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Evolution of Intelligence More Complex Than Once Thought

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the ah-but-humans-are-still-the-cutest dept.

Earth 453

palegray.net writes "According to a new article published in Scientific American, the nature of and evolutionary development of animal intelligence is significantly more complicated than many have assumed. In opposition to the widely held view that intelligence is largely linear in nature, in many cases intelligent traits have developed along independent paths. From the article: 'Over the past 30 years, however, research in comparative neuroanatomy clearly has shown that complex brains — and sophisticated cognition — have evolved from simpler brains multiple times independently in separate lineages ...'"

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Wow, evolution (1, Offtopic)

Anton Styles (1336251) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256309)

Maybe in a few generations noone will be saying FR1ST P0ST!@!11111!!!1!!1!!one

Re:Wow, evolution (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26256317)

I don't believe in evolution, but here's my story:

I dropped a brown rope this morning the size of a small black child. At one point, I wasn't sure if I was taking a shit, or it the shit was taking me. And while I'm on that point, what's the deal with taking a shit? Shouldn't it be leaving a shit? I'm certainly not taking anything with me when I'm done.

But back on topic, evolution sucks ass

Re:Wow, evolution (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26256353)

So are you taking a shit or dropping a black rope, please organise your trolls for easier reading.

Re:Wow, evolution (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26256361)

I'm curious, assuming you really don't "believe in evolution," what do you believe stops it? Leptons and quarks organize themselves into atoms, atoms into molecules, molecules into amino acids and peptide chains. All of this has been observed in nature or laboratory facsimiles thereof. So what magical force prevents organization from continuing to higher and higher levels, especially once rudimentary feedback loops form?

I've seriously never understood the classical religious position on this stuff. I don't believe it would take a God to steer evolution; based on all available evidence, it would take a God to stop it.

Re:Wow, evolution (5, Funny)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256445)

I don't believe it would take a God to steer evolution; based on all available evidence, it would take a God to stop it.

Hence, the bible belt.

Re:Wow, evolution - IDIOCRACY (0, Offtopic)

KozmoKramer (1117173) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256595)

I LIKE MONEY!

Re:Wow, evolution - IDIOCRACY (0, Offtopic)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257681)

I like money too. We should hang out sometime.

Re:Wow, evolution (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26256625)

Christians do not deny MICRO-evolution. For example, when two different breeds of dog mate, they form something different.

However, we deny that species evolve into other species. For example, fish do not become horses and cats do not become giraffes.

Now I have heard an example of modern evolution that defines a new species like this: suppose you have a fish that is normally green, but occasionally a mutation occurs and a blue fish is born among the green fish. Suppose these fish live near some green coral where the green fish blend in and thus survive more than the blue fish. Then, say that several of the green and blue fish migrate away from that area several miles to where there happens to be a lot of blue coral. Now, the green fish die off and the blue fish survive. Over time these two populations no longer breed amongst each other. By my understanding, evolution defines them as two separate species and state that MACRO-evolution has occurred. I call that a convenient definition to suit evolutionist agenda. Utterly ridiculous.

I have a hard time accepting evolution in general due to the wild leaps it makes. For instance, Ben Stein asked Richard Dawkins about the origins of life in the universe and the possibility of intelligent design. The best answer that a practiced scientist and atheist can give on the spot is that some higher form of life evolved and then populated the earth with life. That is, aliens evolved & put life on earth. But, the aliens themselves would have had to evolved through some natural process. THAT is his answer to intelligent design. He answered NOTHING, but merely moved the issue to another planet. It is circular reasoning. I simply do not understand this die-hard attitude towards something that many reputable scientists have abandoned and continue to abandon to this day.

For reference, the interview with Mr. Dawkins is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlZtEjtlirc&feature=related

Re:Wow, evolution (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26256667)

However, we deny that species evolve into other species. For example, fish do not become horses and cats do not become giraffes.

Do you understand the idea behind "common ancestors?" Nobody has ever claimed that fish become horses and other such absurdities. Burning a straw man without an EPA permit is likely to result in a hefty fine, unless, I guess, if you do it out in the middle of the desert.

You are aware that speciation -- divergence of one species into two incompatible ones -- has been demonstrated, right? What barriers do you propose might exist that prevent one ancestral population from diverging into two arbitrarily-different ones? Be specific.

Re:Wow, evolution (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256769)

Nobody has ever claimed that fish become horses

That's actually true, isn't it? Fish -> amphibians -> reptiles -> mammals.

Re:Wow, evolution (3, Insightful)

Sabz5150 (1230938) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256799)

Nobody has ever claimed that fish become horses

That's actually true, isn't it? Fish -> amphibians -> reptiles -> mammals.

Sure it's true. It's true in the same way that you can go from California to Brazil to the UK to Japan. You're simply leaving out the travel time and stops in between, and quite often that is more important than the destinations.

Re:Wow, evolution (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26257333)

Point being, modern fish resemble the common ancestor of fish and horses about as much as horses do.

Re:Wow, evolution (4, Insightful)

Zerth (26112) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257643)

That's actually true, isn't it? Fish -> amphibians -> reptiles -> mammals.

.

