I read about a Bonobo named Kanzi today, who's learned how to make fire (with a little help from human technology) and I started thinking about our own evolution and wondering about the various levels of intelligence we had throughout. I've always been interested in other primates and other intelligent animals in general and their relative intelligences. Koko the gorilla and Alex the parrot are really cool. I also watched a documentary on the history of our own understanding of mathematics and how it evolved from the greek's word problem like world to the level we've taken it to now. It made me especially think about the fact that humans are terribly poor at coming up with new ideas but once those ideas are there, large numbers of people can expand on it. True genius and paradigm shifts were few and far between. And the difference between knowing math and understanding math. I started wondering about much Kanzi could possibly understand. Not has the desire to understand or the attention span. Assuming an unlimited attention span, the desire to learn, and hell, an infinite amount of time, and the proper teaching methods, would there be a limit to her ability to understand abstract thoughts? I know all primates can do very simple pattern recognition, and abstract numeric thoughts. I'm fairly certain it could pick up addition and subtraction, and probably multiplication and division too. I think it could probably grasp that mathematical formulas can represent the physical world and I think she'd understand to some degree Newton's laws. But I don't think she could learn relativity or quantum physics. I think it's too weird and abstract. Assuming that we omit the future possibilities of extending our intelligence with AI or genetic engineering, do you think there are concepts that some alien species has figured out that simply can't be taught to any human being no matter how intelligent? I'm positive that at least a handful of us could follow any mathematical formulas of any advanced laws that we don't currently know of, but that's not the same as actually understanding it. I'm not talking about things we can't figure out because we can't test something, I'm talking purely about our ability to understand something. Do you think we have limits, or is our mind flexible enough to adapt to learn anything given enough time? Thoughts?