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Intelligent species

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If there were another species like humans on Earth, as intelligent or more intelligent than us... Do you think we would know about them?


I mean, we discover many new species that we didn't know about before even every day. Most of the times these are in places with so much life that all we have to do is stick our hand out and grabbed some uncatalogued insect.


A bit rarer, we catch pictures of new types of monkeys or other mammals, and every once in a while we discover a truly new and unique organism.



The thing about the species we've discovered: They're all pretty unintelligent. What I wonder is this: Is that because we're the only intelligent life on the planet, or beacuse the other intelligent life on this planet doesn't let itself be "discovered" by the likes of us, or because it lives in places we never would have considered...


We like to assume that if there's something to be seen on this planet, we would have by now. We act like we've covered every square foot of ground there is, but the fact is we've been to the surface of the moon more times than we've been to the deepest part of the ocean. As far as the species we've "discovered", the lengths that we took to discover them were seldom greater than just going out into the environment, and taking a look around.


But what if there were a species that didn't want us to see them, that didn't want to be found. Before the world was so connected, native tribes would often relocate to an area they did not know was populated, and mistake indigenous people as entirely different species. Some tribes would even kill outsiders so their existence would go unknown. Even recentley, there were places with people living in them so remote, they did not even hear about WWII until 1978. As a species that's only been to the bottom of the ocean once, and to just mount Everest a handful of times, how can we be sure that there's not intelligent life out there somewhere we've never looked, or maybe hiding from us? I mean, there are simply mammalian creatures that are not seen for decades by wilderness photographers, and terrain so treacherous it's never been traversed. A lot of people want to talk about aliens and UFOs, and "extraterrestrial" life... It could be entirely terrestrial, as far as I'm concerned. We talk about trying to find intelligent life on other planets, when we haven't even covered every square inch of our own yet. To me the possibility that we're not seeing something is all the more real simply beacuse we're not even really looking.


A lot of people will stay to the scientific protocol to a point where it's almost blinding. I mean, scientifically, the reasons not to assume that there is some intelligent species out there hiding from us... Well, beacuse there are really no reasons to actually go out and assume that. Science is so rooted in there being some kind of empirical evidence, or constraining everything to itself in order to explain something. Okay, Ill just give an example...


If I just went out on a limb and said, "Whoa, man, what if there's like, this super smart civilization that's living underneath the bottom of the ocean in subterranean tunnels." Someone of a scientifically inclined background would rebut, "There's nothing to suggest that, and everything we know says that no organism could survive at those extremes"


There's two problems with this. Just beacuse something isn't suggested, doesn't mean it isn't so; no one ever suggested that if you fly a kite during a lightning storm you'll get a shock, but we sure as hell know it will happen now. Past that, we're often times just completely wrong about that sort of thing, and often find animals surviving in places that we thought would surely kill them. Just to cite one not so great example I saw recentley, grizzly bears in polar bear territory. Scientists thought that they couldn't survive in those areas, that they'd never be there, but just recentley the first grizzly/polar encounter was caught on tape, and the first grizzly/polar hybrid shot. So much for grizzlies not being able to survive where polar bears live.


Secondly, what we do know changes rapidly, all the time, and without representation. Someone would say, "We know that no organism could survive at that depth," but they would be wrong. In fact, almost every rule we've ever made about where organisms can survive, has been broken the very first time we go to such an environment. From 4,000 degree temperatures, to subzero temperatures, in the ground, in rock, toxins, space... We've found life in so many different environments, to say, "We know nothing could survive there," is by far the most short-sighted comment that I think can be made.


So breaking down the scientific method, allowing ourselves to speculate...


How possible, likely even, is it that we're not alone on this planet itself?

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I doubt that we have creatures as intelligent as us on this planet, we might be the most intelligent but we are weak and fragile creatures. We have chimps in captivity that can pull 847 pounds with 1 hand.


If any other creature were as intelligent as us, we would have been attacked or contacted somehow.

I believe if we domesticated a primate and taught it, we could maybe get it to our level or near.

I think I remember an ape learning sign language.