Hardly, more like


Proto-fish
Intermediate fish . Proto-amphibian
Intermediate fish . Intermediate-amphibian . Proto-Reptile
Intermediate fish . Intermediate-amphibian . Intermediate-Reptile . Proto-Mammal
__ Current Fish _ . __ Current Amphibian _ . __ Current Reptile _ . _ Current Mammal
.

Most modern fish are as far from the common ancestor as modern amphibians, reptiles, and mammals; barring archae that live in relatively unchanging, low mutation ecologies.

Re:Wow, evolution (3, Funny)

Tomfrh (719891) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257001)

What barriers do you propose might exist that prevent one ancestral population from diverging into two arbitrarily-different ones?

If an individual strays too far genetically, God drops a rock on it.

Re:Wow, evolution (5, Insightful)

Sabz5150 (1230938) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256759)

However, we deny that species evolve into other species. For example, fish do not become horses and cats do not become giraffes.

Fish and horses are quite a bit more than a species apart. That doesn't just require speciation (what you Christians call "maroevolution"), but it requires the jumping of genus, family, order, perhaps more depending on your comparison.

There is not one single science paper stating that this happens. Nobody says "Fish become horses". This is a typical creationist (read: Christian) misstatement and misunderstanding. It shows you really don't know what evolution means or says.

Now I have heard an example of modern evolution that defines a new species like this: suppose you have a fish that is normally green, but occasionally a mutation occurs and a blue fish is born among the green fish. Suppose these fish live near some green coral where the green fish blend in and thus survive more than the blue fish. Then, say that several of the green and blue fish migrate away from that area several miles to where there happens to be a lot of blue coral. Now, the green fish die off and the blue fish survive. Over time these two populations no longer breed amongst each other. By my understanding, evolution defines them as two separate species and state that MACRO-evolution has occurred. I call that a convenient definition to suit evolutionist agenda. Utterly ridiculous.

That is what is known as speciation. This is when one species becomes two. Again, what you Christians call "macroevolution", or evolution of one species into another. What you have described above is evolution... you have random mutation (your blue fish), natural selection (the green coral environment and the predators within), genetic isolation (a group of these fish move to a different environment), natural selection once again (the blue coral environment and its predators), and this results in speciation (the green and blue are separate and will no longer breed with one another).

One species is now two. Evolution. Now, do this process six-hundred-million times.

I have a hard time accepting evolution in general due to the wild leaps it makes. For instance, Ben Stein asked Richard Dawkins about the origins of life in the universe and the possibility of intelligent design. The best answer that a practiced scientist and atheist can give on the spot is that some higher form of life evolved and then populated the earth with life. That is, aliens evolved & put life on earth. But, the aliens themselves would have had to evolved through some natural process. THAT is his answer to intelligent design. He answered NOTHING, but merely moved the issue to another planet. It is circular reasoning. I simply do not understand this die-hard attitude towards something that many reputable scientists have abandoned and continue to abandon to this day.

Yes, that is Dawkins' answer to Intelligent Design. This is not a reference to anything pertaining to evolution. Stein asked how ID could be applied to science, and the ONLY way is if alien life (intelligent) seeded Earth (design). Why is this the only answer? Because a deity is not science. Your God is not scientifically verifiable. Therefore it (and anything pertaining to it... your Bible, creationism, cdesign proponentists, etc.) cannot be a scientific answer to anything.

And for further reference, Stein was referring to life on Earth, not life in "the universe", something that IDists do not believe in either.

Re:Wow, evolution (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257051)

Stein was referring to life on Earth, not life in "the universe", something that IDists do not believe in either.

How so?

I know many Christians who believe in both ID and alien civilizations. While Man was made in his (God) image, many see this as an ideological and not a literal interpretation.

Re:Wow, evolution (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26257267)

At what point does slashdot introduce a feature where I don't have to skim through the tripe of someone whose userid is 20 digits long?

It seems that the first to post in these topics are always new users rushing to defend dogmatic nonsense that they read on some borg-collective website.

For reference, evolutionists believe that whales were earthbound, cow-like creatures. Then, their legs melted away and became flippers, and they developed baleen to filter out those tasty shrimps.

At some point, a certain order of these ex-cows went to war with the Giant Squid, whose territory they invaded in a ruthless manner. In a blatant propaganda campaign to destroy their enemy, they slipped various calamari recipes into human cookbooks.

This is true fact because I read it at talkorigins and those people are really smart. It's totally scientifically verifiable, which adds to its truthiness.

Next week, read my diatribe from realclimate, from which I will faithfully copy and paste snippets to show you that the end is near and doomsday is at hand.

Armageddon is coming, but just not in that crazy Christian way. More like a Judaic Noah way, with floods and stuff as a result of man's scientific sinning against mother nature.

Funny how religion creeps into your life, isn't it? Even when you don't want to believe in anything, you end up setting up a little Mythology for yourself, using the tools at hand.

Wonder how that evolved?

Re:Wow, evolution (5, Informative)

nickruiz (1185947) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257569)

There is not one single science paper stating that this happens. Nobody says "Fish become horses". This is a typical creationist (read: Christian) misstatement and misunderstanding. It shows you really don't know what evolution means or says.

