Skip to main content

The place of intelligence in evolution

Without maybe realising, we think about intelligence as being the ability to perform changes to one's environment. We know dolphins have relatively sophisticated communication, and we refer to them as intelligent. However, they are excellent in their given aquatic environment without trying to change it, or colonise other places (land, air, space; yes, it sounds silly).

This distinction is important because changing one's environment has an impact on the selection pressures themselves, and hence natural selection and evolution. How could inability to breathe underwater be selected against if someone has an oxygen tank to breathe out of? How could inability to find a suitable nesting spot be selected against if a bird can build its own nest? The more a natural environment is manipulated into an artificial environment by organisms, the less its evolution is left to chance, as inheritance shifts from strictly molecular level and DNA, to other levels (cognition, artificial storage and memory, learning). Essentially, natural selection acting on a genetic level (reproduction, genes passed on) interplays with artificial forms of selection which act on the other levels of inheritance.

In a sense, it is possible to use alternative methods of inheritance such as learning, to control an unlimited number of people's minds. Genetic make-up is no longer enough to guarantee certain advantageous traits in an artificial environment. Children are born without knowing a certain language. It takes only 1 Albert Einstein to spread insightful ideas to countless others, countless other who may use that knowledge to one day change the universe. The likelihood of that happening due to a certain group of people at any given point in time is a lot higher than it happening due to Einstein's imaginary children.


Popular posts from this blog

By-products of Evolution - why not everything has a purpose

Last time we looked at how certain major adaptations such as hair loss have enabled humans to survive over the millennia in different conditions, and when faced with competition from other species. Not everything about the human body has a specific purpose, though, in the sense that we expect it to. One example of such thing is the philtrum - that little channel leading from the base of your nose to the upper lip. Recent research suggests that this development dates back millions of years, and has been inherited from fish. Apparently, when human embryos develop their face in the womb, all parts of the forehead, mouth, etc come together and fuse where the philtrum is located.

Some adaptations, on the other hand, are no longer relevant not because of their nature, but because the environmental selection pressure for which they evolved has disappeared. For example, an East Asian's typical eyelid shape evolved as a result of higher light intensities in that area of the world, yet the …

The evolution of the human body

In order to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and be able to answer the question "Why do I look like this?", we must look back to our ancestry and their lifestyle, over a very long period of time. For the purpose of this analysis, let's look at the human versus the neanderthal. Recently there have been found neanderthal genes within the human gene pool, but the two species are different enough to compare, yet not too different (human versus fly would be too different).

As you can see, the construction of the human pelvis and toes is different, and the human has less hair. This results in humans being able to run easily for long distances, in the detriment of short-distance running which we are worse at. We sweat better, so we can do more long-term effort. This feat is essential to better settlements, as we can discover a larger area with potentially better resources. It might seem counterproductive to not be able to run quickly for a short period, when it comes …

4 Reasons Google's Calico Won't "Solve Death"

The on-line world has been taken ablaze by Calico's bid to end ageing, and thus death itself, but is this what they will actually focus on, and will they achieve it?

The fact is ageing will be reversed, and death by "natural causes" will go with it. The questions are "When?" and "By whom?".

Until recently, not a lot was known about the approach Calico would take in this venture dubbed "moonshot thinking" - a term touted by Google as the source of all considerable human progress throughout history. This we don't doubt, but is this what Calico is all about?

CNN's Dan Primack has revealed details about Calico's plan, which hint at a less-than-moonshot thinking approach, and cast a serious question mark on its ability to deliver the punchy TIME headline. Here is why:

1. The man with the idea, Bill Maris, arrived at the conclusion that the root of all death-causing disease is simply ageing itself. Not only is this widely known in the ant…