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Posts: 876/1424
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(09-Jun-2005 at 08:00)


Defining Intelligent Life

On the "Are we alone" poll I said that "What is intelligent life?" is a topic for another thread. Well... it is, so here we are.

What exactly is intelligent life? One thing I want to inspire in this topic is for everyone to think about that and tell what their own personal definition of intelligent life is, and think about what earthly creatures are "intelligent" by your definition.

Secondly, try and think more objectively to come up with a definition that would apply only to humans, and that could be applied to other lifeforms to determine whether or not they are intelligent.

And finally, by both of your definitions, is there intelligent life somewhere beyond our Earth?

"A smile is the perfect gift--personal and encouraging."--one Dove Chocolate wrapper
"Love is always the perfect gift."--another Dove Chocolate wrapper
"A loving smile is the perfect personal gift of encouragement" -SaSi
Eh... I'll go with the Dove wrappers.
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(09-Jun-2005 at 08:12)


Yes, this is a double post, and yes, I still had the time to edit my last one. But I wanted to keep the original post free from my opinion; I think it will free up a bit of bias in the answers and keep the topic's explanation concise (unlike my answer here).

I think intelligence lies in a creature's ability to make decisions that go beyond the most basic of instincts (food, water, and I guess warmth) and are made based on the chain of consequences that will come as a result of the decision (therefore, the decision can't be made solely to satisfy needs at the moment). Parenting shouldn't count as it's instinct and has no true beneficial consequences for most creatures. Group behaviour is questionable, it's instinct but seems to otherwise fit my definition. Even leaving out group behaviour, I think my definition would still fit many creatures--humans, neanderthals, wolves, dogs, dolphins, and so on.

As far as something that would only apply to humans? I suppose progress would be a good litnus test--a species' advancement that goes beyond evolution or a changing environment. I'd think it would fit for a lot of extraterrestrial creatures, too. Culture could be a good way to define intelligence as well, and is very specific sociologically speaking... but I fear that "intelligent" life may not always follow all of culture's elements.

So yes, I think there's definitely intelligent life out there. Lots of conditions would need to come together to create the amino acids, and they'd need to be compatible with the environments... but the environments really don't need to be anything like ours, the species just need to be able to adapt well. After all, Earth isn't ideal for life, simply acceptable. And there's an infinite space out there, which means nearly infinite chances for life--and intelligent life--to exist.

"A smile is the perfect gift--personal and encouraging."--one Dove Chocolate wrapper
"Love is always the perfect gift."--another Dove Chocolate wrapper
"A loving smile is the perfect personal gift of encouragement" -SaSi
Eh... I'll go with the Dove wrappers.
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(09-Jun-2005 at 08:42)


Re: Defining Intelligent Life

'Intelligent life' ...

Well, true intelligence shouldn't be simply ascribed to those beings that have the ability to self-determinate. In that humanity ascends far above chimps, dolphins, or even lesser species that appear to determine 'smart' things , humanity can only judge 'intelligent life' as it compares to humanity.

'Intelligent life' from afar must demonstrate not just it's existence, but it's indigenous dominance and at least a 'comparability' to humanity.

Just my 2 pennies...

Man is the only animal that blushes, or needs to.-- Mark Twain

Last edited by Michael1, 09-Jun-2005 at 08:46.
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(09-Jun-2005 at 09:46)


To me, it's self-awareness. Being consciously aware of yourself is something many humans don't even do, let alone animals. Some people and all animals just live their lives as an eternal reaction to stimuli. That's not intelligence.

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(09-Jun-2005 at 11:03)
Quote:
(Originally posted by Michael1)
'Intelligent life' from afar must demonstrate not just it's existence, but it's indigenous dominance and at least a 'comparability' to humanity.
So to you it is fundamentally impossible to have two intelligent species coexisting with one being dominant over the other? Does that mean that if one day aliens come here and take over Earth we will no longer be considered as intelligent according to you? Me think you have confused intelligence with power.

To me intelligence is the ability to come up with rational responses to novel events.
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(09-Jun-2005 at 17:35)


I think this is a relitive question. Intelligence is measured but putting something against the norm. If I was smarter than everyone, then I weould be more intelligent. In some aspects, I believe its how something thinks. Dolphins are intelligent for example. They are smart, can solve problems and are able to orginize themselves in a way to protect each other.

What makes us so intelligent? Is it the fact we are the predominant species on the planet?(i know there are more bugs, but they go squish) Is it because we have guns? Alot of times when I look at the human race I think we couldn't be the most intelligent species on the planet.

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(09-Jun-2005 at 21:07)


Quote:
(Originally posted by Bernel)

So to you it is fundamentally impossible to have two intelligent species coexisting with one being dominant over the other? Does that mean that if one day aliens come here and take over Earth we will no longer be considered as intelligent according to you? Me think you have confused intelligence with power.

To me intelligence is the ability to come up with rational responses to novel events.
I think that that definition falls a bit short; it seems closer to initiative than intelligence. I feel that a definition should imply more strongly an ability to learn and acquire knowledge. Of course, it depends what you mean by a novel event.

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(Posted as Elan Morin)
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(09-Jun-2005 at 21:25)


I'd say it's as simple as having the capacity for abstract, independent thought. Language is generally a good indicator, but not an entirely infallible one (otherwise computers would be "intelligent").

