Humans vs. (Other) Animals

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Re: Humans vs. (Other) Animals

Post by Blu » Thu Nov 03, 2011 3:11 pm

Visser 5 wrote: Also, and this might be conected to the religion thing, as far as I know, only humans have 'morals'.
In the animal world everyone does whatever it takes to get food and shelter for themselves.
Sometimes they also include their family into it, making sure to have food for them as well.
Humans do more then that.
Humans will look at another human who has been 'mistreated' and say "Hey wait a second! This person needs justice!"
Doesn't that mean that we are better then the animals?
A lot of animals have "morals." Of course, this is dependent on your definition of morals. If by morals you mean the sense to protect others without any immediete benefit to oneself, then there are many examples in the animal kingdom. Far too many to mention. Just look it up on google.

As for human morality, it is the same as in the animal kingdom, where any moral action will eventually benefit the individual down the line. When we defend someone who is being attacked, it creates a positive social system where a group protects all of its individuals. Being social animals, humans cannot survive by themselves (or at least not go mad), so it is greatly beneficial to be charitable because it allows for a positive social system where all or most individials eventually benefit.

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Re: Humans vs. (Other) Animals

Post by Current » Thu Nov 03, 2011 3:41 pm

Blu wrote:I understand where you are coming from, but I still see it as a pointless exercise. I assume that you agree that animals have a degree of intelligence. As do humans, of course. Why complicate things by creating two definitions for the same phenomenon at extremes? 2,3 and 4 are numbers, but I want to call 4,000,000,000,000 a SUPERnumber because it's a lot bigger. What is the point?
Several reasons. First, there's a relatively smooth distribution of intelligence in non-human animals that makes a large jump when you get to humans. That is, the difference between the second smartest species and humans is much bigger than the difference between the third smartest species and the second smartest one, or the third and the fourth, etc.

Second, because somewhere around human level intelligence is where many interesting things begin to happen. Ability to understand abstract concepts, complex language, nontrivial math, elaborate morality, etc. But, above all, because somewhere around human level intelligence is when you begin to observe knowledge building on itself. A lot of what humans do right now with our intelligence is possible because of a long history of building on that intelligence and the results of it.

To offer an analogy, is somewhat like the difference between subcritical and supercritical mass in a nuclear reaction. At subcritical mass, each reaction causes, on average, less than 1 reaction, whereas at supercritical mass each reaction causes on average more than 1 (the number of reactions caused on average is known as effective neutron multiplication factor, k). The difference between k=0.99 and k=1.01 is tiny, yet highly significant. With k<1, each reaction causes less reactions, so over time the number gets smaller and smaller; the nuclear reaction is in exponential decrease, and dies down. With k>1, each reaction causes on average one more reaction and then a bit, so over time you have more and more reactions, you get exponential increase, and things go BOOM.

Human intelligence is more or less like that, we are smart enough to build on previous stuff so we end up inventing more things and making our intelligence ever more useful, etc. Supercritical mass and subcritical mass get different terms even if the only difference is that one has a k that is bigger by the tiniest bit, because that tiny bit causes the phenomena to exhibit different behaviour. Humans have a big difference with the closest runner-up, and somewhere in between human intelligence and the smartest non-human there is dividing line where many interesting things begin to happen, so I call everything past that line sapient and everything before that line non-sapient.

As an aside, intelligence and nuclear reactions aren't the only cases where a continuum is divided with a line that says "over here we call this A, over there we call this B". Conductors and insulators, for example, are not fundamentally different materials, they just have more or less electrical conductivity. Speeds near c are called relativistic and speeds above c are called superluminal, even if its just a matter of bigger numbers, because they behave very differently from everyday speeds (or are theoretically impossible). There are other examples, but you get the idea.
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Re: Humans vs. (Other) Animals

