Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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It's true that some species, including sharks and many insects, have remained stable for many millions of years, because they're so successful that there's no evolutionary pressure to change. But that won't necessarily always be true. What if Colony Collapse Disorder leads to the evolution of an intelligent hive? How's that for a story idea? :lol:
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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Ooohhh, I like that idea! :thumbsup:

There's nothing like a good old-fashioned cataclysmic disaster to trigger meaningful change.

In human history, what's an example of a disaster that led to transformative change in our species?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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On a genetic level? It's hard to say, since events like that actually predate history. Very likely the last Ice Age is an example. At some point there was a serious evolutionary bottleneck that seriously reduced the genetic diversity of Homo Sapiens, but I don't think anyone has any idea what caused it.

Do you think a hive mind would have the curiosity it takes to become a spacefaring species?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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Good question. I suppose if curiosity were programmed into the hive mind, then it could become spacefaring. Cats are naturally curious, so imagine an intelligent Cat-Collective exploring the universe. But how would this Cat-Collective obtain the motivation to absorb other species? Is the drive for self-improvement endemic in all intelligent species?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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scottydog wrote:
Fri Jun 04, 2021 2:11 am
Good question. I suppose if curiosity were programmed into the hive mind, then it could become spacefaring.
It seems to me that a hive mind has the potential for curiosity. They send their guys out looking for flowers and they have to report back to the hive so everybody can come and bring back the spoils, which is very similar to how Humanity developed.
Cats are naturally curious, so imagine an intelligent Cat-Collective exploring the universe. But how would this Cat-Collective obtain the motivation to absorb other species? Is the drive for self-improvement endemic in all intelligent species?
The thing about cats is that, even though they're very curious, they're not very social. Lions have prides, but cats don't really form communities, so I don't see them building a technological civilization no matter how intelligent they get.

What we need is a species that is intelligent, able to communicate in a complex fashion, and has the equivalent of opposable thumbs-- so how about some species of bird? Could a bird evolve into a spacefaring species?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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I was thinking about how smart dolphins are. Imagine the challenges that dolphins face in bringing a watery environment into space. Would it be possible?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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On their own, probably not-- not Earth dolphins, anyway, but maybe similar species on other worlds that had other natural circumstances to take advantage of. Intelligent Earth cetaceans, I think, would have the curiosity and explorer's spirit to be interested in hooking up with humans to explore space at some point. I remember reading some fiction, maybe in Isaac's Universe, where the dolphins' fins were set up with Waldos that they controlled through their nervous system, like humans are learning to control artificial limbs, and that seems like a reasonable prediction.

What about a spacefaring species similar to the octopus? Would they have the right qualities to build a technological civilization?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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I would think so, yes. And with eight limbs, all governed by an intelligence that can multitask with them, they could accomplish more than humans.

But would humans who encounter an intelligence resembling an octopus be able to set aside their prejudice against such beings?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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scottydog wrote:
Sat Jun 05, 2021 8:21 pm
I would think so, yes. And with eight limbs, all governed by an intelligence that can multitask with them, they could accomplish more than humans.
Yes, I think that kind of design would be very good for a technological species.
But would humans who encounter an intelligence resembling an octopus be able to set aside their prejudice against such beings?
I imagine there would be a wide range of reactions from xenophobia and paranoia to delight and cult worship. Of course, a lot of that would depend not just on their appearance, but also their demeanor and culture and philosophy.

What about birds? Do you think a technological civilization could be built by intelligent birds?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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My thinking on birds is that they can't afford to have a large enough brain and still get airborn. But if through evolution a bird species can balance flight with the brain-size threshold, then they could be a formidable species to deal with. Especially if their wings could adapt to become more like hands so that they aren't pushing buttons only with their beaks.

What are your thoughts on birds?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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I've actually given a lot of thought to birds and I think they have a lot of potential. Some species of birds, like parrots, demonstrate great intelligence and understanding, despite their small size (we probably need to rethink the relationship between brain size and processing power). Also, there have been quite a few species of large, flightless birds, as big as people or bigger. Some birds also have the potential for sophisticated communication, given the wide range of sounds they can make and some species' gift of mimicry. Also, birds have demonstrated emotions, bonding (with other birds and other species), coordinated group relationships, and signs of culture.

