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Evolution can work either way i.e. down as well as up.  Species can lose eyesight or legs because they no longer need them. I suspect the same can happen to intelligence if the intelligent species becomes 'top dog' and natural selection no longer acts.  Have humans reached this stage? 

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We must respect the code of conduct so, to take a safe example, the works of Nostradumus have been around for a long time as well and some very creative translating is needed to make them even slightl

Being a natural science, biology and astronomy nerd since I can remember (and being in research for 35 years and for the last 20 year a professor in comparative animal physiology) I have of course giv

I think the Fermi "paradox" can is idle speculation and not much more. It is not a paradox in any recognisable sense of the word, and it is not a scientific hypothesis or problem (we have no evidence

Assuming 'Olly's' prognosis, predation would be a classic arms race / means to invoke evolutionary pressure. Those that have the skills to avoid predation would pass on their genetic predisposition to skills to avoid predation.  That said, if co-operation (e.g. running in herds) provides, according to your environment, the best possibility for passing on your genes then it does work although I'd need to read the book - I think I will! - to appreciate the direct connection with intelligence per se. I suppose as with life, if intelligence is different to what we perceive it to be, then it might be very difficult to recognise. Are termites or farming ants intelligent or just skilled? Does a tiger hunting skittish prey need intelligence or just stealth? A very fascinating subject and much more rewarding than chasing little green men. Surely there's enough wonder in the world already to be going along with if you just seek it out. 

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1 minute ago, Ouroboros said:

Evolution can work either way i.e. down as well as up.  Species can lose eyesight or legs because they no longer need them. I suspect the same can happen to intelligence if the intelligent species becomes 'top dog' and natural selection no longer acts.  Have humans reached this stage? 

Yes indeed. I have proposed for some time (although this might be my first official statement outside my circle of friends) that Homo sapiens sapiens has a new subspecies which will possibly end up a completely different species unable to attract a mate from the main 'flock'. I propose this be named Homo sapiens kyeliensis after the TV show that has allowed the subspecies to proliferate.

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3 hours ago, Moonshane said:

Surely there's enough wonder in the world already to be going along with if you just seek it out. 

 

3 hours ago, Moonshane said:

Yes indeed. I have proposed for some time (although this might be my first official statement outside my circle of friends) that Homo sapiens sapiens has a new subspecies which will possibly end up a completely different species unable to attract a mate from the main 'flock'. I propose this be named Homo sapiens kyeliensis after the TV show that has allowed the subspecies to proliferate.

Guarantee you, you don't need to look too far to seek wonder. Take a walk amongst nature or rummage through the plant pots in your own backyard and you are sure to find something that you've never seen before! :)

Your proposal for a subset of Homo sapien sapien is interesting. We know generally in evolution, that if it isn't used, it gets lost! And the genes aren't passed on.

With the decreasing birthrate in developed countries (Japan, US, Europe) , the growth of same sex marriages (or indeed single sex marriages being the current vogue) or the fear of STD's and the introduction of substitute technology for partnership, is becoming a real challenge for society. As is, the drop in sperm count for industrialised countries. The extinction of the traditional family unit is also cause for concern. So I suspect, that in years to come the breeding gene pool could become quite small.

However, if a subset is unable to attract a mate, surely they must naturally die out due to survival of the fittest? If they can't breed, there is no continuation of that particular characteristic. It seems natures way (natural selection) of ridding the gene pool of those who are unable to reproduce.

So that means that the subset can surely only be created by 'social choice' or 'intellect' rather than through genetics?

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4 hours ago, Ouroboros said:

I suspect the same can happen to intelligence if the intelligent species becomes 'top dog' and natural selection no longer acts.  Have humans reached this stage? 

You have to decide if intelligence is natured or nurtured first.

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More from my afternoon's reading: the synthesis of brain functions - or not. It seems that a woman known as DF suffered brain damage after poisoning, such that she could no longer see more than vague coloured smudges. However, when it came to operating with visual information - feeding a letter into a letterbox - she was highly effective. So her sight worked in terms of directing motor function but not in terms of...what? Consciousness? 'Awareness?' This suggests that our perception that we operate through our consciousness may be false. For me that's an extraordinary thought. It raises a number of 'alien intelligence' possibilities.

