Saturday, 5 December 2015

Intelligence without brains

 Since the original posting in 2011 the  awareness of the ubiquity of intelligence, at least in the biological world, has grown faster than I can keep pace with. Quantum physics, in particular, appears to be at the root of this intelligence, or rather the equations within it partially describe the nature of God's creation of the stage we live on. It is no exaggeration to say that natural world has been imbued with computational features of a complexity and power beyond human imagination. These must originate from before the Big Bang within a realm where time and space do not exist.

What is encouraging for me at least is that this phenomenon and the cosmic purposefulness of human's evolution from outside of space-time is beginning to be noted by mainstream physicists and biologists. Even the emergence of our unique planet and solar system is beginning to look goal-oriented.

I am republishing the 2013 version of the original post here and intend to add notes and links as  I come across and digest information in the science media. 

Over the last decade or so I have heard with increasing frequency of intelligent behaviour in nature; for example in primates, elephants, birds, dolphins and  whales

Just one example. A crow was confronted with a problem which many humans would not have been able to solve. A tall jar was filled to only a low level with water and a piece of food floated on the surface. It was far too low in the jar to reach. Yet the crow solved the problem by dropping stones into the water until the level of the floating morsel was within reach of its beak. In another experiment a crow could only reach a scrap of food by using a long stick. To do this it had to use a short stick to get the long stick because it was placed behind bars in a cage. See Clever New Caledonian Crows can use three tools.

 Cockatoos were not until recently thought to display intelligent behaviour but a team in Vienna observed that a captive cockatoo was able to retrieve a nut by making a rake, a process which involved shaping a twig with its beak.  See Cockatoo shows tool making skills.

Brain size and complexity does not seem to be much of an indicator of reasoning ability. Even more astonishing is the latest example of problem solving in nature: a single-celled organism (an amoeba, or slime mould, which under the microscope looks like a blob of jelly) is able to solve complex networking problems with no brain or neural network of any kind.

 It is able to construct a matrix of pathways between pieces of food which allow transportation with maximum economy. In fact it is so efficient that researchers have proposed using it as a model for rail and road networks.

Each amoeba is able to negotiate mazes, remembering dead ends, choose the healthiest food from a diversity of options, and anticipate change. To quote from the Scientific American blog source

‘In other words, the single-celled brainless amoebae did not grow living branches between pieces of food in a random manner; rather, they behaved like a team of human engineers, growing the most efficient networks possible. Just as engineers design railways to get people from one city to another as quickly as possible, given the terrain—only laying down the building materials that are needed—the slime molds hit upon the most economical routes from one morsel to another, conserving energy.’

The molecular systems within a cell nucleus and the surrounding cytoplasmic structures also behave in ways which can only be described as intelligent.

Yesterday (25 June 2013) I came across an example of plants doing mathematical calculations in order to conserve starch throughout the night. It involved feeding in data from the plant's biological clock and the number of starch molecules.

 See  The fittest survive: but how? Somehow intelligence moves into our universe at a quantum level from ....somewhere. At one point the whole universe was a single quantum system and the events within that system are instantaneously connected to events happening now, in the past and in the future via quantum entanglement throughout all the universe.

Time does not come into it. This phenomenon leads to some worldview-shaking-conclusions which I hope to deal with in future posts – e.g. the 400 year old assumption that mind and matter are separate no longer holds.

 Intelligence is a powerful evolutionary tool and appears to have been present from the beginning of life, some 3.5 billion years ago following the late heavy bombardment of Earth by asteroids, comets and meteors. There can be no doubt that this plays a crucial role in the ability of an organism to adapt, compete and cooperate with the living world around it and that this capacity was conferred on life from the start. The emergence of cognitive behaviour in organisms in captivity indicates intelligence levels beyond those needed for survival in their present environment. Perhaps organisms somehow tap an undetectable source of intelligence to help them adapt as the environment changes.

Evolution is the subject of much debate. What is beyond doubt is that it is not a random process.

See also

consciousness without a brain

 author 2077: Knights of Peace
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