Please don't pidgeonhole all Christians under the Creationist camp. There are many Christians that are not diametrically opposed to evolutionary theory. Rather, we see the creation story in Genesis to be allegorical and poetic, instead of trying to place it under textbook scrutiny.

Re:Wow, evolution (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26257585)

If you think the Bible is just poetry (which it is, at best) you shouldn't call yourself a Christian.

Re:Wow, evolution (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26257209)

Many Bible-believing Christians are evolutionists.

Nobody interprets the Bible entirely literally. So, it is simply a matter (albeit a very important one) of where to plant your feet on the slippery slope of allegory. Did God literally lift up Israel with his strong right arm? I'm sure you'll agree not.

Please read Francis Collins' The Language of God

http://www.amazon.com/Language-God-Scientist-Presents-Evidence/dp/0743286391

Re:Wow, evolution (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26256671)

I'm curious, assuming you really don't "believe in evolution," what do you believe stops it? Leptons and quarks organize themselves into atoms, atoms into molecules, molecules into amino acids and peptide chains.

I dropped a petitde chain this morning the size of a small baryonic particle. At one point, I wasn't sure if I was taking physics, or if the physics was taking me. And while I'm on that point, what's the deal with studying physics? Shouldn't it be physically studying? I'm certainly not taking anything with me when I'm done.

But back on topic, that dude's argument didn't make any sense, so why did you even respond?

Re:Wow, evolution (1, Troll)

Anton Styles (1336251) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256685)

Don't feed the trolls :P
I'm a Christian and believe in creation; moreover I believe that no scientific experiment will prove once-and-for-all either the existence of God or the non-existence of God, because there will always be men who take the results of experiments and adapt them to fit their preconceptions, according to cognitive dissonance. Sadly there are many wierd types that stand up and denounce scientific results as being incorrect without first checking the evidence... But I must assert that mankind will never achieve Godhead, contrary to what Oprah Winfrey and other nutty new-age types would have you think.
I'm obviously no scientist, but given your references to quantum physics and subatomic particles I'll wager that you are a great deal more familiar with the cold hard facts than I am, so I'll ask you a question: Can you give an example of a genetic mutation or an evolutionary process which can be seen to increase the information in the genome? [youtube.com]

Re:Wow, evolution (3, Interesting)

Retric (704075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256955)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_genetic_disorders [wikipedia.org] note:
# C - Whole chromosome extra, missing, or both - see chromosomal aberrations
# T - Trinucleotide repeat disorders - gene is extended in length

Anyway, I will ask you a simple question if we build a device to directly view the past and you can watch over billions of years as life evolves as scientists thought it did, and see the most interesting thing Jesus did was starting a cult. Would you still believe in God?

Re:Wow, evolution (1)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257259)

I've seriously never understood the classical religious position on this stuff. I don't believe it would take a God to steer evolution; based on all available evidence, it would take a God to stop it.

Please don't mistake the ramblings of a minority of fundamentalists for the 'classical religious position'. For example, the catholic church officially recognizes the validity of evolution. Most intelligent religious people do as well, and many scientists are religious.

Re:Wow, evolution (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26257701)

The "classic religious position" probably refers to pre-enlightenment religious doctrine, which is echoed in today's Religious Right. The Catholic acceptance of evolution is largely the result of an especially moderate Pope. By and large the religious elite of today are still hostile to evolution, in spite of the more moderate "flocks" they tend to.

You're correct that many people who identify themselves as religious have a worldview that includes evolution. These people either go to small liberal churches or quickly learn to keep their opinions to themselves.

Re:Wow, evolution (1)

freddy_dreddy (1321567) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256469)

Who's this "noone" you speak so highly off ?

Linearity in Complexity???!!! (3, Insightful)

flajann (658201) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256319)

If anyone assumes linearity in complex systems, it only shows they have no clue. In complex systems, linearity is the exception, not the rule.

Re:Linearity in Complexity???!!! (1)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256365)

Yes, Apparently the rule is that

In Complex Systems, Linearity is the exception, not The Rule

In other news

Le Roi Est Mort. Vive Le Roi!

Re:Linearity in Complexity???!!! (4, Informative)

azaris (699901) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256421)

The article doesn't mean 'linear' in the sense of 'linear dependence on a set of variables', but rather 'linear' as in 'sequence of events that follow one another as a direct consequence of the previous one'.

Re:Linearity in Complexity???!!! (1)

freddy_dreddy (1321567) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256479)

What, like in a Markov system ?

Re:Linearity in Complexity???!!! (3, Funny)

jambox (1015589) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256665)

I've just read the first 5 lines of the wikipedia article on Markov chains and am therefore the closest thing to an expert on this subject you're likely to find any time soon. Does the Markov property prohibit causal interdependence between events? That is to say, is it in keeping with a markov chain if a species develops a higher intelligence in order to evade an otherwise unrelated predator species? I would suggest not.

Re:Linearity in Complexity???!!! (2, Insightful)

flajann (658201) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256487)

The article doesn't mean 'linear' in the sense of 'linear dependence on a set of variables', but rather 'linear' as in 'sequence of events that follow one another as a direct consequence of the previous one'.