Post by Blu » Thu Nov 03, 2011 4:13 pm

Current wrote:Several reasons. First, there's a relatively smooth distribution of intelligence in non-human animals that makes a large jump when you get to humans. That is, the difference between the second smartest species and humans is much bigger than the difference between the third smartest species and the second smartest one, or the third and the fourth, etc.
So what? It's still just a measure of intelligence and requires no change in definition.
Current wrote:Second, because somewhere around human level intelligence is where many interesting things begin to happen. Ability to understand abstract concepts, complex language, nontrivial math, elaborate morality, etc. But, above all, because somewhere around human level intelligence is when you begin to observe knowledge building on itself. A lot of what humans do right now with our intelligence is possible because of a long history of building on that intelligence and the results of it.
It's still just more intellectual capability. It does not need an extra definition because our current definitions can already explain this. Why fix something that isn't broken? Simply inventing the word sapience doesn't help or add anything, because such things are already explained well with sentience, etc...
Current wrote:To offer an analogy, is somewhat like the difference between subcritical and supercritical mass in a nuclear reaction. At subcritical mass, each reaction causes, on average, less than 1 reaction, whereas at supercritical mass each reaction causes on average more than 1 (the number of reactions caused on average is known as effective neutron multiplication factor, k). The difference between k=0.99 and k=1.01 is tiny, yet highly significant. With k<1, each reaction causes less reactions, so over time the number gets smaller and smaller; the nuclear reaction is in exponential decrease, and dies down. With k>1, each reaction causes on average one more reaction and then a bit, so over time you have more and more reactions, you get exponential increase, and things go BOOM.
Bad analogy. How is this analogous to, say, a dogs intelligence and a human intelligence? A dog gets less intelligent over time and a human gets more intelligent? Your analogy implies a "tipping point" where at one single point, things change significantly. There is no evidence of this when it comes to intelligence. You have no reason to infer this "tipping point".
Current wrote:Human intelligence is more or less like that, we are smart enough to build on previous stuff so we end up inventing more things and making our intelligence ever more useful, etc. Supercritical mass and subcritical mass get different terms even if the only difference is that one has a k that is bigger by the tiniest bit, because that tiny bit causes the phenomena to exhibit different behaviour. Humans have a big difference with the closest runner-up, and somewhere in between human intelligence and the smartest non-human there is dividing line where many interesting things begin to happen, so I call everything past that line sapient and everything before that line non-sapient.
Again, you have no real backing apart from "because I say so". There are some animals who show knowledge very similar to our own. Our capabilities may simply be exaggerations of the capabilities of animals made posssible by increased brain mass. Our mental abilities may be the same but to different extents.
Current wrote:As an aside, intelligence and nuclear reactions aren't the only cases where a continuum is divided with a line that says "over here we call this A, over there we call this B". Conductors and insulators, for example, are not fundamentally different materials, they just have more or less electrical conductivity. Speeds near c are called relativistic and speeds above c are called superluminal, even if its just a matter of bigger numbers, because they behave very differently from everyday speeds (or are theoretically impossible). There are other examples, but you get the idea.
This may be an interesting topic to go into, especially for my studies. I may be able to base next years research on this subject with respect to the development of the brain. ALl very exciting =D

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Re: Humans vs. (Other) Animals

Post by Current » Thu Nov 03, 2011 4:43 pm

Blu wrote:
Current wrote:Several reasons. First, there's a relatively smooth distribution of intelligence in non-human animals that makes a large jump when you get to humans. That is, the difference between the second smartest species and humans is much bigger than the difference between the third smartest species and the second smartest one, or the third and the fourth, etc.
So what? It's still just a measure of intelligence and requires no change in definition.
What "change in definition"? Was there a previous definition for sapience that I'm ignoring? I don't know what you mean here.
Current wrote:Second, because somewhere around human level intelligence is where many interesting things begin to happen. Ability to understand abstract concepts, complex language, nontrivial math, elaborate morality, etc. But, above all, because somewhere around human level intelligence is when you begin to observe knowledge building on itself. A lot of what humans do right now with our intelligence is possible because of a long history of building on that intelligence and the results of it.
It's still just more intellectual capability. It does not need an extra definition because our current definitions can already explain this. Why fix something that isn't broken? Simply inventing the word sapience doesn't help or add anything, because such things are already explained well with sentience, etc...
Definitions don't explain. They refer to things. Sapience is a particular level of intelligence, it's useful to have a specific word for it because plenty of intelligence-related phenomena only happen at the sapience level. Sentience, by contrast, is nearly impossible to test, doesn't tell us much about cognitive skills beyond the basic, and above all doesn't distinguish humans from animals, which was the question in the first place.
Current wrote:To offer an analogy, is somewhat like the difference between subcritical and supercritical mass in a nuclear reaction. At subcritical mass, each reaction causes, on average, less than 1 reaction, whereas at supercritical mass each reaction causes on average more than 1 (the number of reactions caused on average is known as effective neutron multiplication factor, k). The difference between k=0.99 and k=1.01 is tiny, yet highly significant. With k<1, each reaction causes less reactions, so over time the number gets smaller and smaller; the nuclear reaction is in exponential decrease, and dies down. With k>1, each reaction causes on average one more reaction and then a bit, so over time you have more and more reactions, you get exponential increase, and things go BOOM.
Bad analogy. How is this analogous to, say, a dogs intelligence and a human intelligence? A dog gets less intelligent over time and a human gets more intelligent? Your analogy implies a "tipping point" where at one single point, things change significantly. There is no evidence of this when it comes to intelligence. You have no reason to infer this "tipping point".
Dogs in general aren't any more knowledgeable today than they were 15,000 years ago. The same is true for every other animal (that existed 15,000 years ago), except humans. Humans, because their intelligence is past a certain point, have things like a language complex enough to share abstract concepts, the ability to record things in writing, the ability to form and update models of reality, and other things that allows us to preserve previous knowledge, build on it to create better tools to get more accurate knowledge, and eventually do things like systematising the idea of knowledge accumulation into the scientific method and rationality. Evidence is readily available: compare the total knowledge of the human species now, a hundred years ago, three hundred years ago, a thousand years ago, ten thousand years ago. If not technically exponential, it's still growing and its rate of growth is itself increasing. Again, this only happens with humans, because other animals don't have the intelligence to communicate and preserve abstract concepts. I'm not guessing the tipping point, it's right there. Unless you think it's some other human characteristic unrelated to intelligence that allows us to build on past knowledge?
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Re: Humans vs. (Other) Animals

