

    Failure, posted 19 Feb 2007 at 02:52 UTC by ncm » (Master)

    robogato: Maybe the above indicates the articles revival experiment is a failure, absent some way to discard off-topic posts.

    I know it when I see it, posted 19 Feb 2007 at 04:25 UTC by wlach » (Master)

    ncm: It seems to me that we need to know what we're looking for before we can attempt to find it. Although tempting to apply the same criteria for recognizing intelligence that Potter Stewart used for pornography ("I know it when I see it"), my suspicion is that one won't have much luck finding slow-talking fungal floors without a detailed account of how intelligence is constituted by the unintelligent (?) matter we see around us. Then again, I've always been a bit of a bottom-up sort of person.

    Not so hard, posted 19 Feb 2007 at 06:31 UTC by ncm » (Master)

    wlach: Natural selection comes to the rescue. The only things that are going to become intelligent are those that are subject to natural selection. They need a capacity to act to improve their survivability or reproduction. They need to live in a challenging but more or less predictable environment where intelligence can make a difference. They need sensory capacity to be able to know when to act and what are the effects of their actions. They need lots and lots of time to evolve in. Most of all, they need a lucky confluence of circumstances: among the vertebrates only humans managed it, and not through virtuous living.

    Recognizing a creature's capacity to act might take some imagination. It was only recently recognized that trees release ketones into the air when attacked by beetles, which leads nearby trees step up their defenses. Redwoods drop branches on smaller neighboring trees, crushing them. Truffles feed chemicals into the roots of oaks they draw nutriment from.

    Slow creatures' primary sensory apparatus might be unfamiliar. Varying magnetic fields and air pressure might be more meaningful than light and sound (which those both are, really). An aspen forest (which is a single organism) could be, in effect, a long-wave radio telescope. If aspens happened to have developed intelligence they might know a lot more astronomy than we do. That truffle could be farming oaks, very carefully and deliberately.

    Can you think of a way to test whether a slow organism is intelligent within a single human lifetime? To assume it's not is no more scientific than to assume it is.

    prose poem confusion, posted 19 Feb 2007 at 15:47 UTC by omarius » (Journeyer)

    The first paragraph in this article is the best poem I read this morning in my RSS feed, and I get a user-selected poetry feed as part of that. I was confused when I looked at the source title. ;)

    information and intelligence, posted 24 Feb 2007 at 12:02 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

    i'm currently writing this up.

    intelligence is a positive-feedback loop of multiple orders of differentiation on information.

    it doesn't matter if that intelligence is implemented in a brain or in a tree - it's still fucking intelligence, and it's intelligence of an order and magnitude of simplicity so extreme that ironically we don't have the intelligence to spot it.

    which is why i am so pissed off at genetic modifications. it's truly fucking with the intelligence of nature (differentiation - natural selection - of information - DNA - applied over absolutely aeons) that created it.

    we are already seeing the fuckups made by the dickheads who started the genetic modifications to soya being magnified by 'differentiation' i.e. the dna gets unpacked by pollenisation and the difference between the "original" dna and the "bastardised" version gets 'zipped up' and doesn't quite fit - and the differences get massively amplified.

    now we have gut bacteria incorporating that bastardised dna into its own.

    and - this is the best bit: those stupid dickhead drug companies are incorporating their toxic chemicals into the DNA of plants. cross-pollenise that across the world and you'll end up poisoning and killing anyone who eats plants.

    solution to out of control drug company experiments, posted 24 Feb 2007 at 12:11 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

    i look forward to the solution of having to clean up after drug companies genetic modification experiments get out-of-hand.

    europe and asia having to do high altitude flyovers over the united states, napalming the entire country to the bedrock, and turning the entire united states continent into a desert, in order to save the rest of the planet. the only way to get rid of the toxic DNA is either nuclear weapons or napalm.

    and napalm can at least be targetted and doesn't have so much lasting effects.

    anyone disagree? anyone got any alternative solutions, other than to kill the directors of drugs companies?

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