I know, and even there I still maintain that any assumption of a simple causal relationship in a complex system with so many interconnected parts is also silly. Simple causal relationships are the exception, not the rule.

Re:Linearity in Complexity???!!! (1)

Cowmonaut (989226) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257091)

There is also a reason why the evidence they are presenting is in opposition of the linear growth theories regarding intelligence. At least, if the summary is anything to go by.

Re:Linearity in Complexity???!!! (1)

Livius (318358) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257223)

Even so, the "widely held view that intelligence is largely linear in nature" is not at all "widely held", unless they mean strictly among non-scientists. Honest scientists admit they don't really have a clue what intelligence is. Also evolution is not goal-oriented.

O RLY? Convergent evolution? Is that news? (4, Informative)

linhares (1241614) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256691)

As I've wrote before (f*cking IEEE paywall [ieee.org] ):

"Convergent evolution is one of the most impressive concepts of Darwinian thought. As stated in the literature, "It is all the more striking a testimony to the power of natural selection that numerous examples can be found in real nature, in which independent lines of evolution appear to have converged, from very different starting points, on what looks very like the same endpoint" [Dawkins's Blind Watchmaker, p. 94]. Eyesight is a good example of a remarkable biological tool that has appeared independently many times. For instance, the octopus' eye has evolved from a line independent of our lineage, and there are records of some 40 such "parallel" lines of evolution leading to the development of eyes [L. F. Land, "Optics and vision in invertebrates," in Handbook of Sensory Physiology, Vol. VII, H. Autrum, Ed. Berlin: Springer Verlag, 1980, pp. 471-592]."

Re:O RLY? Convergent evolution? Is that news? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256723)

Thanks for the translation, I couldn't get past the recursive headline.

Intelligent Design proof... (5, Funny)

DrYak (748999) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256349)

This proves that the Intelligent Designer:
- has never been taught of proper design practice and re-use of previous work
- has been sued by the other intelligent designer who built the previous brain for patent infringement and thus couldn't use the same brain but had to built a new one
- is so messy that instead of trying to dig again her/his/its plans of the previous (intelligent) design for brains somewhere under a mountain of junk, restarting everything from scratch is a better alternative
- isn't meticulous and precise enough be succeed making the same brain twice in a row
- is so bored the she/he/it needs to reinvent the wheel every week or so
- has Alzheimer's disease

Re:Intelligent Design proof... (2, Insightful)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256399)

This proves that the Intelligent Designer:

An interesting post to be sure, but it proves nothing. You simply offer a list of alternative possible explanations, many of which are unlikely to hold in conjunction with the others. Allow me to suggest that it is perfectly possible to postulate other explanations, none of which could be remotely considered proof, which do not support your suggestion that there is no intelligent designer.

What this research suggests, but not proves, is that there is a non-intelligent system at work in the formation of intelligence. Personally, I think it would be a lovely twist if this non-intelligent system turned out to have been set up by an intelligent designer.

I suppose it would be not so very different to a heuristic computer program, in that respect.

Re:Intelligent Design proof... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26256435)

whooooooooooooooooooooooosh
guess what that sound is?

Re:Intelligent Design proof... (1, Funny)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256507)

whooooooooooooooooooooooosh guess what that sound is?

Hold tight, someone will be along to change your diaper soon.

Re:Intelligent Design proof... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26257537)

Hold tight, someone will be along to change your diaper soon.

I love it when autistic people try to be funny.

Re:Intelligent Design proof... (1)

Veggiesama (1203068) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256555)

whooooooooooooooooooooooosh
guess what that sound is?

The sound of the intelligent designer running away before we find out that he's just a big fat fibber?

Re:Intelligent Design proof... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256603)

You might want to read this [slashdot.org] . I'll remind you later, since you'll probably forget. [mutters: senile old git]

Re:Intelligent Design proof... (1)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256739)

You might want to read this. I'll remind you later, since you'll probably forget. [mutters: senile old git]

Well I can see that you fully understand the concept of sarcasm.

Re:Intelligent Design proof... (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257291)

I suppose it would be not so very different to a heuristic computer program, in that respect.

Any sufficiently complex heuristic computer program is indistinguishable from intelligence.

You kid, but... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26256449)

You kid, but this is pretty good support for the intelligent design theory. Here we have multiple organisms evolving human traits independently... as if following some pre-determined path to a completed, human state.

Re:You kid, but... (4, Interesting)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256501)

. as if following some pre-determined path to a completed, human state.

Or, as if there are a limited number of adequate solutions to the problem 'control a bunch of muscles in order to survive in a three dimensional environment in which other organisms are trying to do the same thing'.

It seems like what we're seeing is that *if* a species randomly goes down the brain route, it'll either die out, or develop a brain very like other brains. Note that many organisms survive very nicely with no brain at all. Where's their "pre-determined path to a completed human state"?

Re:You kid, but... (3, Funny)

adrianwn (1262452) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256827)

Note that many organisms survive very nicely with no brain at all.

Commence republicans/neocons jokes in 3... 2... 1...

Re:You kid, but... (2, Funny)

Cuppa 'Joe' Black (1000483) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257669)

Note that many organisms survive very nicely with no brain at all.

