What Is Intelligence? Where Does it Begin?

by birtanpublished on August 5, 2020

Humans are proud of a lot of things from particle accelerators to poetry to Pokemon all of them made possible because of something humans value extremely highly intelligence we think of intelligence as a trait like height or strength but when we try to define it

Things get fuzzy in a nutshell intelligence is a mechanism to solve problems especially the problem of staying alive which involves finding food and shelter fighting sexual competitors will flame from predators

Intelligence is not a single thing it includes the ability to gather knowledge to learn be creative form strategies or engage in critical thinking it manifests itself in a huge variety of behaviors from hardwired or instinct like

Reactions to different degrees of learning to some sort of awareness but not all scientists agree where it begins or what even should count as intelligence to make this even more complicated intense is also connected to

Consciousness since awareness is helpful for problem-solving but we're exploring consciousness in other videos so today we'll leave it aside ok intelligence isn't exactly clear-cut so maybe we can think of it as more like a flexible set

Of skills a toolbox basic tools the most basic tools in the intelligence toolbox are the ability to gather information to save it and to use it to learn information about the world is gathered through senses such as vision sound

Smell touch or taste and helps us navigate and react to the external world appropriately but living things also need to keep track of the state of their own bodies monitoring things like hunger and fatigue

Information is the basis of action for all living things and without it you're at the mercy of your surroundings unable to react appropriately or flexibly information is much more powerful if we can keep and save it so the second tool

Is memory memory is the ability to save and recall information so a living being doesn't have to start from scratch every time it perceives something relevant memories can be about events places and associations but also behaviors like

Hunting or foraging methods some of these like flying have to be repeated over and over until they're mastered this is what we call learning the process of putting together a sequence of thoughts or actions basically a

String of repeatable behaviors that can be varied and adapted these three tools enable seemingly stupid creatures to act in surprisingly intelligent ways the a cellular slime mold which is basically just a single huge slimy cell shows

Behavior similar to an animal with a simple brain when put in a maze with food at one end the slime mold explores its surroundings and marks its path with slime trails a sort of smearing memories on the ground as it continues exploring

It avoids the marked pathways and finds its way to the food instead of blindly getting stuck in dead ends the slime mold adapts its behavior to save time and effort this behavior is hardwired and scientists can't agree if that's

Intelligent although it does give the slime mold a certain advantage these are an example of more adaptive smart behavior scientists trained bumblebees to move a colored ball into a goal post for a sugar reward not only were the

Bees very skillful at this behavior which isn't natural to them they got more efficient over time when several balls were available bees chose the ball that lay closest to the goal even if it was a different color than the ball they

Were trained with for more challenging problems we need even more flexibility fancier tools building on the basic tools more complex animals have a wider range of problems

They can solve they can memorize all kinds of associations connections and mechanical tricks we'll call this tool the library of knowledge take raccoons their favorite kind of food is human food their approach to getting hold of

Such treats depends upon an assortment of theoretical and practical skills that makes them master burglars able to open windows or pick locks in a study records were given box is secured with different

Kinds of locks like latches bolts plugs or push bars they needed less than 10 attempts to figure out how to open each box even when different locks were put together into increasingly difficult combinations that had to be solved in

The right order and with different amounts of strength a year later the raccoons still remembered how to open the boxes and were as fast as when they had first solved the puzzle beyond our library of associations and skills the

Most impressive tool in our box is creativity a sort of mental Ducks tape being creative means producing something new and valuable from apparently unrelated things in the context of intelligence this means making new and

Unusual connections pairing input with memories and skills to come up with a unique solution to a problem in another of Combe study researchers showed the animals that by dropping pebbles into a water tank they could raise the water

Level enough to reach a marshmallow floating at the top one raccoon came up with a much better solution it tipped the table over another facet of creativity is applying a new resource to a task physical tools like primates that

Use sticks to fish for termites in trees or some octopuses which assemble collected coconut shells around themselves as a sort of portable armor to hide from enemies collecting materials for later use is connected to

An even more advanced dimension of problem-solving planning planning means considering the activities required for a desired goal and putting them together in a plan when unforeseen circumstances and new

Possibilities present themselves they need to be assessed according to whether they match the plan or not an example of this intelligent behavior is hoarding food to eat it later this is an instinctive behavior in squirrels but

Even though hiding food comes instinctively to them they still need to use advanced thinking skills to make the best decisions squirrels examine every nut and weigh the time and effort it would take to

Hide it against the benefits they would get from each one damage to all low-fat nuts are eaten right away while nuts that still need to ripen go on the stockpile squirrels also pretend to bury nuts when they feel watched these empty

Caches distract rivals from their real treasure this is pretty advanced strategizing because to make a plan to distract someone else you first have to be aware that there are others like you that want the same things the more

Complex the problem the more tools are needed in combination to solve it so the more tools there are the more flexibility of being has to solve the challenges life throws at them but even for complex problems beach animals

Individual situation is what counts squirrels are omnivores that defend their territories fiercely for them it makes sense to remember where there's food in different locations and trip their enemies to improve their chances

Of survival sheep don't have any such refined tricks up their sleeve but they don't need to they are grazers and live in flocks the skills relevant to them are social they recognize and remember many different sheep and even humans for

Years a completely different skill evolving and retaining a complex set of mental abilities they might never use would be a waste of resources for them humans went the opposite way and invested in an unusually diverse

Intelligence toolkit while this was helpful by accident we added another set of tools on top no single person could ever build a space rocket or particle accelerator but thanks to our ability to work together

And to share knowledge across generations we can overcome challenges beyond any single individuals ability this allowed us to shape the planet to our liking we also created new problems in the process Sudoku

Tax forms string theory but also rapid climate change and antibiotic resistance to solve these we'll need to look past short-term survival and think about the distant future we have the toolbox we just need to use it

Speaking of tools for learning we've heard from many teachers that are using our infographic posters in class so we asked what would help them the most and made an education addition for teachers students and everyone else they're

Slightly larger posters about various things that will expand over time from a periodic table to a world map or the human body you can get them in our shop and support us if you want and let us know which post topics you want for your

Room or classroom this video was part two of the three part video series relating to big questions of life and the universe made possible thanks to a grant from the Templeton world charity foundation you'll find our sources and

Further reading in the video description you

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