Intelligent self awareness baffles me sometimes.  The universe has, literally, slammed enough atoms and molecules together for long enough that, eventually, something jump started and that led to parts of it starting to look at itself in mirrors and microscopes and wonder what it is.  If I think about that for long enough I start feeling like a mystic. . . somebody talk me down!!    . . lol.  

I've been pondering both the nature and destiny of intelligence for a while and I am very interested in what thoughts and/or conclusions smart and rational thinkers have on the subject.  I thought we had an an amazing discussion in a thread I posted a while back "What is rational thinking?".  So I thought I would zero in on a section of that discussion with more detail.

I've put together some questions that I often ask myself on this subject.  First a word on semantics:  When I use the word "intelligence" here, I am sometimes using it like the word "mankind" is used.  It is representing the entire group of intelligent beings that may exist in the universe (here or elsewhere) and/or any form those beings may take now or in the future (naturally or through technology).

Anyway, here are my questions:

1) What is this "intelligence thing" that we humans recognize in ourselves?  Is it different somehow from other animal intelligence or do we just tell ourselves that?

2) Does our living proof that intelligence exists here, combined with the evidence of the massive size of the universe, allow for a deduction that intelligence has, or will, occur again elsewhere even if we vanish?

3) What are the chances that the progress of technology may one day make intelligence immortal?  

4) It took roughly 13.5 billion years for time and physics to randomly create this new thing: intelligence, out of raw matter.  It seems like a bit of a game changer now that parts of the universe have "will" and "ambition".   What can this new thing accomplish in the future given an equal, or greater amount of time?   

5) If enough time passes that we get to the projected end of the universe itself, will intelligence have "evolved" for long enough that it somehow gains the ability to escape or overcome those natural forces working to finally take it down?   Can/could/will intelligence beat the machine?

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Some musings....

Our intelligence has made us self-aware. We are about the only species that can look in a mirror and recognize the image we see to be that of ourselves (elephants and dolphins too, I think). Since we evolved that trait we have been able to look introspectively at ourselves and from there to ponder the bigger questions about life. Religion and then Philosophy were the first methods of investigation we employed. As time passed we had more free time to ponder our place in the Universe. We have turned to Science for answers even though religion still vies with it, somehow thinking it still has something worthwhile to offer.

There are many reasons we are becoming more intelligent. We have regular access to food (protein), information (Internet and schooling) and of course less religion (magical or non-critical thinking). Basically Science tries to answer the “How” questions while religions attempts to answer “Why” questions.

Science is now the only method we need to use to investigate and answer questions because it does not care if what it discovers is true or not. Scientific research is “speeding up” as leading Scientists can work closely together from different parts of the globe via the Internet. When a new hypothesis is suggested or published the process of peer reviewing it can begin immediately by Universities and labs across the globe. It has no hiding place and make no claims about being the Truth, unlike religious claims which lack humility.

I have entertained weird and wonderful thoughts about our place in the Universe. I was thinking recently that the ultimate irony would be that the day we get the Theory of Everything worked out will be the day the Earth atmosphere reaches it tipping point and we start to become extinct due to climate change. All that we have come to know about the Universe will come to nought. We have come to know and understand so much of its history and all that will be lost, like tears in the rain. What makes it more ironic is that the Universe will not care because it does not know we exist anymore than Evolution knows it evolved DNA into Homo sapiens.

We are the “consciousness” of our Universe and are most likely the only species in it that can understand this.

That last line is very deep to me.   The consciousness of the universe. . . cool.

I sometimes entertain the idea that, from the perspective of the random machine, we ourselves are a sort of "heaven" to the dead matter in the universe.   Matter, when coming together as us, actually achieves the experience of knowing it exists and deciding where it wants to go.

Isn't it ironic that matter became self aware and now the first thing it realizes is that it never knew that it existed.  The second thing it realizes is that it will soon never know it existed again.

It's funny, watching that tears in the rain clip this time. I completely forgot until several minutes later the fear induced by the phrase "time to die", as opposed to the compassion it evokes.

I feel the mirror test is a highly anthropocentric way to test for consciousness. The test is designed around the visual senses, which humans tend to focus on as being important due to our sense of  hearing and smell being abysmal. The problem is that this is not true for most of the animal kingdom. Take dogs for instance, they may or may not be self aware, but even if they are they would likely fail the mirror test due to them relying primarily upon smell and voice and not sight to recognize individuals .

How does one interpret the fact that my cat ignores herself in the mirror. I'm sure she'd recognize another cat if it walked into the apartment and would spring into territorial defense mode. So, does that mean that she realizes "Oh, that's not another cat, that's me."

Elephants apparently can pass the mirror test for self-awareness. (source)

That is an interesting point. I am sure your cat reacts far differently to seeing itself in the mirror than it would if it saw a completely different cat on the other side of a pane of glass in a small sound proof enclosure.

I do find that some animals react to other animals on TV sets.  

I wonder if there are any studies of animals seeing themselves on a video screen rather than a mirror.  I know they sometimes seem to notice other animals on screens.

My sister's Jack Russell Terrier goes into a frenzy when it sees a prey animal on the screen and if it sees or hears a dog. Her cat could care less.

My own cat never reacts even to seeing cats on TV. She will, however, respond to the sound of meowing kittens by meowing herself.

That could be interesting. I'll bet they wouldn't recognize themselves in a video unless they first had a lot of mirror time. Concepts of self vs others are shaped by life experience.

I'm not sure I follow in the context of my questions.   

Do we doubt the existence of intelligence?  Do doubt the significance of it?  Do we doubt the future of intelligence?  Do we doubt the abilities of it?

Doubt is the foundation of science, which is directly adding to the body of knowledge and power intelligence is achieving.  Intelligence appears to be gaining exponential growth in this knowledge and power.    So then what?

OK.  Well I can get behind that.  :)

And knowledge is the key to doubt as well.


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