What I'm learning is that, since we have such a slender grasp of how our own intelligence works, we should be incredibly careful not to foist that 'understanding' onto possible alien intelligences.

Olly

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Being a natural science, biology and astronomy nerd since I can remember (and being in research for 35 years and for the last 20 year a professor in comparative animal physiology) I have of course given this question a lot of thought. I look at it in a statistical way, much like the great evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr who once said:

“Even if there were intelligent extraterrestrial life, and even if it had developed a highly sophisticated technology, the timing of their efforts and those of our engineers would have to overlap to an altogether improbable degree, considering the amounts of astronomical time available. Every aspect of “extraterrestrial intelligence” that we consider confronts us with astronomically low probabilities. If one multiplies them together, one comes out so close to zero, that it is zero for all extents and purposes.”

I fully agree with him. The reasoning is as follows. Life occurred on earth "very quickly" after the earth formed, which tells us that it is a very likely event to occur if the conditions are right, which they are bound to be on many planets outside out solar system. So we can be quite sure that there is plenty of life in our galaxy, and in the other galaxies. But then comes the major problem. Intelligent life that could form technology has only occurred once on earth, out of 10 million+ (maybe much more if counting bacteria) existing species (and you can probably multiply that by 100 or more to get the number of species that ever existed on earth). That clearly suggest that intelligent life that developed technology was a freak event, maybe occurring once in about every billion species to evolve. The other problem is timing. Solar systems and planets with the right conditions are born and die, and our technological civilization (that could send out radio signals) has existed for ca 100 years (out of 4500 000 000 years) and may soon be gone, so in only 1/45 000 000 of the earth existence. Then the statistics are really against us ever communicating with another civilization close enough to make it feasible. The chance is really as close to zero as you can ever get.

Now, there is probably close to an infinite number of planets out there, so I am not saying there will be no other civilizations, but there is not an infinite number close by (say within 100 or 1000 light years) so the chance of one being close enough for us to contact is virtually zero. And maybe we should be happy about that, since we have carelessly been sending out radio signals for 100 years. As Steven Hawking has pointed out, every time in human history that a superior civilization has met another, things have gone terrible wrong for the inferior civilization (and we will surely be the inferior one if suddenly another civilization overcome the technological feat to get to us).

Finally, there are really no other species on earth close to forming technology. Dolphins for example are no more intelligent than dogs. The reason there was a hype about assumed dolphin intelligence in the 70ties was because they have rather large brains (almost as large as ours in relation to body weight), but now we know that a major reason for this is that they use sonar as a their most important sense and that demands more central processing power than vision. Bats, who also use sonar, have even bigger brains in relation to their body weight. There is even fishes (Mormyrids, or elephant nose fishes) in Africa that have brains that make up 3 % of their body weight (ours make up 2%), but they are not intelligent. They just need big brains to make sense of their system of using electrical signals to perceive the surroundings.

Cheers

 

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4 hours ago, Delasaurus said:

You have to decide if intelligence is natured or nurtured first.

I suspect the natural intelligence in any particular individual can be nurtured. But intelligence as an attribute in a species can only become more developed by a process like natural selection. 

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2 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

More from my afternoon's reading: the synthesis of brain functions - or not. It seems that a woman known as DF suffered brain damage after poisoning, such that she could no longer see more than vague coloured smudges. However, when it came to operating with visual information - feeding a letter into a letterbox - she was highly effective. So her sight worked in terms of directing motor function but not in terms of...what? Consciousness? 'Awareness?' This suggests that our perception that we operate through our consciousness may be false. For me that's an extraordinary thought. It raises a number of 'alien intelligence' possibilities.

What I'm learning is that, since we have such a slender grasp of how our own intelligence works, we should be incredibly careful not to foist that 'understanding' onto possible alien intelligences.

Olly

I think that's one reason to be thankful we don't appear to have detected any intelligent, technically capable aliens in our immediate corner of the Galaxy. Had we done so we would quite possibly have been tempted to advertise our existence by sending them a message. We have absolutely no idea what their motives might be nor whether they might be friend or foe. 