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major underscore

Nice topic. cookie.gif


I think that it is highly unlikely that there exists any intelligent life on Earth other than humans and maybe some kinds of monkeys (but let's face, monkeys are pretty dumb). The reason why I think that we are pretty much alone as intelligent species is because we were likely the first evolutionary branch to develop significant intelligence and be able to create a technological civilization. Once mankind got some smarts, things began to move quickly, from the primitive cave dwellers who ate rocks to the somewhat less primitive dwellers of Burj Khalifa. We spread across the world and now inhabit pretty much every area on its surface that is suitable for human life.


Although it is possible that intelligent life could develop in remote areas (mountain tops, deep seas), the areas of the Earth that mankind has populated are the most welcoming to most species, the ones where other species thrive because there is an abundance of nutrients in such areas. An intelligent species could certainly, at least in theory, develop in even most hostile environments, but it would be less likely to occur there than in less hostile environments.


As I see it, the matter of time is also important when discussing intelligent life. Mankind has been what can be considered intelligent for only a brief period of time in evolutionary terms and we do not know how long we will survive as a species. There may very well be other evolutionary branches that could develop into intelligent species given enough time, but that this hasn't happened yet. If I'm not mistaken I remember hearing about octopuses being one such evolutionary branch with potential, given enough time, especially since they could possibly develop into species being able to use tools. Check out Wikipedia's article on Cephalopod intelligence.


Also, it should be considered that our relative intelligence likely developed because it was a competitive advantage in the increasingly complex social setting in which our ancestors lived. The same would likely also be true for other potential intelligent species, although, as can be read in the Cephalopod article I linked to above, the development of intelligence can also occur for other reasons, such as being able to perform better as a predator.


Another interesting aspect is what intelligence would lead to. Our own history is a history of the development of tools, technological artifacts that help us perform various tasks. An intelligent species capable of producing tools would likely do so and thus leave marks of its existence for us to discover. On the other hand, an intelligent species could be unable to produce such tools and would thus not develop into a technological civilization. Or they could simply not have developed for a long enough time to leave significant marks or be so isolated that they would never have the resources (in terms of natural resources and number of individuals) to develop.

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I believe if we domesticated a primate and taught it, we could maybe get it to our level or near.

This is what i find really interesting. What if we would somehow teach a chimpanzee or a bonobo to speak English. Most likely by thought, with the giudence of a brain chip. Intelligence isn't completely revealed without education. Think about the uncontacted tribes in South America. They´ve seen a helicopter, or as they propably call it: giant roaring sky monster, one or two times but that´s it. They know nothing about our space stations or our hadron colliders. All they have is spears and mud houses. Yet we are the same people. It's all to do with education.


What if we would teach a primate? Teach it to speak through thought. Teach it math, physics and other stuff. How big of a difference would we get between that primate and the other primates scratching their asses all day?

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Mike Tequeli

You overstate the intelligence of animals, the divide between humans and everything else is massive. Chimps are clever compared to most animals but you can't teach it English, its cognitive abilities are simply too primitive. Its not from lack of trying, people have spent years teaching chimps things like counting and sign language but its range is about as limited as what you can teach a parrot.

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General Goose

I doubt the existence of another species on near, equal or greater intelligence then us, at least in practical terms: while I won't say they don't exist as I can't prove they don't, it's very unlikely. Surely we would have noticed them or vice versa, especially considering how far our technology has evolved. And where could they "hide"? There's very little space on land and the deep sea ain't exactly the best place for a civilization to build up.


However, when we die out (possibly soon if global warming and climate change is as much of a threat as some fear, possibly war or disease, blah blah), and our buildings and culture and lives just disappear (saw a documentary that all photos and videos will be useless by around 500 years, and the Hoover Dam will be one of the longest surviving modern structures surviving for approximately 10,000 years), the world may very well be ripe for repopulation by another species that will eventually evolve. Whether that will just be a broader series of species like the dinosaurs or one smart species like us remains to be seen, but it WILL be a long time, long enough for us to be forgotten. As mentioned, other primates and possibly certain sea creatures are likely candidates.

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