I'm tired of you people picking on Bush. It's over for crying out loud.

Re:You kid, but... (1)

JackassJedi (1263412) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257675)

Where's their "pre-determined path to a completed human state"?
Terence McKenna would hate ya :P

Quote:
Animal life has been transfused with something either willfully descended into matter or trapped by some cosmic drama. Something in an unseen dimension is acting as an attractor for our forward movement in understanding. [...] It's a point in the future that affects us in the present. For example, if you were to do your Christmas shopping in July, then Christmas is an attractor for your summer shopping habits. Our model that everything is pushed by the past into the future, by the necessity of causality, is wrong. There are actual attractors ahead of us in time -- like the gravitational field of a planet. Once you fall under an attractor's influence, your trajectory is diverted.

Re:You kid, but... (3, Interesting)

the_womble (580291) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256503)

No, it is not. Things of the same type evolving separately, only shows that those traits are successful.

It is also not new. It is pretty obvious that cephalopod and vertebrate brains evolved separately, and that bird and mammal advances over reptiles evolved separately.

Re:You kid, but... (4, Insightful)

Veggiesama (1203068) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256631)

You kid, but this is pretty good support for the intelligent design theory. Here we have multiple organisms evolving human traits independently... as if following some pre-determined path to a completed, human state.

Wrong, unless that "completed, human state" also looks like a super-intelligent squid capable of toppling the feeble empires of man.

The only reason there isn't a super-intelligent, man-eating squid race is because we beat the squids by a few evolutionary epochs, and their ancestors (who are currently living but less than super-intelligent) will probably go extinct before they have a chance to grow a better brain and develop an oceanic civilization of their own.

But rest assured, I'm sure they would have hypothesized an intelligent designer of their own. Only their intelligent designer would have tentacles on its face, and he would live under aquatic heat vents in heaven while sending the unfaithful to those hellish clouds way above the water.

Re:You kid, but... (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256809)

there isn't a super-intelligent, man-eating squid race

Go tell that to him [wikipedia.org] , but he won't be happy.

Disclaimer: he doesn't shoot the bearer of bad tidings, but he will eat his soul.

You forgot... (1)

ikkonoishi (674762) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256831)

- is artistic and enjoys exploring different ways of accomplishing the same thing.

Re:Intelligent Design proof... (1)

Evil Pete (73279) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256885)

Brilliant. This explains so much about the universe. God is a fuckwit. It's obvious now that I think about it. Yeah, ok just trolling the IDiots.

The hard work is just around the corner... (2, Insightful)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256373)

In the 1960s many scientists believed that speech synthesis and speech recognition were just a few short years away. This was an example of progress in a field, and a new, exciting conceptual overview of a field, leading many to believe that the hard work had already been done.

As people who work with computers, we already know that the hard work is never done. What we often forget is that new, exciting changes in our field, whilst just stepping stones, are progress nonetheless.

I wouldn't make any big predictions for the future of our understanding, I think it's many years further off than we all hope. But I am always heartened to hear of progress, and optimism, in the field of scientific advancement.

I am feeling particularly uncynical today. Let's enjoy each new step.

Re:The hard work is just around the corner... (4, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256439)

Some time ago I read that spamming software had broken the captcha in gmail. Today I had to log into my gmail account and discovered that I am unable to parse the captcha.

Maybe I am not as smart as I thought I was.

Re:The hard work is just around the corner... (3, Funny)

Veggiesama (1203068) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256523)

Too many captchas generate unreadable garbage, requiring you to waste time by refreshing the page (and re-entering passwords, etc.). I have seriously considered searching for whatever it is spammers use to beat captchas and download it for myself.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Re:The hard work is just around the corner... (2, Funny)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256569)

I have seriously considered searching for whatever it is spammers use to beat captchas

I believe they are usually referred to as "Indians".

Re:The hard work is just around the corner... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26257367)

Dot or teepee? And where can I download one?

Re:The hard work is just around the corner... (1)

wootest (694923) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256581)

Re:The hard work is just around the corner... (0, Offtopic)

Shohat (959481) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256657)

Erm...
The ability to extract a certain set of characters from mangled patterns included in an image is not necessarily a task that humans should have an advantage in. I am pretty sure that it would take a human significantly more time to deny/allow a user access, based on biometric data such as fingerprints or a voice pattern.
A computer has to extract the data from a very limited (a small image) sample, and is 100% "sure" that all extracted data falls within a very limited predefined set of results - the alphabet.
A (very) well written algorithm can easily have an edge on most humans.

More complex? I'd have thought less complex if... (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256425)

... the same aspects of intelligence can arise independently in different species. I don't know if the article mentioned this (because its very long and I only had time to skim it) but this means the nascent potential evolutionary building blocks for intelligence are widely distributed in species in nature and given a chance will give riser to a smarter brain. Surely a more complex path to intelligence would be one that required specific stepping stones that only ever appeared in a small number of species and all had to occur in sequence?

Re:More complex? I'd have thought less complex if. (5, Informative)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256559)

this means the nascent potential evolutionary building blocks for intelligence are widely distributed in species in nature and given a chance will give riser to a smarter brain.

