How strange to call this planet 'Earth' when quite clearly it is ocean. Arthur C. Clarke

Monday, November 4, 2013

Evolution and Intelligence

While sitting in the corner of my room next to the window to absorb sunlight, I read another paper for my organismal ecology class. I was lucky I didn't feel like falling asleep, but I wasn't quite awake in every sense, either. I was in that happy productive state where I'm too tired to distract myself and have just enough focus to do the task in front of me. I was reading about the evolution of insecticide resistance in mosquitoes, something you would not find me reading on my own.

An insecticide-infused bed net. The net quickly kills mosquitoes that land on it, so the little boy doesn't get bitten by one that may have malaria. The result: only mosquitoes with resistance to the insecticide survive and reproduce. Does this bed net promote the evolution of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes? Photo from http://microbewiki.kenyon.edu

This paper was changing the way I think about drug resistance and evolution. It set off a thought that proceeded to bounce about in my head until it hit another thought about the nature of intelligence. These two thoughts danced around each other in a very ephemeral waltz (a second or two) until they spawned another thought, which instead of dancing was expressed in an email to a friend of mine who is really interested in artificial intelligence and the nature of conscious thought. I wish now to leave you with my thoughts in this email to let them bounce about in your own brain for a bit. Enjoy!

"I just had a thought relating intelligence and evolution. I felt they were similar because they are both things humans try to simulate, but have yet to successfully and consistently recreate, and that are biological in nature. Then I thought more and decided that evolution is the opposite of intelligence, because it is a purely passive process and intelligence is not at all passive, but perhaps the antithesis of passivity. 

Discussion question: Which will humans create first: non-intelligent forms that "live" and evolve on their own, or a finite intelligent entity? 

Coming soon: this email as a blog entry!"



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