Animal intelligence - which ones for uplift?

Discussion in 'Science / Nature' started by skeptical, Aug 6, 2009.

  1. skeptical

    skeptical Well-Known Member

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    Just reading a piece of recent research showing the high intelligence of New Caledonian crows.
    Crows Can Use 'Up To Three Tools' In Correct Sequence Without Training

    This led into a consideration of David Brin's uplift ideas. In his novels, he suggests that sub-sentient beings be genetically and socially modified to turn them into fully sentient beings. He suggests that chimps, gorillas and bottlenose dolphins would be the ones we would uplift into full intelligence to become a part of our technological society.

    That always struck me as too limited. There are a heap of remarkably intelligent animals on Earth, including the crow as above.

    Which ones do you think should be uplifted? Why? Any good examples of high intelligence by your choice?
     
  2. TheEndIsNigh

    TheEndIsNigh ...Prepare Thyself

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    I'd start with Home Sapien.
     
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  3. Nik

    Nik Speaker to Cats

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    Start with opposable thumbs, I think. Sadly, that may exclude my preferred candidates, Siamese cats...

    ( We had one who passed the 'mirror' test for self-awareness. But, she was bright even for a Siamese, had been the Litter Boss...)

    Um, do Racoons and/or Possums qualify ?
    ---

    "I'd start with Home Sapien."

    Please.
     
  4. chrispenycate

    chrispenycate resident pedantissimo Staff Member

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    Manipulative organs need not be a problem (anyway, siamese cats have long learned to use those of others). C'Mell is still an option. The dolphins in "Startide Rising" have been fitted with prosthetics; we're not considering natural evolution here, but synthetic. Still, I have a certain weakness for the cephalopods, even if an uplifted giant squid would probably explode due to lack of pressure.

    Basically, it's for visual reasons, but they have got interesting talents, too. Chimps, you're only going to get a slight extension of our own viewpoint, but a group that has been separated from us for billions of years?
     
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  5. Moonbat

    Moonbat Chuckle Churner

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    Well if its a different viewpoint you want, why not Giraffes?
     
  6. chrispenycate

    chrispenycate resident pedantissimo Staff Member

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    You'd need a helicopter to uplift a giraffe. Besides, if you enlarged its brain for greater mentation, it would wilt from the weight.
     
  7. Rodders

    Rodders |-O-| (-O-) |-O-|

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    What would be the purpose of the "Uplift" of any animal. I can't see us [humans in general] giving these newly intelligent animals any form of equality, would we be uplifting animals for forced or slave labour?
     
  8. Nik

    Nik Speaker to Cats

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    Having local PD's sniffer/tracker dogs catch Perp, read rights *and* give sworn evidence might give pause to many scallies...

    Might be interesting to get an answer when 'Tibbles' shows up for breakfast and standard query, 'So, where have you been ??'

    Certainly make Vets' life more interesting: 'If only they could talk', indeed.

    Ethical issues sprout like mushrooms-- I reckon a lot of short-lived sapients would make 'living wills'...

    Um, between giggles, my family mentioned 'fur-suiters': Let's not go there on this forum...

    Family also mentioned that uplifting Big Ssssnakes may be inappropriate-- They're scary enough already !!
     
  9. BookStop

    BookStop If you see a stranger...

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    Rodents seem like they'd be an easy fix, although realistically, do we want smarter rats and squirrels roaming the earth?
     
  10. chrispenycate

    chrispenycate resident pedantissimo Staff Member

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    While pondering minotaurs and general dairy intelligence I came up with a bipedal cow with a playtex 'cross your heart (or at least one of your stomachs) twice' double D cup…

    Now, that's uplift for you.
     
  11. Ursa major

    Ursa major Bearly Believable Staff Member

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    Without giving too much away, one reason for uplift was suggested in Learning the World by Ken Macleod.






    I'm not sure we should be discussing this udder kind of uplift. :eek:;)
     
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  12. skeptical

    skeptical Well-Known Member

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    I would assume that uplift would start with species that only needed a little bit of a push genetically. Hence chimps, bonobos, gorillas, and orang utans would be obvious candidates.

    Beyond that, what would be the most important quality? David Brin chose sentience, and selected bottlenose dolphins for his novels, and fitted them with prosthetics. Personally, given an advanced technology, I would not see prosthetics as important. A dolphin is a swimmer, and clunky mechanical arms sticking out cannot be anything but a nuisance. However, a robot that responds to a dolphin's commands might be as good as a prosthetic for 'manual' work, and not interfere with swimming.

    My own choice would include all the advanced primates, including gibbons, baboons etc. I would add elephants (intelligent and with a manipulative organ already). Not sure about squid. Obviously they have a good set of manipulators, but while they are the most intelligent invertebrates, are they really smart enough?

    What of birds? Various crows and parrots are very smart. The African grey parrot is the only species (apart from humans) that have been shown to use language in a meaningful way, in communicating with humans.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_(parrot)

    The New Zealand kea was described by David Attenborough as the most intelligent bird.
    YouTube - kea parrot

    Cetaceans are an obvious choice, but what of animals a little less smart, like seals and other carnivores? Could a little genetic manipulation make the difference?
     
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  13. Scifi fan

    Scifi fan Well-Known Member

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    The problem then is that any creature can be used for uplift, including potatoes - just engineer it differently, and the Idaho spud on your plate would become a genius.

    Social insects, like ants, would be an alternative choice, but obviously not too unbelievable.
     
  14. PTeppic

    PTeppic Reetou Diplomatic Corp

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    On a related note, today has brought the story of researchers in Vancouver demonstrating some breeds of dog are as smart as a two year old child, maybe 2 and 1/2.

