Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

Intelligent Life

Posted by Michael Dickens on July 19, 2008

Life is defined as something with the following functions:

1. It can reproduce.
2. It grows and changes throughout its life.
3. It consumes energy.
4. The conditions inside its body remain constant, e.g. body temperature.
5. It has an orderly structure.
6. As a species, it evolves based on its surroundings.
7. It responds to the happenings of its environment. This is similar to #6, but much more short-term.

Viruses are not living because they need outside help to reproduce.

Found at

But how do you find out if something is intelligent life? A quick Google search found no good results. So I am going to try to define intelligence.

1. It can think abstractly.
2. It is capable of some form of language.
3. It can go beyond its genetic programming and solve new problems.

More info can be found here.

I considered adding a fourth one: it uses tools. But do you have to be intelligent to use tools? And will all intelligent life use tools? I believe the answers are yes and no. I think intelligent life is capable of using tools, but that doesn’t mean it will use tools.

But how does intelligent life evolve? There have to be conditions in which it is beneficial for a species to be smarter. As it is, humans aren’t the most successful life on earth. Most insects are more successful. Look at ants. There are HUGE numbers of them, and how smart are they? So I am going to pose a question. If you’ve read Ender’s Game, you know that in it there are large ant-like creatures that possess intelligence. (They build spaceships, etc.) So what would the conditions have to be for that to evolve? Under what conditions would it be beneficial for ants, or at least ant queens, to be much smarter? A theory I have about when intelligence becomes important is under a rapidly changing climate. Intelligent things can plan and decide instead of just following their DNA’s orders. So if the climate is changing too fast for things to evolve to fit it, intelligence would become important.


One Response to “Intelligent Life”

  1. Bill said

    I was listening to Radio Lab the other day and they were talking about how ants exhibit intelligence as a group even though as individuals they could hardly more dumb. Fascinating.

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