Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What if we weren't the smartest animal?

A couple related points:

1. "I constantly remind myself that, no matter what I do in this world, I will doubtlessly be considered an infant by the standards of future intergalactic civilization, and so there is no point in pretending to be a grown-up. I try to maintain a mental picture of myself as someone who is not mature, so that I can go on maturing." -- Eliezer Yudkowsky in this post, which, by the way, has a lot of insight about the concept of maturity.

2. "It is an odd fact of evolution that we are the only species on Earth capable of creating science and philosophy. There easily could have been another species with some scientific talent, say that of the average human ten-year-old, but not as much as adult humans have; or one that is better than us at physics but worse at biology; or one that is better than us at everything. Greater or lesser fluency in spatial reasoning could produce such discrepancies of scientific intelligence, as could varying mathematical capacities. The television show Star Trek teems with aliens whose cognitive capacities exceed ours in various respects, with some that are markedly inferior to us -- and they have the skull shapes to prove it. If there were such creatures all around us, I think we would be more willing to concede that human scientific intelligence might be limited in certain respects." -- Colin McGinn in The Mysterious Flame (from my reading list).

This post introduces a new tag, which I've also applied to some old posts: "human inadequacy."