It takes more than a chance - it takes evolutionary pressure. If something's already perfectly adapted to its environment without a brain, then it's unlikely to evolve one. A brain might even reduce the fitness of an organism (by diverting energy that could be better used for other survival/reproduction mechanisms).

Re:More complex? I'd have thought less complex if. (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256751)

When I said given a chance the evolutionary pressure was a given. You're not going to find an intelligent species arise out of the blue for no reason.

Re:More complex? I'd have thought less complex if. (2, Insightful)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256773)

Sure, I could tell *you* knew what you were talking about. But if you're not precise with your words, the ID crowd get funny ideas.

Re:More complex? I'd have thought less complex if. (1)

drewvr6 (1400341) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257345)

"If something's already perfectly adapted to its environment without a brain, then it's unlikely to evolve one." - Hence why society today is no longer even trying. Why struggle to improve when failure is rewarded as much as success?

I don't believe it. (5, Insightful)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256443)

What I don't believe is the "many have assumed" bit.

Parallel evolution is evident in all kinds of animal and plant features. I can't imagine why intelligence would be any different.

I strongly suspect that most evolutionary scientists don't consider these findings to be surprising. Still, it makes a better headline if you pretend it's a shock discovery.

Re:I don't believe it. (2, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257181)

Still, it makes a better headline if you pretend it's a shock discovery.

Just look where it was published. The phrases "military intelligence" and "plastic silverware" spring to mind.

let me correct that ... (1)

freddy_dreddy (1321567) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256535)

Evolutionary Research SlowerThan Once Thought

there

What's the difference? (4, Interesting)

jambox (1015589) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256541)

So the upshot here is that the intelligence of any given creature is not a function of it's size or age (in evolutionary terms) but is very tightly geared towards the problems it likely faces in it's natural environment.

For example, even a spider can do quite tricky maths in order to work out how to spin a web between arbitrary fixed points, yet is completely flummoxed by even the simplest general knowledge quiz.

So what I want to know is, what was it about human beings that caused us to develop the capacity to drive cars, build computers and walk on the moon?

Re:What's the difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26256577)

An inferiority complex?

Re:What's the difference? (1)

jambox (1015589) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256611)

Speak for yourself, titch!

Re:What's the difference? (1)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256663)

So what I want to know is, what was it about human beings that caused us to develop the capacity to drive cars, build computers and walk on the moon?

I think the ability to construct "what if" scenarios in the brain is a useful trait for staying alive, and one where it's quite easy to see stepwise improvements as possible and beneficial. Increasingly sophisticated planning type activity, that could happen in increasingly evolved brains:

  • If I step over that cliff, I'll die
  • If I use that pointy stick I can get food out of that shell
  • If I fix that rock to this stick I can use it to hit things
  • ...
  • If we put some men in some of these suits and fire them in a rocket, they could walk on the moon

Maths comes somewhere in the middle.

What's special about humans? Only that we got there first. There's only room for one species of 'organisms that compensate for poor physical traits with cleverness and adaptability' and we took it.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

jambox (1015589) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256843)

Fine, except chimps made it to the third step in that chain (well more or less) so it doesn't really explain much. AFAIK there are a lot of reasons that come together in a "perfect storm" - roaming lifestyle, opposable thumb, vocal capability and so on.

Re:What's the difference? (3, Interesting)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256677)

For example, even a spider can do quite tricky maths in order to work out how to spin a web between arbitrary fixed points

I don't think the spider is doing any maths. It's a bit like us when we can simply immediately point to an intercept between two curves on a graph. Finding the intercept mathematically is moderately hard, but just looking and seeing where it is is no effort at all. The spider's brain is just looking and seeing where to place the silk - it's no effort at all and he certainly won't be breaking out the spidery slide rule.

Re:What's the difference? (5, Insightful)

jambox (1015589) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256825)

It's a bit like us when we can simply immediately point to an intercept between two curves on a graph.

When we do that, there is some maths happening in our brains, it just isn't conscious. You're right, that is exactly what is happening in the spider's case. However to "just point" to an intercept seems like an incredibly simple thing to us, but to do it with the amount of brain cells a spider has is quite a trick. Bear in mind this all has to come from sensory data - it has to find branches, blades of grass or whatever and make a decision whether it is feasible to spin a web there, using very rough input from it's eyes. Try writing software for a robot to do that - if you manage it you might get a nobel prize. Even in a very simplified virtual world with perfect data, there would be a fair bit of maths, even if it's just basic trig.

Re:What's the difference? (5, Interesting)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256899)

I guess what I meant was there isn't any maths going on that we would recognise as having anything to do with finding the intercept between two curves. There sure is a lot of visual processing going on that is breathtaking in its capability, but however that works it's unrelated to the usual method of solving intercepts!

One observation I made many years ago led me to realise that we mostly underestimate what even small brains routinely do. I was watching a hovering seagull while waiting at some traffic lights. It was scanning the road surface below for a few seconds, then swooped down and picked up the tiniest speck of food from the tarmac. This was on a busy city street with lots of litter and other debris on the road, such as small stones and gravel, cigarette butts, etc. The tarmac itself presented a "noisy" image background and yet the gull picked out that speck as being worth expending its energy on from a height of 30 or so feet while maintaining balance in flight in a gusty high wind with a lot of moving traffic around. The image processing required to do that boggles my mind! So much for bird-brains.