Post by Blu » Thu Nov 03, 2011 5:16 pm

Simple really. Human survival relies on retaining memories. The memories of how to make tools in order to eat, etc... We have evolved to need this. Other animals rely on other things to survive, and don't necessary need to remember such things in order to survive. It's not some great tipping point, but a change in survival needs which make us utilise memory to a greater extent.

As for communication, lots of animals communicate, some differently than others. We do it differently as well, by writing.

Again, your inclusion of the word sapience just seems pointless to me. You haven't convinced me that it is necessary in this context because it seems to me like your trying to define human intelligence without hypothesising how it came about. I don't know exactly how human intelligence came about and why it's as complex as it is, but that doesn't mean that I can make premature conclusions that there is some great difference between human and animal intelligence and that a new definition needs to be introduced. In this context of intelligence over species, I think the word sapience just complicates things, because, as you know, we are also animals, evolved from the same ancestor more than 3 billion years ago.

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Re: Humans vs. (Other) Animals

Post by Current » Thu Nov 03, 2011 6:12 pm

Blu wrote:Simple really. Human survival relies on retaining memories. The memories of how to make tools in order to eat, etc... We have evolved to need this. Other animals rely on other things to survive, and don't necessary need to remember such things in order to survive. It's not some great tipping point, but a change in survival needs which make us utilise memory to a greater extent.

As for communication, lots of animals communicate, some differently than others. We do it differently as well, by writing.
OK, but human memory is not the significant difference. Other animals exhibit similar or possibly better memory. So obviously that's not the reason humans and not, say, elephants exhibit increasing amounts of knowledge. Lots of animals do communicate, but humans communication is light years ahead of anything else. A human can communicate things far beyond "there's food there" or "Danger, predators!". And that's because humans are intelligent enough to understand abstract concepts.
Again, your inclusion of the word sapience just seems pointless to me. You haven't convinced me that it is necessary in this context because it seems to me like your trying to define human intelligence without hypothesising how it came about.
Why would I even need to hypothesise how something came about to define it? You define a term to be able to talk about the concept it refers to more easily, which is often a prerequisite to understanding how it came about. I have no idea what you'd accomplish by refusing to create a word to refer to something until after you understand how it came about.
I don't know exactly how human intelligence came about and why it's as complex as it is, but that doesn't mean that I can make premature conclusions that there is some great difference between human and animal intelligence and that a new definition needs to be introduced. In this context of intelligence over species, I think the word sapience just complicates things, because, as you know, we are also animals, evolved from the same ancestor more than 3 billion years ago.
It's blatantly obvious there's a great difference between human and animal intelligence. There's thousands of years of human history that show that.

I don't know, I seem to be understanding what you are saying less and less. Can we try to do some clarification here?

I assert that humans are more intelligent than other animals and that the difference between humans and the next smartest animal is a considerable jump much greater than the difference in intelligence between any other animal and the one closest to it. Do you disagree with any of that?

I say that humans have the exclusive ability to build on previous knowledge at a pseudo-exponential growth rate. Do you disagree?

I infer from the above (and other evidence) that at some point between human intelligence and non-human intelligence, there's a tipping point where an animal is intelligent enough to preserve previous knowledge and communicate it to other members of its species, it can handle abstract concepts and models of reality, and thus can build upon knowledge, use the new knowledge to get more knowledge, and cause the growth mentioned in the previous point. Do you disagree?

I argue that anything past this tipping point deserves a specific term, because intelligence above that level behaves differently enough from intelligence below that level that it's useful to differentiate them. Obviously you disagree.

