Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Advanced life following a universal handbook

  1. Sep 15, 2013 #1
    I was having a discussion with my friend about alien life and we both kinda agreed that for life to be intelligent, it must follow the same path as all intelligent life in the universe. If we say that all life through the universe is Darwinian, then for a species to be intelligent it must have some sort of dexterous functionality, it must have a complex language and it must follow the same path of technological evolution as us.

    The reason why I say that is because without hands or some other kind of dexterous functionality, you can't build anything... no matter how smart you are, without hands you can only think. Without a complex language those thoughts and ideas can only remain in the persons head, again without hands you can't even draw them...

    And for technology, I think computers and binary are a universal technology. What I mean by that is I think an intelligent species will reach a certain threshold where nothing more can be acheived until the next peice of the puzzle is invented. I think computers are the natural step for any intelligent life, sure they may have completely different forms of computers but nevertheless they would use the same fundamental concepts.

    I think it would be extremely unlikely for an intelligent race to go from pen and pad to quantum computers for example, without having to use normal computers first. I doubt they would have gone from cars to rockets without first inventing jets.

    While I don't think it would be exactly the same or in the exact same order, I really think that all intelligent life (if any) would follow the same handbook and you can't really progress if you can't unlock the next puzzle.

    Assuming we never invented the computer, could we still have advanced? Sending probes into space, creating fighter jets, submarines ect? Of course not... anyway just wanted to ramble about that, what do you guys think?

    Please feel free to correct me it I've really got something wrong.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 15, 2013 #2
    There's an unspoken assumption in your thinking, which is that intelligent life must, necessarily, develop technology. In fact, you're pretty much equating intelligence and technology.

    In adopting a technological approach we have put ourselves very much in the situation of the old lady who swallowed a fly. Each advance creates new problems that require new solutions. It could be that intelligent life has developed somewhere which realizes the folly of this from the get-go.
     
  4. Sep 15, 2013 #3
    Could you explain what you mean exactly? My understanding is that without technology, one can't do much but be alive... If a species is intelligent, surely that pretty much guarantees that said species will have a natural desire to create?
     
  5. Sep 15, 2013 #4
    Houston, I think we have a little sample problem here :smile:: we have currently only one place in the Universe where we know there is life. So, I'd say that advanced life following a "universal handbook" would be very speculative.

    Also, please beware that we humans are/may be prone to:

    and together with the fact that we have only one place in the Universe to study life, I'd say we are very prone to bias when we speculate about alien life.

    Furthermore, I consider e.g. apes, dolphins, elephants and crows as very intelligent, and there are more species which display considerable intelligence. Please note that there are animals which have shown the ability to create tools, use tools and solve puzzles. E.g. crows are very interesting; you could have a look at Corvus - Intelligence.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2013
  6. Sep 15, 2013 #5
    I'm saying it could happen that there's life somewhere that realizes the future implications of any action before they take that action, and that that realization prompts them to avoid technological solutions. They would, for example, continue to simply walk anywhere they need to go rather than take on the myriad problems of, and infrastructure required for, self-propelled vehicles.
     
  7. Sep 15, 2013 #6

    Drakkith

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I disagree. I can't see how any intelligent species would be able to predict such things ahead of time, especially with no prior experience with technology.
     
  8. Sep 15, 2013 #7
    This really annoys me when people say dolphins, apes, crows ect are intelligent. Compared to other animals yes they may well be intelligent, but still not nearly intelligent enough to be classed as intelligent.

    It's like saying that frogs are big animals compared to ants... Well yes they are but they're still small compared to elephants. So there needs to be some kind of accepted boundary on when something is considered intelligent.

    Imo once an animal has the ability to "ask questions" or experiement, that is when they become intelligent. I think these shows that portray animals as being smart don't tell you that the animals have been using the equipment or similar equipment for years and have been trained.

    If you went out in the street and took a random crow, gave it a puzzle that the other crows in tv programs could solve in seconds, the crow would be baffled and it would likely only solve it through trial and error.

    for example.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  9. Sep 15, 2013 #8
    Ask yourself if you are prone to anthropocentrism. Because what you say sounds very antropocentric :biggrin:. There are things animals can do, which you can't, and, in a way, intelligence is in the eye of the beholder.
     