It's not such a leap to suppose that intelligence, whatever it is, is far more common than we assume. What counts as intelligent for a dog, cat or even a bright bird like a Magpie is probably not something we'd really recognise. Every creature's intelligence is uniquely its own.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

azaris (699901) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256977)

When we do that, there is some maths happening in our brains, it just isn't conscious.

No, there isn't. Recognizing spatial structures and symmetries is a strong feature of the brain, but it's not mathematical reasoning, i.e. it does not necessarily lead to an unassailable logical truth. As an example, there are many "geometric truths" that one can convince one self of by drawing suitable geometric diagrams, but which turn out to be false if we attempt to prove them for example in Euclid's plane geometry.

You're right, that is exactly what is happening in the spider's case. However to "just point" to an intercept seems like an incredibly simple thing to us, but to do it with the amount of brain cells a spider has is quite a trick. Bear in mind this all has to come from sensory data - it has to find branches, blades of grass or whatever and make a decision whether it is feasible to spin a web there, using very rough input from it's eyes.

The eyes are not all the senses that a spider uses to spin its web.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

jambox (1015589) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257311)

OK I should have said "calulation" and not "maths". Maths, as you said, is a representational system and a spider is indeed not capable of any maths.

Your second point is mere nitpicking.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

Peeteriz (821290) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257389)

Well, but there is a sea of difference between 'general maths' and a single (though complex) specialized type of calculation. Pretty much any single such calculation (like, say, the estimations needed to hit a quickly moving fly with a snap of the tongue, like some reptiles do) can be implemented in relatively simple ways with adaptable neural networks - i.e., a rather small bunch of nerve cells.
    This does not require the general intelligence that a human needs to perform the same task - it's just some very specialized, and comparably very simple 'hardware' that does it.

Re:What's the difference? (1)

jambox (1015589) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257449)

Yes I do understand that. In fact it was the whole point that I was trying to make! It's also extremely obvious that any function that can be performed by a living creature can be copied by a sufficiently advanced neural network, since that's exactly how the living creature does it. What's that called, a tautology?

Anyway if you've got a link to a study showing a neural network that can strike a flying insect out of the sky with it's tongue, I'd be exceedingly interested in reading it..?

Competition and Accumulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26256597)

From TFA:

The main modern group of bony fishes, the teleosts, first appeared about 200 million years ago, well after vertebrates ancestral to humans had emerged onto land, further proof of the independent development of their intelligence. In body-relative terms, the brains of these fishes are often comparable in size to those of land-dwelling reptiles. In the old phylogenetic scale, fish were considered "lower" than reptiles.

It seems that as soon as one specie in "arena" achieves a breakthrough in some ability, be it speed, strength, perception, or intelligence, it puts all the other affected (either as pray or competing for same resources as the advanced one) species under elevated evolutionary pressure and forces them to keep up.

I can imagine that we, ourselves, are unknowingly shaping future alien-like super-species, here on Earth! After we lose the lead and get overwhelmed by some new conqueror (super rats, Argentine ants, ... ?), another winning specie will continue to set pace for next and next...

Vice-versa, what was the beast who shaped us into our present form look like? Was that yet another human specie (e.g. the Neanderthals)?

Just Wondering (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256637)

So they're claiming there's some chance intelligence may eventually evolve in politicians?

I'll believe it when I see some solid evidence.

Re:Just Wondering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26256779)

Lol, because politicians lack intelligens. Good one hyades1.

My philosophy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26256641)

Everything is more complicated than you assumed.

Philosophy 2.0 (2, Insightful)

linhares (1241614) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256821)

Everything is more complicated than you assumed. Even when you take this into account.

Re:Philosophy 2.0 (1)

SilentBob0727 (974090) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257657)

Dammit, infinite regress only works when you don't acknowledge it!

You've doomed us all. I hope you're happy.

Evolution (1)

szundi (946357) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256645)

Maybe a lot of people think that evolution is a kind of convergence to perfectness. Not at all. What evolution is: everyone will survive who is not bad enough to die before making its offspring. So if times come when a good brain eats too much resources and dumb brains are good - just give it a million years and dumbness rules. Then other times come and a good brain has to develop again. No sign of convergence to perfectness.

If you see evolution that way, the article is no surprise.

Re:Evolution (1)

dominious (1077089) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256993)

I don't think dumbness will ever rule, there is always intelligence that prevails:)

However, If i did a search process like hill-climbing [wikipedia.org] I would probably get stuck into a local maximum, thus, sometimes I have to go down a bit (dumbness) in order to avoid it.

Turn It Around (2, Interesting)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256673)

Let's try the alternative:

Comparative neuroanatomy findings indicate that all the various animals have identical brains that evolved identically, and that they all operate on a single function through a single pathway.

I could go on but I'm not going to page through the article to pick at it more, and in so doing satisfy their click-through quota.

I used to really like the old, stodgy, stuffy SciAm. It said what it meant clearly and didn't end up with an oral-pedal inversion by trying to say more than was warranted, or that it felt it had to pump up with hype in the name of market share.