I was somewhat relieved when I read the science writer Paul Davies say on this that although we have been transmitting radio waves for the best part of a century, the chances of anyone detecting them is extremely remote. We could barely detect the sort of domestic radio chatter we leak into space at the distance of our nearest star let alone 10s or 100s of light years away. 

 

Edited by Ouroboros
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So, if we are likely unable to find aliens within the field of rudimentary science and probability, is there a possibility of alien intelligence outside of it?

In other words, are there other dimensions that science can't explain? ie the Paranormal?

There are certain beliefs and sacred text that state, thoughts can travel many times faster than the speed of light. So unbounded by conventions of the physical world, may they exist in the ethereal?

 

 

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31 minutes ago, gorann said:

Being a natural science, biology and astronomy nerd since I can remember (and being in research for 35 years and for the last 20 year a professor in comparative animal physiology) I have of course given this question a lot of thought. I look at it in a statistical way, much like the great evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr who once said:

“Even if there were intelligent extraterrestrial life, and even if it had developed a highly sophisticated technology, the timing of their efforts and those of our engineers would have to overlap to an altogether improbable degree, considering the amounts of astronomical time available. Every aspect of “extraterrestrial intelligence” that we consider confronts us with astronomically low probabilities. If one multiplies them together, one comes out so close to zero, that it is zero for all extents and purposes.”

I fully agree with him. The reasoning is as follows. Life occurred on earth "very quickly" after the earth formed, which tells us that it is a very likely event to occur if the conditions are right, which they are bound to be on many planets outside out solar system. So we can be quite sure that there is plenty of life in our galaxy, and in the other galaxies. But then comes the major problem. Intelligent life that could form technology has only occurred once on earth, out of 10 million+ (maybe much more if counting bacteria) existing species (and you can probably multiply that by 100 or more to get the number of species that ever existed on earth). That clearly suggest that intelligent life that developed technology was a freak event, maybe occurring once in about every billion species to evolve. The other problem is timing. Solar systems and planets with the right conditions are born and die, and our technological civilization (that could send out radio signals) has existed for ca 100 years (out of 4500 000 000 years) and may soon be gone, so in only 1/45 000 000 of the earth existence. Then the statistics are really against us ever communicating with another civilization close enough to make it feasible. The chance is really as close to zero as you can ever get.

Now, there is probably close to an infinite number of planets out there, so I am not saying there will be no other civilizations, but there is not an infinite number close by (say within 100 or 1000 light years) so the chance of one being close enough for us to contact is virtually zero. And maybe we should be happy about that, since we have carelessly been sending out radio signals for 100 years. As Steven Hawkins has pointed out, every time in human history that a superior civilization has met another, things have gone terrible wrong for the inferior civilization (and we will surely be the inferior one if suddenly another civilization overcome the technological feat to get to us).

Finally, there are really no other species on earth close to forming technology. Dolphins for example are no more intelligent than dogs. The reason there was a hype about assumed dolphin intelligence in the 70tes was because they have rather large brains (almost as large as ours in relation to body weight), but now we know that a major reason for this is that they use sonar as a their most important sense and that demands more central processing power than vision. Bats, who also use sonar, have even bigger brains in relation to their body weight. There is even fishes (Mormyrids, or elephant nose fishes) in Africa that have brains that make up 3 % of their body weight (ours make up 2%), but they are not intelligent. They just need big brains to make sense of their system of using electrical signals to perceive the surroundings.

Cheers

 

A very interesting post! I entirely agree that actual contact is vanishingly improbable for the reasons you mention and for still others which you don't. It also seems reasonable to me that other intelligences exist. What I find fascinating, though, is the question of what other intelligences might be like. Since we are unlikely to encounter them the best thing we can do is identify the parameters of our own intelligence so we might be able to speculate sensibly about how those parameters might vary. This will probably remain pure speculation but I'm happy to speculate.

I think that the develpment of technology has, perhaps, got little to do with pure probability and a lot to do with the nature of an intelligence and its relationship with its environment. Technology offers a way of changing that relationship. There might be other ways to do that - by changing the self from within, for example. Or perhaps creatures might evolve in a relationship with their environment in which they were more powerful than the environment and could modify it to suit themselves. (We seem to specialize in doing the reverse.)