  10. Sep 15, 2013 #9

    AlephZero

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I dunno if the OP has yet discovered that some human females are smart enough to know that sometimes, the best way to get what you want is to act dumber than you are. (Maybe some human males do the same, but I haven't met any yet).

    So who is supposed to be the judge of whether dolphins (or aliens) are "really" smarter than humans or not?
     
  11. Sep 15, 2013 #10

    Drakkith

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    While there are many different ways of defining intelligence, I can think of none where an animal would beat us out. It is, after all, our primary evolutionary advantage.
     
  12. Sep 15, 2013 #11
    They would extrapolate from observation. The more critical your parameters the harder they are to maintain.
     
  13. Sep 15, 2013 #12
    I had a feeling you were going to go down this route. “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

    Intelligence and ability are not the same thing. Let's take one example of a footballer. The best footballer in the world is skillful, talented, creative prehaps? He is not intelligent, well he might be intelligent aswell but all we know is the he is a great footballer.

    Pablo Picasso was creative and imaginative, he was not intelligent... of course he may well have been but we are basing these off what they were known for.

    Albert Einstein used his brain to accomplish his goals, and this is the difference between intelligence and ability. Einstein was not skillful, he was creative, imaginative and intelligent.

    Would it be correct to say that Usain Bolt is the most intelligent sprinter? What about if I said that J.C Maxwell was the most skillful physicist? These just don't make sense because of what the word intelligence means...
     
  14. Sep 15, 2013 #13

    Drakkith

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Observation of what? There's nothing to observe that has any close relation to technological development or its consequences.
     
  15. Sep 15, 2013 #14
    If you give a laptop to an Amazonian Indian, he's more likely to start worshiping the desktop image than to set up an e-mail account.
     
  16. Sep 15, 2013 #15

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    You mean like a human would in the same scenario?
     
  17. Sep 15, 2013 #16
    A human has the ability to think logically... about the most logical solution. It might take a while and there will be some trial and error of course but a human will be able to anaylse the situation and apply the most logical approach. There is no evidence that any animal can think logically.
     
  18. Sep 15, 2013 #17

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    You don't know my dog.
     
  19. Sep 15, 2013 #18
    Observation of Nature. If you walk from A to B everyday you start to wear a path. If you stop doing that, the path gets overgrown. Why not pave the path? OK. Where do you get the flat stones? From the river bank. What's going to happen to the riverbank if you take the flat stones away? It's going to get overgrown. So, while the path is better, you've just made it harder to get to the river. So, now you have to solve the river problem. With foresight you could have been content with the trouble it takes to re-trample the path after periods of disuse.
     
  20. Sep 15, 2013 #19
    Btw, I forgot to say I'm not talking about any silly tv shows :biggrin:. There is a field called biology where animal intelligence is being studied, and our knowledge about animal intelligence is still lacking AFAIK. Probably because we have a history of anthropocentrism, and haven't payed much attention to animal intelligence :smile:.

    I certainly agree with this, Drakkith, when it comes to how we humans define intelligence. But I nevertheless must point out that we should remember that we are prone to anthropocentrism, and this may cloud our judgement when we speculate about alien life. That was the real reason why I pointed it out to MathJakob.

    I also think it's good to remember the fact that there are many circumstances where animals beat us in nature; considering e.g. strength, speed, knowledge about the environment. This is of course due to specialization in species; e.g. I would not be so confident in my intelligence if I suddenly met a hungry tiger in the jungle (without me carrying a rifle). Who would? And this is just one example of many.

    Anyway, the point I'm really trying to make is that we probably should not extrapolate the history of life on Earth to the Universe too much. Evolution shows there are many ways for species to evolve, and this may also be the case for alien life too (if there is any); so we may be wrong if we think there is only one universal way to become as intelligent as the human species is. Anyway, that's my thoughts.
     
  21. Sep 15, 2013 #20
    Oh I am quite aware that many many people in the world think humans are the be all and end all of the universe, we are the most powerful and the entire universe was created just for us and all that crap lol. I am not one of these people I promise you, but I do think that any "intelligent" life cannot advance without technology, and I feel that the route they'd take would be similar to ours.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook