August 17, 2011

Intelligence not required

There's a story today on physorg about the mental abilities of bees. Here's an excerpt:
The team's findings suggest that bees are able to solve complex routing problems by learning, without needing a sophisticated cognitive representation of space. Dr Lihoreau explained: "Despite having tiny brains, effectively used gradual optimisation (comparing several different routes), to solve this famously complex routing problem which still baffles mathematicians 80 years after it was first posed."
A tiny bee brain that we wouldn't assume is capable of very much, and yet it can outpace us in this area. I love that the bees managed to learn and come up with this routing solution without a large brain. That's so cool.

I sometimes wonder if intelligence is the holy grail that we think it is. My favorite kind of sci-fi books are the ones about alternate, alien sorts of intelligence. Peter Watts' "Blindsight" went wild with this notion. If you enjoy the idea of varied concepts of consciousness, pick up a copy. The book even asks whether intelligence requires a self. Could there be another kind of intelligence, almost the opposite of a human's? His answer is fascinating.

Consciousness and intelligence are insanely interesting topics. Remember, folks: we don't even know how our brains create the illusion of "selves" -- or for that matter, what these "selves" are. It's just wild that we know so little about what we are.

We are truly an infant race. Here's hoping we reach adolescence.

1 comment:

Artichoke Annie said...

And all those years I thought they were calling me "Pea" Brain, when they were really saying "Bee" Brain.

Sorry couldn't resist. I totally agree we are an infant race - hope we make it as well.

You're the bees knees, Keith. ;)