I like the new SciAm too, but I liked it better when it was called OMNI.

Recanted (2, Funny)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256783)

I always figured one day humans would evolve into machines, and machines would continue to evolve.

But Vista changed my opinion about that.

Describe tying your shoe.... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256873)

....and realize your description can be as simple as you want to make it or so complicated, like in patent lawyer speak, that even a genius might have trouble following it.

There are different levels of knowledge where the further away you get from core knowledge the more complicated and error prone or distorted knowledge can become.
There is a cycle also to the evolution of knowledge, that it builds up to a point where it breaks down and a re-evaluation is done closer to the core, to again expand out in a modified direction.

The more correct the core knowledge base is the longer the extrapolated knowledge can hold up in its expansion.

Then there is the need to know. Does a bird need to know advanced math or how to fly thousand of miles back to where they were born? Dolphins are consider very intelligent but givemn their physical limitations and environment they live it, there is not much they can do to alter their environment, unlike the physical capabilities of man.

Evolution of the brain is based on the survival instinct that lends to mate selection and in turn genetics. Only abstract man very often disregards physical reality for abstract beliefs and these faulty beliefs often contributes to knowledge distortion not inline with physical reality and survival. So we have the cycle, the ups and downs in society. However, population growth and advancing technology have enables a wider scope of knowledge access and as such .... well knowledge begets knowledge.

What is intelligence, but the trivia of knowledge processing ability and the selection of what to consider as core knowledge.

Re:Describe tying your shoe.... (1)

Tweenk (1274968) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257439)

Only abstract man very often disregards physical reality for abstract beliefs and these faulty beliefs often contributes to knowledge distortion not inline with physical reality and survival.

What you want to say is that religion is an evolutionary disadvantage. So how did it even arose if it adversely affects survival?

I think that evolution activists have this inherent problem of having to acknowledge that religion is a natural part of humanity (since they believe it was "evolved") and is an evolutionary advantage, while at the same pretending it's something artificially forced upon people in order to be able to criticize it.

What inhibits intelligence, then? (1, Interesting)

Richard Kirk (535523) | more than 5 years ago | (#26256901)

If creatures have evolved enough intelligence to use tools and anticipate the future, then why aren't all animals intelligent? As some of them have been around for longer than us, why aren't they smarter than us? Some adaptions, such as flight, or vision, or a poisonous bite might seem to have to happen all at once, but intelligence can come by degrees - adding a few more brain cells here and here until you have the right balance, until you reach some natural limit where the head becomes too heavy or uses too much energy.

There has to be a payback for having intelligence. If the animal has something that can grasp objects, then it can use tools and do things that it would not normally be able to do. If you are a shellfish then there is not much you can do with your deep thoughts, so a smarter shellfish is less likely to survive.

This is guesswork, but maybe extra weight in our head makes us clumsier and vulnerable to neck injuries. That, and the energy requirements of the larger brain. But it's not really that much larger, is it? Birds have very compact brains - if this was an issue, then our brains would be smaller too. No - I think there has to be something else, but I can't see what it is.

Any ideas?

Re:What inhibits intelligence, then? (3, Insightful)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257161)

Maybe clever creatures get too clever for their own good, such as putting brain-good before gene-good. ie: a smart male praying mantis may avoid murderous females.

Re:What inhibits intelligence, then? (1)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257179)

That, and the energy requirements of the larger brain. But it's not really that much larger, is it?

Wikipedia: [wikipedia.org]

Although the brain represents only 2% of the body weight, it receives 15% of the cardiac output, 20% of total body oxygen consumption, and 25% of total body glucose utilization.

(I assume that's the human brain. There is a citation, but it's dead tree and I didn't go looking.)

Brains are expensive things to maintain. If an organism can survive and replicate without one, then it's not worth the cost.

Re:What inhibits intelligence, then? (1)

Tweenk (1274968) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257481)

Brains are expensive things to maintain. If an organism can survive and replicate without one, then it's not worth the cost.

In reality, larger brain leads to lower chance of replication. I believe this is called The Slashdot Paradox.

Re:What inhibits intelligence, then? (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257473)

Weapons are the obvious advantage greater intelligence would give grasping species. But then they are likely to use them on each other, turning male dominance fighting into a constant intra-species bloodbath, destroying all the selective advantages those contests confer. Intelligence could be its own limiting factor.

Re:What inhibits intelligence, then? (2, Interesting)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 5 years ago | (#26257621)

More intelligence isn't always useful to reproduce better, which is what matters for evolution.

A bird that is born with a better brain that allows it to realize that it can pick a sharp rock and bash it against an egg with a hard shell to break it has an advantage: it now has more food available to it. It will be healthier (or survive) and will be more likely to reproduce.

A cat born with a brain that allows it to realize that if it could perform the necessary operations it could build mousetraps to catch mice isn't any better off. In fact it's probably worse off due to being depressed after realizing that an improvement is possible but it physically can't do what would be required due to cat paws being useless for the job, and having a larger brain that takes more energy for no benefit.

Same thing for humans. A brain that makes you a supremely good programmer isn't terribly good at attracting women, especially when using that extra ability involves withdrawing from society to get things done.

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