Now the idea of their wings evolving into hands is a different story, and my thoughts took another route. Birds have a tendency to perch and manipulate things with their clawed feet. So in my scenario, their wings evolved from flight to balancing organs as their toes became more nimble-- so we eventually have a being with its legs coming from its shoulders and its hands coming from its pelvis. :lol:

What about elephants? Any potential there?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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RJDiogenes wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 10:49 pm
... so we eventually have a being with its legs coming from its shoulders and its hands coming from its pelvis. :lol:
You've given this way too much thought :lol: What about intelligent cockroaches? Such an image reminds me of the first Men in Black movie.
RJDiogenes wrote:
Mon Jun 07, 2021 10:49 pm
What about elephants? Any potential there?
Yes, but as the Trunkards creator you have the inside scoop on elephant potential. And we already know that elephants are spacefaring:
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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scottydog wrote:
Tue Jun 08, 2021 2:14 am
You've given this way too much thought :lol:
Overthinking is my specialty. :lol:
What about intelligent cockroaches? Such an image reminds me of the first Men in Black movie.
That might bring us back into the arena of hive minds, but I think cockroaches are just too successfully adapted to evolve intelligence except by the unlikeliest of mutations.
Yes, but as the Trunkards creator you have the inside scoop on elephant potential.
I do. I figure they will soon tire of getting inebriated on fermented fruit and evolve hands to buy themselves some beer. Actually, the truth is that their trunks are very sensitive and dexterous (and I think it was Larry Niven who imagined elephant aliens with bifurcated trunks). Also, they're very intelligent and have emotional relationships similar to humans, and they potentially have the capability for artistic expression. And their vocal communications are also very nuanced. Elephants are a great bet for a technological species.
And we already know that elephants are spacefaring:
They have great aliens on Orville, one area in which latter-day Trek did not excel. :lol:

What other animals or biological designs strike you as high potential for a spacefaring species?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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Humans have the best shot at space, but in the event of a nuclear, biological, or environmental catastrophe, a new primate line could evolve with intelligence, perhaps resembling the orangutan.

Another possibility is an intelligent virus that mutates and evolves to have a higher order intelligence. The better that humans get at fighting viruses, the smarter the viruses must become in order to survive.

Yet another fascinating scenario is the evolution of intelligent plant life. Some people have given this a lot of thought.

What do you think?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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scottydog wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 1:31 am
Another possibility is an intelligent virus that mutates and evolves to have a higher order intelligence. The better that humans get at fighting viruses, the smarter the viruses must become in order to survive.
A sentient virus would fall under the hive mind category, but they could also be parasitic and control an animal host. Which means that the dominant intelligent life form on that planet would consist of any animal with the virus.
Yet another fascinating scenario is the evolution of intelligent plant life. Some people have given this a lot of thought.
A lot of thought indeed. Everything they say is true, but very far fetched-- but that's because they're not extrapolating from point one but trying to build a case for a desired outcome (which is fine). I don't discount the possibility of intelligent plants at all, but I would imagine them to be more sessile and slow, with their thoughts moving at a much more lethargic time scale than ours. To them, we would be mayflies. And they would not be very good candidates for a spacefaring species.

Another bit in that document takes us back to how biology can affect ethics. What they call a "really cool fact" about these aliens, that they could selectively pollinate to control their evolution, is something called eugenics. Humans have been doing that for millennia (the impulse is built into sexual reproduction). Eugenics was very popular in the early 20th century, until the Nazis kind of gave it a bad name, and now its gaining popularity again among the Left Wing (at least as applied to minorities).

Now if we accept the possibility of an intelligent plant, and the possibility that they can combine their intelligences through their root system, can we extrapolate even further? Can we imagine this scenario evolving into an intelligent planet?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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Yes, and that's brilliant. It could be the ultimate hive mind -- all life on Earth acting in concert as one intelligence.

Would that require physical and/or biological changes in current life, or a shift in values?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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Massive changes. It may not even be possible at this point, with a billion years of evolution defining current life. It may require different initial conditions or even a completely different environment, like a super-Earth with heavy gravity that would result in life that was denser and more compact.

Have we exhausted all the possibilities for speculation at this point? :lol:
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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What about the possibility of human evolution taking a curious and unintended turn as a result of colonizing the moon, Mars, or Enceladus over a long period of time. Couldn't humans on these worlds begin to evolve differently, perhaps in ways that would enhance their intelligence and spacefaring ability?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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I think natural human evolution is pretty much over, per se, and any major adaptations to otherworldly environments will be engineered. However, it's certainly possible that there may be some differentiation based on the genetic makeup of the founding population. This could bode well because the founding populations are likely to be mostly scientists and engineers, and psychologically screened for life in space, so they may indeed be overall more intelligent and inclined toward interstellar travel.