Last edited by Elan Morin, 09-Jun-2005 at 21:26.
Edit reason: Eh.
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(09-Jun-2005 at 21:49)


Quote:
(Originally posted by Elan Morin)
Language is generally a good indicator, but not an entirely infallible one (otherwise computers would be "intelligent").
I think language is more an indicator of education rather then intelligence...

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(09-Jun-2005 at 22:11)
Quote:
(Originally posted by rexregum)
I think that that definition falls a bit short; it seems closer to initiative than intelligence. I feel that a definition should imply more strongly an ability to learn and acquire knowledge. Of course, it depends what you mean by a novel event.
I was trying to make a simple definition that would still be useful for how to grade species with which we can't communicate, and which may have widely varying intelligences. By a novel event I mean a situation which there can't be any genetic ability to handle because it doesn't happen often enough to give a selection pressure. Acquiring knowledge is good, but in itself I don't consider it intelligence. Intelligence is conclusions you draw from that knowledge and what you do with it. A video recorder isn't intelligent despite having a good memory.

In theory you can imagine a species that is just a big brain sitting and contemplating the universe without ever doing anything with all that knowledge, but I don't see how such a brain could evolve. Evolution only develops organs if they enhance survival.
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(09-Jun-2005 at 22:58)


Intelligent life IMO is the ability to make complex machines or to use to simple machines together.

(Basicly barring life on Mars all life we come in contact with should be intelligent because of the fact they would to send a radio signal out a long time ago and we would need to be listining for it.)
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(Posted as Elan Morin)
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(10-Jun-2005 at 01:57)


Quote:
(Originally posted by Largoi)

I think language is more an indicator of education rather then intelligence...
Most children learn how to speak before attending school, actually.

Last edited by Elan Morin, 10-Jun-2005 at 01:58.
Edit reason: I know it means the same thing, but I feel it sounds better.
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(10-Jun-2005 at 05:41)


[quote](Originally posted by Bernel) So to you it is fundamentally impossible to have two intelligent species coexisting with one being dominant over the other?[quote]I'm a pragmatist. It's not 'fundamentally impossible', but it is unprecedented. You never know, perhaps other worlds could evolve 'separate but equal', but I imagine that Earth's impending 'browning' of the human species would happen to almost any world. Instinct forces one species to dominate another if it can, or assimilate them if it can't dominate through power.

Quote:
Does that mean that if one day aliens come here and take over Earth we will no longer be considered as intelligent according to you? Me think you have confused intelligence with power.
Methinks you have watched too much sci-fi and forgotten the basics of evolution.

Quote:
To me intelligence is the ability to come up with rational responses to novel events.
Rational and novel could be considered relative. Animals adapt to their environment and stimuli, but that doesn't make an alley cat smart and a house cat stupid.

Man is the only animal that blushes, or needs to.-- Mark Twain
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(10-Jun-2005 at 10:13)
Quote:
(Originally posted by Michael1)
Methinks you have watched too much sci-fi and forgotten the basics of evolution.
Then please teach me, enlightened one!
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(11-Jun-2005 at 02:07)


Love this discussion. I figured I'd bring up a few points to think about...

Quote:
Some people and all animals just live their lives as an eternal reaction to stimuli. That's not intelligence.
I understand that there was another part of your definition which involved self-awareness, which was very valid. However, taking the opposite of your argument, we could conclude that an animal who builds a shelter (such as an ant) could be considered "intelligent." And so be it, maybe ants ARE 'intelligent,' as it's a vague word and that's why we're having this discussion. But I thought that was worth pointing out.

Quote:
I'd say it's as simple as having the capacity for abstract, independent thought. Language is generally a good indicator, but not an entirely infallible one (otherwise computers would be "intelligent").
Many animals have language, we think, though primitive ones. Were you referring to written language only, or does spoken language count as well?

Quote:
In theory you can imagine a species that is just a big brain sitting and contemplating the universe without ever doing anything with all that knowledge, but I don't see how such a brain could evolve. Evolution only develops organs if they enhance survival.
He'd be right at home at Utopia Temple, eh?

Quote:
Most children learn how to speak before attending school, actually.
Schooling is different from education. Basically, education is the transfer of knowledge and culture through generations. I'd tend to say it has to be interpersonal in some manner--books would count as someone did write them in order to transmit information and culture to another person. So language being a function of education might or might not be true. Many scholars theorize that a child who was never exposed to culture would still develop language skills. No one knows what language s/he would speak, though.

Quote:
Rational and novel could be considered relative. Animals adapt to their environment and stimuli, but that doesn't make an alley cat smart and a house cat stupid.
If we can better define "rational" and "novel," the definition might be a good one to use.

"A smile is the perfect gift--personal and encouraging."--one Dove Chocolate wrapper
"Love is always the perfect gift."--another Dove Chocolate wrapper
"A loving smile is the perfect personal gift of encouragement" -SaSi
Eh... I'll go with the Dove wrappers.
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(11-Jun-2005 at 08:10)


Quote:
(Originally posted by Elan Morin)

Most children learn how to speak before attending school, actually.
I thought you ment the more advanced your language is the more intelligent you are, but since that wasn't what you were saying I have to agree with you that having the ability to communicate what you want is a sign of intelligence.

Backa backa mother.....
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