I do not argue that intelligence itself is an exclusively human property, or that humans aren't animals with a common ancestor with other animals, or anything silly like that. I figure that's clear, but it's worth mentioning.

I do not argue that humans are a special animal in general. Only that we are remarkably smart, and most of our particularities come from that intelligence or aspects related to it. Thus if one wishes to look at humans as a particular animal, and is asked what single most important quality marks humans apart from other animals, it would be intelligence. Much in the same way that if one were to look at the mimic octopus, and asked what single quality marks it apart from other animals, it would be its ability to mimic other species. And so on and so forth.
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Re: Humans vs. (Other) Animals

Post by Blu » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:06 pm

Current wrote: I don't know, I seem to be understanding what you are saying less and less. Can we try to do some clarification here?
In all fairness, this debate really isn't that big. It's a debate over the use of one word =P I assume that we agree on a great majority of things on this subject, and this is just one of those little differences. I just think that infering the word sapience is pointless. That's my argument.
Current wrote:I assert that humans are more intelligent than other animals and that the difference between humans and the next smartest animal is a considerable jump much greater than the difference in intelligence between any other animal and the one closest to it. Do you disagree with any of that?
Comparatively, no.
Current wrote:I say that humans have the exclusive ability to build on previous knowledge at a pseudo-exponential growth rate. Do you disagree?
On what is currently known, no. But some in the field may disagree. I'm not quite up on this subject.
Current wrote:I infer from the above (and other evidence) that at some point between human intelligence and non-human intelligence, there's a tipping point where an animal is intelligent enough to preserve previous knowledge and communicate it to other members of its species, it can handle abstract concepts and models of reality, and thus can build upon knowledge, use the new knowledge to get more knowledge, and cause the growth mentioned in the previous point. Do you disagree?
Half yes, half no. I don't think there is a "Tipping point" on the theoretical curve of intelligence, but a gradual increase. Again, this debate is pretty miniscule. =P
Current wrote:I argue that anything past this tipping point deserves a specific term, because intelligence above that level behaves differently enough from intelligence below that level that it's useful to differentiate them. Obviously you disagree.
Yes, I do.
Current wrote:I do not argue that intelligence itself is an exclusively human property, or that humans aren't animals with a common ancestor with other animals, or anything silly like that. I figure that's clear, but it's worth mentioning.

I do not argue that humans are a special animal in general. Only that we are remarkably smart, and most of our particularities come from that intelligence or aspects related to it. Thus if one wishes to look at humans as a particular animal, and is asked what single most important quality marks humans apart from other animals, it would be intelligence. Much in the same way that if one were to look at the mimic octopus, and asked what single quality marks it apart from other animals, it would be its ability to mimic other species. And so on and so forth.
I agree that our level of intelligence is unique. I just don't think that merits a separate definition when it's not needed.

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Re: Humans vs. (Other) Animals

Post by Current » Fri Nov 04, 2011 6:30 pm

Ok, at least I know what we disagree on.

One last question, then. If there isn't a level of intelligence necessary to pseudo-exponential accumulation of knowledge (the "tipping point"), why do we only observe it* in humans?



*"It" referring to pseudo-exponential accumulation of knowledge. I need a shorter phrase for that.
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Re: Humans vs. (Other) Animals

Post by Blu » Sat Nov 05, 2011 8:11 am

Current wrote: If there isn't a level of intelligence necessary to pseudo-exponential accumulation of knowledge (the "tipping point"), why do we only observe it* in humans?
... That question makes no sense.

It's also a loaded question. You haven't actually proven to me that there is a distinct tipping point, so you shouldn't really ask me a question that presumes that there is one, especially one that assumes it's only in humans.

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Re: Humans vs. (Other) Animals

Post by Current » Sat Nov 05, 2011 8:38 am

...I didn't assume a tipping point. I specifically said "if there isn't a tipping point".

My question was: There is a pseudo-exponential accumulation of knowledge (which shall be henceforth referred to as PEAK) observed only in humans. I say there is a level of intelligence necessary for PEAK to happen. You say there isn't. I ask what alternative explanation you give for the fact PEAK only happens in humans, (since for a human-exclusive phenomenon you would expect the causes to be related to human-exclusive characteristics)

The only assumption in that question is that PEAK only happens in humans, which you said you didn't disagree with:
Blu wrote:
Current wrote:I say that humans have the exclusive ability to build on previous knowledge at a pseudo-exponential growth rate. Do you disagree?
On what is currently known, no. But some in the field may disagree. I'm not quite up on this subject.
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