I haven't read Stephen Hawking on this subject but, as you quote him, my instinct is to think that he is taking too anthropomorphic view of the matter.* Then again, a sub-set of aliens with the kind of intelligence needed to create the technology to visit us might be a self selecting sub set who resemble us and would threaten us in the same ways in which we delight in threatening ourselves.

Olly

* Percival Lowell suggested that the politics of the canal-building Martians would be akin to his own right wing Republicanism because only such politics could organize effective global engineering projects.

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7 minutes ago, Ouroboros said:

@Delasaurus   Why on earth should thought not be an entirely natural process and therefore behave in a way explicable by science?  

 

Because science limits everything to the speed of light (nothing can travel faster than) whereas other texts proclaim thoughts can travel faster than light, therefore it is outside the realms of conventional science by it's own definition.

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28 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

A very interesting post! I entirely agree that actual contact is vanishingly improbable for the reasons you mention and for still others which you don't. It also seems reasonable to me that other intelligences exist. What I find fascinating, though, is the question of what other intelligences might be like. Since we are unlikely to encounter them the best thing we can do is identify the parameters of our own intelligence so we might be able to speculate sensibly about how those parameters might vary. This will probably remain pure speculation but I'm happy to speculate.

I think that the develpment of technology has, perhaps, got little to do with pure probability and a lot to do with the nature of an intelligence and its relationship with its environment. Technology offers a way of changing that relationship. There might be other ways to do that - by changing the self from within, for example. Or perhaps creatures might evolve in a relationship with their environment in which they were more powerful than the environment and could modify it to suit themselves. (We seem to specialize in doing the reverse.)

I haven't read Stephen Hawking on this subject but, as you quote him, my instinct is to think that he is taking too anthropomorphic view of the matter.* Then again, a sub-set of aliens with the kind of intelligence needed to create the technology to visit us might be a self selecting sub set who resemble us and would threaten us in the same ways in which we delight in threatening ourselves.

Olly

* Percival Lowell suggested that the politics of the canal-building Martians would be akin to his own right wing Republicanism because only such politics could organize effective global engineering projects.

Thanks! It is getting late so this will be just a few thoughts. The evolution of our intelligence was clearly driven by the immediate advantages it gave us with regard to finding food, including hunting, and the technology must have been an accidental spin-off. In modern technological society right now, the most intelligent people get the lowest number of offspring (have the lowest fitness in evolutionary terms), so intelligence in no longer selected for by evolution. So there we have stopped (now you do not even have to be intelligent to be a president). Interestingly, we have probably been this intelligent for a hundred thousand years, and the technology that we invented the last few hundreds of years is unlikely to have been an inevitable consequence, rather the opposite, which again talks against a high density of high-tech civilizations out there. We may still have been hunter gatherers now if it it had not been of a few people that did not do what their parents told them to do (or the church).

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23 minutes ago, Delasaurus said:

Because science limits everything to the speed of light (nothing can travel faster than) whereas other texts proclaim thoughts can travel faster than light, therefore it is outside the realms of conventional science by it's own definition.

That's not the reason it lies outside the realms of conventional science though. 

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1 minute ago, Ouroboros said:

That's not the reason it lies outside the realms of conventional science though. 

Agree. Obviously thoughts cannot travel faster than light, that is a ludicrous statement. Thoughts are formed by neuronal networks in our brain and they obviously adhere to physics.

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13 minutes ago, gorann said:

Agree. Obviously thoughts cannot travel faster than light, that is a ludicrous statement. Thoughts are formed by neuronal networks in our brain and they obviously adhere to physics.

Outside of science, in the metaphysical world, apparently they can. What we are talking about is another dimension of time/space whereby by the 'power' of thought, and the illusions of the physical world can be projected to another. Thoughts according to certain texts, proclaim that the purer the thought the faster it's speed by many times the speed of light.

As confirmed in an email to me;

' Furthermore, all thought waves travelled at speeds much higher than speed of light. As one progresses (word removed), one scaled higher levels of mental waves to unveil (word removed) wisdom contained in sacred texts.'

The concept of time/space then has no meaning in our physical world. In an earlier thread I mentioned that time was a mere concept. Which didn't go down too well, but even Einstein himself came to the conclusion that indeed time is a concept an idea, whereby the past, present and future are one and the same. If we can release ourselves from convention and open our minds to alternatives then other dimensional possibilities exist.  Einstein was himself a student of certain sacred texts which debated the metapysics of time/space. 

