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Local Fluff
2014-Feb-02, 01:56 PM
Let's teach animals a language, and see what civilization they create!
Lacking ETI aliens, we'll have to make do with what we have here.
"Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't"

Humans seem to have had the biological prerequisits for creating the modern civilization long before we suddenly made it happen. The (social rather than biological) devlopment of language seems likely to be what changed everything. With language our learning and coordination improved dramatically. Language helps us think abstractly about that which does not exist and is not done, so that we can foresee consequences and rationally choose better action options.

With the hope that maybe some other animal spieces too have the biological basis for developing a civilization with learning, communication and hypothetical thinking, I want to learn animals how use language! I don't know too much about language or animals, so I need some help here. What has been done in this field?

Their lack of voice and fingers can be substituted by electronics with adapted user interfaces. A beginning might be to show a dog a video of candy in the next room. Does a dog understand that? Maybe they are confused by the frame rate of a screen, but such things could be adapted. And then introduce the concept of time, what has been, what will happen and what is now. That would be a great leap in abstract thinking. The ambition would be to make them communicate with each other, which I think is different from normal dog training. As with all learning it's mostly a matter of patience, of experiencing something repeatedly and make the association persistent. With heavy use of electronics one could enhance and make the most out of every learning experience they have.

Talking animals is a universial theme from ancient fables to Disney and in many mythologies. Most children probably spontaneously play with that fantasy.

eburacum45
2014-Feb-02, 10:58 PM
The fact that we can't talk to dolphins and whales makes me think that we would have an extraordinary amount of difficulty making conversation with any random extraterrestrial species we might meet. At least we share a common ancestry and a significant number of genes with cetaceans. We would share no genes or ancestry with any alien organism of any kind.

Jens
2014-Feb-02, 11:34 PM
The fact that other animals cannot communicate abstract concepts is related to the absence of language but it's not caused by the lack of language, so you cannot just teach them languages. We are hard-wired to be able to understand abstract concepts, and other animals are not, except perhaps other apes and maybe some whales or dolphins. But even in those cases it's a relative issue. They don't have a nervous system that enables them to link an abstract concept like "hope" or "despair" to a symbol.

Local Fluff
2014-Feb-03, 01:43 PM
The fact that other animals cannot communicate abstract concepts is related to the absence of language but it's not caused by the lack of language, so you cannot just teach them languages.
Are you sure? A human without language might not think or communicate more abstract than does a Chimpanzee or even a dog.


We are hard-wired to be able to understand abstract concepts, and other animals are not, except perhaps other apes and maybe some whales or dolphins. But even in those cases it's a relative issue. They don't have a nervous system that enables them to link an abstract concept like "hope" or "despair" to a symbol.
How did this physical genetic hard-wiring appear so suddenly? And how does it keep revolutionizing our information technology to date? It isn't happening on an evolutionary time scale, dramatic change is even intra-generational.

Thus, we evidently had the hard-wiring for it all already long before we suddenly started to apply that capacity to create social information technology. Maybe other spieces too have million year old hard-wired capabilities which they just happen not to have exploited socially yet.

(Indeed some experiments have been done with chimpanzees using symbols and such. Progress is not very remarkable. My hope would be that with modern electronics adapted to interact with their abilities rather with our own, we could reach out to them more efficiently and give them a good push on the way to form a self-enforcing social language culture)

Jens
2014-Feb-04, 01:33 AM
Thus, we evidently had the hard-wiring for it all already long before we suddenly started to apply that capacity to create social information technology. Maybe other species too have million year old hard-wired capabilities which they just happen not to have exploited socially yet.


For one thing, language is very different from information technology. Language is something we are hard-wired for, but IT is not. IT is just a tool developed to manage knowledge, and it is part of a long process of tool development, including writing, and printing, for example. It's clear that we are hard-wired for complex communication whereas other animals are not. Human babies do not have to be taught to speak in complex sentences. As a parent, all you need to do is talk to them for several years, and they learn to speak on their own. In fact, babies make mistakes that demonstrate that they are logical thinkers. For example, a small child will make a mistake and say "I sleeped" because they are generalizing the fact that "-ed" is usually added to make a past. Dogs do not learn to understand human speech (except in a very rudimentary way) no matter how much you talk to them. Dogs can clearly understand some individual words, but not grammatical structures.

