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View Diary: Why Not Engineer Animals with Human-level Consciousness? (143 comments)

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  •  How do we know they don't already? (5+ / 0-)

    We have recent headlines of dolphins calling each other by name.  Plus a lot of primate research showing high degrees of intelligence.  Perhaps we humans suffer from a delusion of "human exceptionalism".

    •  Humans are exceptional as an observed fact. (3+ / 0-)
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      Dragon5616, serendipityisabitch, FG

      No other tool-using animal can rival our technology.  They use sticks to get ants out of holes, or pick up shells as camouflage.  We create self-contained environments and fly in space.

      So dolphins are probably conscious and intelligent, but it's a free-flowing thing with them.    

      •  I hope that was firmly tongue in cheek (in which (4+ / 0-)

        case it needs a /snark tag). Our ancestors couldn't rival our technology, either, but that doesn't say much, if anything, about whether there's any real difference between homo sap of 10,000 years ago and us. And better tool use is a positive definition from our point of view.

        half /snark

        At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

        by serendipityisabitch on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 03:51:37 PM PDT

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        •  Our ancestors have been making fire (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          serendipityisabitch, Dragon5616

          since homo habilis.  No other animal does that.  No other animal can travel or communicate at the speeds our technology makes possible.  Human exceptionalism is just a fact, and any animal that disagrees is welcome to prove it.  And BTW, the very fact that we can debate the definition of intelligence is pretty solid evidence of that.  I don't know of a single animal intelligence expert who would argue that that level of conversation can occur in dolphin language.

          •  Unfortunately making fires has destroyed the earth (3+ / 0-)
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            marina, Dragon5616, Neuroptimalian

            You are looking at human "exceptionalism" from a human's perspective. We are extremely inefficient and wasteful as a species. The other species do not have to process their food nor do they have to kill other species in order to use their skins for warmth and protection.

            I would bet that if the US electrical grid went off line for a year over half the population would die - from hunger, cold or strife.

            You are defining intelligence as the ability to debate what is the definition of intelligence. Intelligence could also be the ability to accurately migrate over distances of thousands of miles without the use of technology.

            •  Actually we're the most efficient animal species. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Dragon5616, FG

              Other animals have to undergo a mass-extinction and generations of genetic natural selection to adapt to new circumstances.  We just change our technology.

              I would bet that if the US electrical grid went off line for a year over half the population would die - from hunger, cold or strife.
              Yes, we're in a technological transition period.  Once the grid is largely solar and decentralized, that's not going to be an issue.
              Intelligence could also be the ability to accurately migrate over distances of thousands of miles without the use of technology.
              That's instinct.  Intelligence is the ability to behaviorally adapt to dynamic circumstances through forward thinking.
              •  Dinosaurs existed for 135 million years (4+ / 0-)

                How long has Homo sapiens (the intelligent homo) been around? About 1/4 million years of which only a few hundred years have seen us modifying the environment in any major way.

                We just change our technology.
                Yes. And maybe cause our own extinction. We are now starting to pay the external costs of the industrial revolution with global climate change.

                Do you think humans can deal with a 50 foot sea level rise without a massive die out from starvation and war?

                Intelligence is the ability to behaviorally adapt to dynamic circumstances through forward thinking.
                The basis of our intelligence is also "instinct" in that we are born with the genetic predispositions that underlay it. We are closer to the other animals than you appear to want to believe. We share 99% of our DNA with bonobos and chimpanzees.

                BTW, even octopi have shown forward thinking in problem solving skills. It's not unique to humans except in scale.

              •  Homo fabricans (3+ / 0-)

                is a comparatively short lived species; about 250k depending how you classify "human".  From a geologic and evolutionary perspective, that's a drop in the bucket.  It remains to be seen whether we'll make it through the next few centuries.  Who knows whether dolphins aren't having intricate discussions about philosophy and whatnot?

              •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
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                Claudius Bombarnac, marina
                Other animals have to undergo a mass-extinction and generations of genetic natural selection to adapt to new circumstances.
                Exactly. That's why you never see raccoons anymore. Or Norway rats. And it beautifully explains the sadly diminished range of the coyote, not to mention the failure of warm water jellies to move north, of barn owls to move into barns.
          •  I'm hoping you're not so hung on being ... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Claudius Bombarnac, marina

            an exceptional human that you doubt the existence of much more evolved "life' out there in the universe.  We're probably the equivalent of amoebas to them.

            "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

            by Neuroptimalian on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 07:51:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Our technology is destroying nature (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marina, Dragon5616, Neuroptimalian

        Maybe it would be best for humans to pack up their technology and take off into space and leave the earth to nature.

        Maybe dolphins are happier and more contented than humans as a free flowing entity. Happiness in humans seems to be inversely proportional to the amount of technology made junk they possess.

        •  Everything that happens is nature. (2+ / 0-)
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          jeff in nyc, Dragon5616

          Human technology as a result of biology is a natural occurrence.  Nature changes, and right now it's in flux.  We have to make intelligent decisions about our environmental impact so as to limit the violence of the transition to the Anthropocene epoch of geologic history, not because the transition is inherently bad.

          And while I believe that dolphins are people, it's because of that fact that I don't romanticize them.  They're basically sea-hicks who live in little tribes.  They're nice and often helpful, but if you could translate their communications into English, it would probably be really ignorant.

