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Expecting • Posted: Jun 14, 2008 16:57:49Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

One of the most remarkable things about our world is that most of us display some ability to understand it. Not fully, and certainly not completely, but well enough to make quite accurate predictions as to what will happen next. Two factors allow for that very remarkable outcome: the rule governed nature of the universe itself and the ability of certain types of cells to organize into an information gathering, information storing, information processing, information propagating entity that we commonly call a brain.

While most humans believe themselves to be endowed with a special kind of intelligence placing them in a privileged position relative to the rest of nature, and in fact with respect to most of the rest of the human race, the blatant truth is that intelligence is quite common throughout all of nature's creatures and very likely a direct consequence of the rules by which nature itself operates. Anyone who has raised a dog knows very well that intelligence is not special to humans. And while many farmers will ridicule the ignorance and stupidity of more than a few of their animals, most will admit that in general their animals are not without significant intelligence.

Customary measurement of intelligence primarily centers on language skills, and to a lesser extent abstract reasoning, but there are many forms that intelligence can take. If you've ever watched a field of sun flowers en mass follow the sun from morning in the East to sunset in the West, you begin to wonder if even a brain isn't necessary for intelligence to operate. MIT robotics researchers have found that very simple robots endowed with very simple rule governed autonomous intelligence directed mobility can result in some very interesting outcomes, including socially cooperative behaviors amongst identical robots. And when I say simple, I mean simple, as in go forward, if obstructed backup and turn right, go forward. Similarly, no one would attribute molecules of sodium-chloride with intelligence, yet they seem to cooperatively line up just fine into salt crystals when taken out of solution. Making use of such chemical intelligence, scientists have recently constructed a biochemical computer and set it to solving a complex mathematical puzzle with higher speed and efficiency than a more conventional microprocessor based computer working on the same problem.

It is therefore not pure fantasy for humans to look into bovine eyes and read mild apprehension and/or curiosity, and perhaps dignity and pride with impending motherhood. What a travesty of intelligence for so many to arrogantly deny and abuse the kinship and interrelatedness of all life on this planet.

Friday, May 16th, 2008