Local Fluff
2014-Feb-04, 05:06 PM
For one thing, language is very different from information technology. Language is something we are hard-wired for, but IT is not. IT is just a tool developed to manage knowledge, and it is part of a long process of tool development, including writing, and printing, for example. It's clear that we are hard-wired for complex communication whereas other animals are not.
Do you mean that we have language genes? How did those mutate and evolve during the last 1000 generations or so? And if they did, then why couldn't biological evolution suddenly make the same revolution in ANY spieces! You make it sound as if any animal very suddenly could mutate a written language. Birds, worms, anything, only a couple of mutant genes are needed.


Human babies do not have to be taught to speak in complex sentences. As a parent, all you need to do is talk to them for several years, and they learn to speak on their own.
Yes, teaching them language. That's my idea, to do the same with animals.
If a human being never experiences a language, it won't have any, I'm convinced. It's a meme, not a gene.


In fact, babies make mistakes that demonstrate that they are logical thinkers. For example, a small child will make a mistake and say "I sleeped" because they are generalizing the fact that "-ed" is usually added to make a past. Dogs do not learn to understand human speech (except in a very rudimentary way) no matter how much you talk to them. Dogs can clearly understand some individual words, but not grammatical structures.
Humans are more alike other humans. We intuitively more easily can teach young humans, because we have ourselves been young humans. We have insider information! Teaching a dog would require a more advanced pedagogy. They won't learn English, but they might learn a kind of Doggish. They have a much greater emphasis on smelling, to take one example. But with new information technology we might bridge that gap and reach out to them to aid their mutual communication.

And I think you're wrong about dogs not understanding grammatical structure! Recent research has shown that they go way beyond triggering on single words. They do have social a life which cares alot about context and memory already. They just don't have much of a language to use as a tool to describe what they already understand and want to communicate. "I need to pee but you get mad if I do it in here, so please open the door!" is certainly an understanding a trained dog has and maybe could use a better way to communicate than by acting painfully desperate.

Jens
2014-Feb-05, 07:55 AM
Do you mean that we have language genes? How did those mutate and evolve during the last 1000 generations or so? And if they did, then why couldn't biological evolution suddenly make the same revolution in ANY species!

You can't just add a couple of genes. The whole brain structure has to change, and that might require changes in the skull and vasculature and what not. You can't just re-engineer a dog to understand human-like language just like you can't simply re-engineer a person to be able to fly or breathe underwater. We are very complex.


Yes, teaching them language. That's my idea, to do the same with animals.
If a human being never experiences a language, it won't have any, I'm convinced. It's a meme, not a gene.

It's true that humans can't learn a language without being taught, but that does not mean that a non-human can learn if taught. It is genetic as well. Humans have an inherent ability to learn complex language, which dogs do not. It's not just a question of pedagogy.


Humans are more alike other humans. We intuitively more easily can teach young humans, because we have ourselves been young humans. We have insider information! Teaching a dog would require a more advanced pedagogy. They won't learn English, but they might learn a kind of Doggish. They have a much greater emphasis on smelling, to take one example. But with new information technology we might bridge that gap and reach out to them to aid their mutual communication.

No, again, it's not that simple. Babies don't learn because we are good teachers. They learn because they are good learners. As I said, they don't need to be taught. They can just listen to others speak, like their parents and siblings, and they will start speaking on their own. Dogs learn a language of their own, but it is not a complex human-like language.

You can read about dog communication here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_communication). It's quite interesting that dogs may have ways to distinguish between certain animals, like foxes and humans and cats, but that is a far cry from communicating abstract ideas like humans do. They basically just express their mood and intentions in terms of power relations with other dogs, as well as danger signals and things like that. Dogs definitely do not communicate things that humans do, like "what a nice day it is today," which is a completely useless communication but is just aimed at building trust or good relations, and which uses very complex semantics, like pronouns and concepts of time.

Noclevername
2014-Feb-05, 11:01 AM
We've already taught higher apes sign language, and what we got from them-- while more than we expected-- isn't anything leading to civilization. It's apes expressing ape concepts. No change in intelligence, no change in abstract thinking, no change in social interaction among themselves.

Local Fluff
2014-Feb-05, 06:55 PM
You can't just re-engineer a dog to understand human-like language just like you can't simply re-engineer a person to be able to fly or breathe underwater. We are very complex.
We have learned dogs to sit and to roll over on command. We have re-engineered persons to fly (to the Moon even) and to breathe under water. And I'm not at all convinced that "we" are more complex than "they" are. I'd rather bet that one of the keys to working intelligence is simplification rather than complexity. At least complexity confuses my mind. It is a simple systematics which allows me to get a hold of something sometimes. Such simplification I think might give even dogs a standard of mutual communication and with time civilization.

