be careful where you clique
I was taking in some backlogged CoasttoCoastAM last night. The host was the ailing Ian Punnett. If you are a faithful listener, you well know that Ian stroked out on air a while back and now he’s being put out to graze more permanently as he seems to be going deaf.
So the discussion arose that human capacity to evolve further intelligence may have a limit. I looked up the article that started the broohaa, a well written piece from Scientific American writer Douglas Fox. I got the full low down from the in-house neuroscientist at The Southern Fried Science Network ( Click HERE).
In Brief, the idea is as follows
“Human intelligence may be close to its evolutionary limit. Various lines of research suggest that most of the tweaks that could make us smarter would hit limits set by the laws of physics. Brain size, for instance, helps up to a point but carries diminishing returns: brains become energy-hungry and slow. Better “wiring” across the brain also would consume energy and take up a disproportionate amount of space. Making wires thinner would hit thermodynamic limitations similar to those that affect transistors in computer chips: communication would get noisy.
“Humans, however, might still achieve higher intelligence collectively. And technology, from writing to the Internet, enables us to expand our mind outside the confines of our body.”
The argument is interesting as it brings into light some great ideas, but I was a bit befuddled by the assumptions it draws upon and the conclusions it leads to.
ARTICLE :First, intelligence is really hard to define, so for disscussion sake we assume it means processing speed. Because of the laws of physics, the energy requirements and the size of the proteins that make thought possible, there’s speed limit.
THOUGHT RESPONSE: So we’ll outsource. Interventionist evolution means machines do whatever processing we can’t handle. Besides Intelligence, whatever it is, is more than processing speed.
ARTICLE: Second, the demands of higher intelligence that have been produced by nature thus far, have led to larger brains with more distinct, more specialized regions in those brains. It’s the limited space, the limited resources and the limited cellular functions that have made our brains the way they are and make us think the way we do.
THOUGHT RESPONSE: Wow, Marshall Mcluhan was right.
But we’re more than brain, and while Fox postulates that emergent intelligence and possibly the internet may one day complement the built in factory settings, I am a little surprised that the external hard drive option didn’t come up. Nor was there any hint that we may not have the monopoly on intelligence. After all the internet is the most successful machine ever built… if you don’t count dolphins.
We may just be one stepping stone (or rabbit trail) towards higher enlightenment.
For more wiring nightmares press here