Only things 'outside' of convention or the norm seem ludicrous. As said by other's, nothing is written in stone. The possibility of possibilities will always remain 'open'.

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7 hours ago, Delasaurus said:

Outside of science, in the metaphysical world, apparently they can. What we are talking about is another dimension of time/space whereby by the 'power' of thought, and the illusions of the physical world can be projected to another. Thoughts according to certain texts, proclaim that the purer the thought the faster it's speed by many times the speed of light.

As confirmed in an email to me;

' Furthermore, all thought waves travelled at speeds much higher than speed of light. As one progresses (word removed), one scaled higher levels of mental waves to unveil (word removed) wisdom contained in sacred texts.'

The concept of time/space then has no meaning in our physical world. In an earlier thread I mentioned that time was a mere concept. Which didn't go down too well, but even Einstein himself came to the conclusion that indeed time is a concept an idea, whereby the past, present and future are one and the same. If we can release ourselves from convention and open our minds to alternatives then other dimensional possibilities exist.  Einstein was himself a student of certain sacred texts which debated the metapysics of time/space. 

Only things 'outside' of convention or the norm seem ludicrous. As said by other's, nothing is written in stone. The possibility of possibilities will always remain 'open'.

I don't think we need to reject physics in order to improve our theory of time - and I think it does need improving. The tensed theory of time (past, moving present, future) may indeed be illusory like the fixed ticking of clocks or the length of rulers. The problem with theories other than scientific ones is that their authors can propose or assert anything they like. I can cope with propositions but certainly not assertions.

Olly

Edited by ollypenrice
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Anyone can of course suggest anything, but it becomes rather uninteresting to others if it has no foundation in reality (=physics). What is interesting is to use what we know about how nature and the universe work (i.e. biology and physics) to project prospects like alien civilizations.

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2 hours ago, gorann said:

Anyone can of course suggest anything, but it becomes rather uninteresting to others if it has no foundation in reality (=physics). What is interesting is to use what we know about how nature and the universe work (i.e. biology and physics) to project prospects like alien civilizations.

I wonder if any of our supercomputers are powerful enough to simulate evolution in a variety of environments? Must be a way of having a starting point for life i.e. The first replicating molecules (if that is the right term) and to apply evolution algorithms to their survival and development based upon the environment. Massive processing task I imagine but would be interesting to see what simulated life forms develop.

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1 hour ago, Stu said:

I wonder if any of our supercomputers are powerful enough to simulate evolution in a variety of environments? Must be a way of having a starting point for life i.e. The first replicating molecules (if that is the right term) and to apply evolution algorithms to their survival and development based upon the environment. Massive processing task I imagine but would be interesting to see what simulated life forms develop.

My guess would be that they couldn't. Extreme sensitivity to initial conditions leads to chaotic, unpredictable behaviour.

If we managed to find an equivalent of natural selection which might bear upon those initial conditions, however, then we might have a better chance. No such equivalent may exist, of course, but I think it would be unwise to rule out the possibility.

Lee Smolin's hypothesis in The Life of the Universe is that selection pressures might drive the shaping of the laws of physics in daugher universes. He proposes the outline of a mechanism in the book. I'm just wondering if such a mechanism might exist for encouraging the formation of living organisms.

Olly

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6 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

I don't think we need to reject physics in order to improve our theory of time - and I think it does need improving. The tensed theory of time (past, moving present, future) may indeed be illusory like the fixed ticking of clocks or the length of rulers. The problem with theories other than scientific ones is that their authors can propose or assert anything they like. I can cope with propositions but certainly not assertions.

Olly

Well they are historical texts that do have a long standing and following. Not made up yesterday on the internet by a suedo author. They've been around for a very long time.

No, there is no moving present in the idea that past, present and future are one and the same. The present is always the present and combined moment of all three.

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7 minutes ago, Delasaurus said:

Well they are historical texts that do have a long standing and following. Not made up yesterday on the internet by a suedo author. They've been around for a very long time.

No, there is no moving present in the idea that past, present and future are one and the same. The present is always the present and combined moment of all three.

Could you tell us what these texts are please? 

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