          •  All the evidence to date shows that humans (4+ / 0-)

            are mostly incapable of making intelligent decisions about their environmental impact mainly due to greed and hubris. The few successful examples have been completely cordoning off areas from human exploitation and allowing nature alone to repair the damage humans have done.

            So, the value of a species (including human) depends on its "intelligence" as defined by you. Otherwise they are just ignorant hicks.

            •  No, that is not remotely what "all the evidence" (2+ / 0-)
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              jeff in nyc, Dragon5616

              to date shows.  Before the industrial revolution, cities were disease-ridden open sewers.  When the industrial revolution started, cities became soot-choaked steampunk hellholes where people could barely breathe.  With the advent of automobiles, we added smog to the pollution.  But now, the need for environmental regulation is universally recognized, though not universally practiced.  California air is a lot cleaner than it was in the past.

              Moreover, it's not correct to claim that successful environmental repair comes from leaving areas alone.  Yosemite was actively repaired over decades through ecological engineering and still is, as are many other wilderness areas around the world.

              There's an element of "eco-libertarianism" in what you're saying that's just not accurate.  Non-anthropic nature is not magic anymore than markets.  It does certain things well, and other things not so well.

              •  Cities were man made to start with - not a natural (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Dragon5616, marina

                phenomena at all.

                Even with full environmental regulation, everyone in the world cannot live like Californians. Each person simply consumes too much of everything.

                The worst environmental pollutant turned out to be CO2. The smog and other particulates in the air helped to counteract the greenhouse effect by reflecting radiant energy.

                The reef that regenerated: Researchers find corals in Northern Australia healed themselves in just 12 years

                A coral reef in Northern Australia severely damaged by warming seas has managed to completely heal itself in just 12 years, stunned researchers have found.

                The team found that being left alone to breed on its own was key.

                The discovery raises hope that other damaged reefs could 'regenerate'.

                Read more:

                Yosemite was actively repaired over decades through ecological engineering and still is, as are many other wilderness areas around the world.
                Yosemite cannot be left alone to repair itself due to it's popularity and heavy usage. Most forests such as Yellowstone are now left to burn if fires have been started naturally (unless it would endanger human habitation). Unfortunately, a hundred years of mismanagement by putting out all fires will take decades to repair.
          •  "not because the transition is inherently bad." (0+ / 0-)

            This is a kind of ecological libertarianism and suggests that the answer to the question posed in your diary title is "Because human consciousness is not high enough".

        •  If you look at the physics, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          interplanetary colonization isn't really in the cards.  Sadly, Star Trek really is fiction.  I wish it weren't so, but this planet is all we genuinely have and we'll cease once the sun ceases, and very likely well before.

          •  Many people's lives are so surrounded and (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            intertwined with technology that they would have no trouble spending their entire lives on an artificial planet.

            Nature is hot, cold, wet, dry, dirty and full of insects and germs and things that want to eat you. It seems we have mostly used our "intelligence" to distance and isolate ourselves from nature.

            •  It's not a question (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Claudius Bombarnac

              of preference, but of distances, energy requirements, the sheer hostility of space, etc. Nor is it simply technical challenges of ships.  It's also what space does to our bodies (muscle and bone degeneration, seriously raised chances of cancer due to highly charged particles passing through our bodies).  Similarly, it's unlikely that fetuses could develop properly in space because of zero g environments, and barring any chryo sleep, they'd be needed for prolonged travel to other stars.

                Oh sure, we might have a small scientific group of five or six people on Mars or the moon at some point, but beyond that it's really just not technologically feasible.  This is even more true of interstellar travel, nor is it something that technology can fix.  There's no escape hatch to the planet earth, so we better take care of it.

              •  Given a few hundred more years, technology could (0+ / 0-)

                overcome those difficulties. Rotating space stations five miles across with magnetic protection from ionizing particles much like the earth. Then there's terraforming planets. We've learned to do it on earth on a major scale.

                I could envisage a select group of extremely wealthy and powerful people creating such a scenario to escape an earth doomed to destruction.

                Maybe we will just stay on earth and begin to re-terraform it after a major extinction event caused by human abuse.

                Maybe silicon based consciousness will eventually replace our meat bodies. Then it won't matter what happens to nature. We could "live" on a rock as long as there was an energy source.

                •  Like I said, (0+ / 0-)

                  there's no technological fix for this.  Ain't gonna happen.  Just getting the materials needed for such ships out of earth 's gravity well is economically unfeasible for anything more than a handful of people.  We're stuck and WALL-E is not a documentary.

                  •  The materials won't come from the earth except (0+ / 0-)

                    at the very beginning.

                    economically unfeasible for anything more than a handful of people
                    That's OK. I never said this was for the common man. It's for the elites to escape the sinking ship (that they destroyed in the first place).

                    It was once said that tar sands oil would not be economically feasible for at least 100 years, if ever. Tight oil in the massive quantities now available were but a (wet) dream to most oil men just a decade ago.

      •  Oh, you're just begging for another HG2G clip! nt (0+ / 0-)

        'If you want to be a hero, well just follow me.' - J. Lennon

        by Clive all hat no horse Rodeo on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 05:55:23 AM PDT

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