    An example story is at The Telegraph.
     
  15. skeptical

    skeptical Well-Known Member

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    To scifi fan

    While I get your point, I think, relaistically, if and when humans attempt uplift, they will be very selective about which species to attempt it on. The question in my mind is which characteristics will be seen as most important.

    For example : if brains are most important, then a bottlenose dolphin will be first in line. If manual abilities are required, then chimps and other primates. In either case, dogs will have to wait their turn. Bottlenose dolphins have an intelligence level at least equal to a 6 year old human. Chimps a 4 year old. Dogs at 2 are still down the list.
     
  16. Scifi fan

    Scifi fan Well-Known Member

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    Brains would have to be the most important. The only thing is we don't know what "brain" or "intelligence" really is. We now know the stomach has a mini brain, which helps us analyze things, so we really have a "gut instinct". So brains may not just be in the head but elsewhere - as it is with us.

    As for defining intelligence, who knows what it is.
     
  17. Ursa major

    Ursa major Bearly Believable Staff Member

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    It's bad enough having your food disagree with you without your intestines joining in the argument.
     
  18. dustinzgirl

    dustinzgirl Mod of Awesome

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    We should let nature take its course and not alter the basic codes of life.

    That never goes well.
     
  19. Emphyricist

    Emphyricist Well-Known Member

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    This is a question which has fascinated me for awhile. I fully agree with the OP, the selection of gorillas as humanity's third species to try to uplift really annoyed me, as did the fact that we hadn't tried anything easier to handle before moving on to chimps and dolphins.

    When writing about uplift, I think that chimps and bonobos are interesting candidates since they're our closest relatives but have dramatically different social structures. So would geladas, which one could argue resemble grass-eating humans. Spotted hyenas also have a really interesting social structure which could make an uplifted version interesting if we didn't breed it out of them. If we were actually to engage in uplift, if makes sense to try to uplift species who would work or play with us in new ways. Uplifting apes would basically be making new species in our own image; I don't really see the point.

    When it comes to self-awareness I'm a believer in the Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis: intelligence evolves when you need to remember your past interactions with other members of your species in order to decide whether to trust them. So the obvious candidates are species which already have a social structure which requires individuals to recognize and remember one another. Pretty much all species which display some of the cognitive skills we think of as unique to humans fit this pattern, and exceptions such as raccoons and octopi have relatives which are social.

    This article has already mentioned that corvids contain New Caledonian crows, the only non-human animal known to be capable of using recursion to solve problems. Corvids also contain the only non-primate (and possibly non-ape) species known to be capable of reasoning about what other members of the group are thinking: if another scrub jay is watching, they will rehide nuts after the watcher has gone. Unlike with tool use in the New Caledonian crow, which naturally uses tools in its natural habitat, there's no reason to that theory-of-mind is unique to scrub jays. Parrots are the other particularly promising group of birds: the kea has been mentioned and is one of the fastest problem-solvers of any animal, and of course African gray parrots may be capable of forming semantically coherent novel sentences, which if Irene Pepperberg is correct is truly impressive: it's something even apes can't actually do. Many species of corvid and parrot are quite good at problem-solving. Members of the starling family are also pretty smart, and common starlings have the advantage of breeding really easily and eating anything.

    With regards to mammals, vampire bats are the only animal species other than humans known to practice reciprocal altruism, prairie dogs have rudimentary language. Elephants are able to recognize themselves in the mirror and are exceptional in their memory (though it's not true that an elephant never forgets). Elephants would make terrible candidates to uplift due to their large size and long gestation period, but their relative the hyrax is also a social species. It too has a long gestation period, but if it could be reduced hyraces would make interesting candidates. So would the social mongooses, particularly banded mongooses, the only species I know of where all pairs get to reproduce and all members of the group help raise the young. Raccoons with their thumbs and their social relatives the kinkajous and coatis would also make interesting candidates, as would rats and prairie dogs. Sugar gliders, being tame, sociable, long-lived yet easy to breed, and surprisingly dextrous for a species without thumbs also seem like possible candidates.

    If you're going to use primates, I think it makes sense consider thinking outside the apes. Spider monkeys problably are the smartest New World monkeys and have prehensile tails. So do capuchins, which are already are trained as helper monkeys for the disabled. Owl monkeys (another New World monkey), lemurs, and bushbabies are nocturnal, which we are not.

    Now, if we're going to choose where to start, it probably makes sense to start which species which are social and either already cooperate with humans or have close relatives that do. That way you can claim that you have a good reason for breeding smarter animals. This makes dolphins certainly good candidates. The same is true of capuchins, which as I said we already have trained as helper monkeys. I'm skeptical of the claimed cognitive abilities of dogs, they seem to be savants at reading human emotions but not particularly exceptional otherwise, however our long association with them makes them good candidates. The mongooses humans have kept for snake control are not social mongooses, but I see no reason banded mongooses couldn't be bred to do all that solitary mongooses do, all that ferrets do, and more besides. Falconry dates back into prehistory and the most popular falconry bird these days (at least in the US) is the Harris's hawk, which also happens to be the only raptor to hunt in packs. Parrots can be trained to do tricks, are impressively dextrous, and might be bred/trained as helper animals much in the vein of monkeys. We might also potentially try to train octopi or cuttlefish to work with us in the ocean much as dolphins do, though I don't know how productive that would be.
     
  20. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    All living things are sentient. :)

    But humans are very good at denigrating other humans and different lifeforms. The future is so going to condemn us all for that.

     
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