Do you think humanity will ever uplift other species to equal human intelligence-- or build new species from scratch?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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One terrifying possibility is interbreeding humans with animals. Imagine a tremendously strong great ape with the brain of Albert Einstein. Scientists are already working on human-animal embryos.

Would creating new life using the best combination of physical and intellectual traits from animals be desirable or ethical?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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scottydog wrote:
Sat Jun 12, 2021 2:32 am
One terrifying possibility is interbreeding humans with animals. Imagine a tremendously strong great ape with the brain of Albert Einstein.
Or a monkey with the brain of Shakespeare. That would save a fortune on monkeys and typewriters. But that's exactly what I mean by uplift. I don't see anything terrifying about it.
This kind of technology could save lives by increasing the availability of transplants and compatible transfusions.
Would creating new life using the best combination of physical and intellectual traits from animals be desirable or ethical?
It could very well be desirable for many reasons-- from food production to improving conditions on other worlds-- and I don't see any ethical problems with it.

Imagine creating an animal that was all steak with no brain or nervous system-- wouldn't that please everyone who doesn't like to see animals consumed?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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RJDiogenes wrote:
Sat Jun 12, 2021 8:43 pm
I don't see anything terrifying about it.
Would it be terrifying to you if we bred humans to have eight arms because having eight arms would allow us to do more things at once?

RJDiogenes wrote:
Sat Jun 12, 2021 8:43 pm
Imagine creating an animal that was all steak with no brain or nervous system-- wouldn't that please everyone who doesn't like to see animals consumed?
I think people squirm at the idea of creating "life" that doesn't occur naturally, even if creating such life solves a heck of a lot of problems.
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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scottydog wrote:
Sun Jun 13, 2021 12:31 am
Would it be terrifying to you if we bred humans to have eight arms because having eight arms would allow us to do more things at once?
That particular feat of engineering seems unlikely, since we'd also have to wire up the coordination instincts to go along with them. Body design and reflexes evolve together over millions over years, so it wouldn't be as easy as plucking a gene from an octopus or something.
I think people squirm at the idea of creating "life" that doesn't occur naturally, even if creating such life solves a heck of a lot of problems.
What's the difference? If it's alive and functions according to natural law, how can it be unnatural?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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RJDiogenes wrote:
Sun Jun 13, 2021 10:25 pm
That particular feat of engineering seems unlikely, since we'd also have to wire up the coordination instincts to go along with them. Body design and reflexes evolve together over millions over years, so it wouldn't be as easy as plucking a gene from an octopus or something.
That's interesting. Research on neuroplasticity suggests that the human brain is remarkably adaptable, especially the brains of young children. It would be fascinating to see, maybe starting with monkeys, if primates can adapt to having 4 arms, for example.
RJDiogenes wrote:
Sun Jun 13, 2021 10:25 pm
What's the difference? If it's alive and functions according to natural law, how can it be unnatural?
True enough. I'm all for eating meat yet sparing animals from suffering. So growing a filet mignon in a petri dish works for me, absolutely! Why do you suppose many vegans would still avoid eating lab-grown meat?
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Re: Questions Only VI: How Much Is Too Much?

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scottydog wrote:
Mon Jun 14, 2021 12:16 am
That's interesting. Research on neuroplasticity suggests that the human brain is remarkably adaptable, especially the brains of young children. It would be fascinating to see, maybe starting with monkeys, if primates can adapt to having 4 arms, for example.
That would be fascinating. I know some brain parts can take over for other brain parts, but can they adapt to something that was never there to begin with? That would be good news for cybernetics.
True enough. I'm all for eating meat yet sparing animals from suffering. So growing a filet mignon in a petri dish works for me, absolutely! Why do you suppose many vegans would still avoid eating lab-grown meat?
I suppose, because it's still meat, there would be some Vegan fundies who still wouldn't touch it, but there would be others who would. Like anything else, it depends on their motivations. It reminds me of a story in Analog back in the 80s where a guy genetically engineered a kosher pig and then asked his rabbi friend to eat some. The rabbi agreed that it was kosher, but still gagged on it because of his upbringing.

How do you think vegetarians and vegans would feel about cows that had bulbs of meat growing on their sides like fruit, and that would grow back when picked?
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