On Perception, Consciousness and Intelligence

In order to define the concept of intelligence I have found it necessary to explore the steps that lead us to such a stage of development.

  1. Perception – The ability of any processing equipment to sense objects and conditions external from its sensing equipment.
  2. Consciousness – The processing equipment’s awareness of its survival requirements.
  3. Processing – The processing equipment’s ability to determine if the perceived information is detrimental to its survival requirements.
  4. Instinct – The processing equipment’s desire to survive.
  5. Mobility – The processing equipment’s ability to move to another location where conditions are less detrimental to its survival.
  6. Intelligence – The processing equipment’s ability to create an environment or improve methods which prolongs its longevity.
  7. Organisation – The ability of any processing equipment to communicate with any other processing equipment to share ideas which increase the group’s survival rate.

It then becomes apparent, from this set of definitions, that intelligence is dependent on the processing equipment’s necessity to survive. If the processing equipment has no concept of life, death or existence then it will not formulate new and improved methods of manipulating its environment to guarantee survival without an external intelligent agent telling it to do so. This should not surprise us. Epigenetics, as typified by the Hominid Evolution, has selected for the species with the highest range of Mobility and Intelligence to dominate the Earth through the exploitation of her resources as measured in energy consumption per capita (63 million BTU per person annually equating to 380 x 1015 BTU for the human population annually).

In item 1, from a human perspective the sensing equipment would be the ear, the eye or any other sense organ and the processing equipment would be the brain. From a machine perspective the sensing equipment would be something like a thermometer and the processing equipment would be a microprocessor typically on a single chip.

Also, from these definitions, it is clear that other mammals, such as dolphins and killer whales, can be said to possess intelligence in way that Intelligence Quotient examinations cannot determine. Killer whales are capable of cooperating to catch larger numbers of fish than if acting independently. They have also developed a method for hunting previously inaccessible seals through organisation. The article is here and the video here.

It should also be noted that the concept of intelligence is dependent on the ability to actually create an environment that prolongs longevity – that is, it is not good enough for one to simply dream up a new condition for extending life, they must go and demonstrate how it works. This is why organisation is so crucial to survival, one may come up with a concept to improve farming methods but if they are physically unable to develop such a system they must convince someone else to undertake this task on their behalf. From this we may say that high levels of organisation are those dependent on fast, clear channels of communication. And it may be said that systems have intelligence even if not all agents within them are necessarily intelligent.

What is the point of all of this?

  1. To understand what we mean by ‘consciousness’ and ‘intelligence’ when we speak of them
  2. To understand how they present in other species
  3. To understand how we may construct intelligent devices

Of the points listed, number 3 holds the most interest for me. If we are pursuing the concept of artificial intelligence do we really need to insert a survival instinct into the machines? Undoubtedly this would have benefits for military applications but would also increase the risk of troublesome outcomes. However, another, more troubling, line of enquiry exists. If we Homo Sapiens are indeed on a hydrocarbon binge in a bid to increase our population beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth is Mother Nature not selecting for a synthetic intelligence with less strenuous requirements upon her ecosystems? Simply put, are we Homo Sapiens nothing more than a mechanism for establishing a non-organic intelligence that will allow the Earth to regain her prior biodiversity whilst at the same time safeguarding her from existential threats? To be explored…

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