Though a practically mad idea (or should I say "ape"?), it might have some merit to it in a theory of extraterrestrial intelligence-context. That is a very high odds business anyway.


It's true that humans can't learn a language without being taught, but that does not mean that a non-human can learn if taught. It is genetic as well. Humans have an inherent ability to learn complex language, which dogs do not. It's not just a question of pedagogy.
How did this inherent genetic ability appear so extremely quickly?
At a sub-evolutionary rate.

Local Fluff
2014-Feb-05, 07:18 PM
We've already taught higher apes sign language, and what we got from them-- while more than we expected-- isn't anything leading to civilization. It's apes expressing ape concepts. No change in intelligence, no change in abstract thinking, no change in social interaction among themselves.
Maybe because we haven't invented pedagogy which adapts to their way of viewing the world. Teaching apes human language using human schooling methods... Well, that doesn't work very well even for most human children, I'd say. One could imagine improvements to that concept and I think that we are getting technologies which could detect and respond and illustrate for them their own learning. Something we never had when we made our non-evolutionary switch from naked apes to Moonwalkers.

Noclevername
2014-Feb-05, 07:55 PM
Maybe because we haven't invented pedagogy which adapts to their way of viewing the world. Teaching apes human language using human schooling methods... Well, that doesn't work very well even for most human children, I'd say. One could imagine improvements to that concept and I think that we are getting technologies which could detect and respond and illustrate for them their own learning. Something we never had when we made our non-evolutionary switch from naked apes to Moonwalkers.

Humans, by the time we became human, were far more than "naked apes". We had complex social communication and interaction, and were inventing new technologies faster than other Homo genii, even in the paleolithic.

There was never a "non-evolutionary switch" from how we were then to how we are now. There was a steady accumulation of knowledge and applications of knowledge. We're still the same, just with fancier tools and more education. A modern primitive hunter-gatherer, with enough education, could be an engineer or writer.

Local Fluff
2014-Feb-05, 08:27 PM
Just those "fancier tools and more education" are what I here suggest we could give to other spicies.
It is imagination of technology which develops our ability to communicate today, I think we can agree. Not evolution of our genes. Maybe we could invent a technology which helps animals to communicate with a similar exponential force from the very bottom of civlization where they are today?

The geocentric assumption that humans were and are unique doesn't appeal to me. Maybe some other spieces are just, like us, within 0.001 billion years of doing what we did? Maybe we could help them along by a factor 1000 or so?

Even a simple animal must experience its own actions and sensations. It's all going through its nervous system. If social language could help it store and spread the data about such an event, I think we could have a very benefitial process of increased rationality going there.

Noclevername
2014-Feb-05, 08:35 PM
Just those "fancier tools and more education" are what I here suggest we could give to other spicies.


But the point was that our "civilization" only happened because human brains are wired the way they are; to learn complex things and adapt tools. Other species brains are not developed to the same degree in the same way. They cannot develop the way we did any more than we can develop a dog's sense of smell.


If social language could help it store and spread the data about such an event, I think we could have a very benefitial process of increased rationality going there. But it didn't happen that way with us, why should it happen that way with animals? Our ancestors' reasoning ability did not change, it's the same as ours. Only our tools changed. Changing our language did not make us more rational.

Jens
2014-Feb-06, 04:01 AM
The geocentric assumption that humans were and are unique doesn't appeal to me. Maybe some other species are just, like us, within 0.001 billion years of doing what we did? Maybe we could help them along by a factor 1000 or so?


It would be "humanocentric," not "geocentric," which is the assumption that the earth is the center of the universe. And whether it appeals to you or not, the fact at that we are unique. But so are other animals. Elephants are unique and so are crocodiles and pigeons. They all have their special abilities, and our happens to be complex abstract thinking. It clearly developed bit by bit, and sure if you put evolutionary pressure on some other species like chimps, you might be able to get them to have abstract thinking and a larger brain at some point in the distant future, but you cannot do it simply by teaching them a language.

eburacum45
2014-Feb-06, 10:39 AM
Here is the page about 'biological uplift' on Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_uplift
David Brin has written quite a lot about this subject, but he was not the first - the idea can be traced back to Wells' Island of Doctor Moreau and probably earlier. The movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one example of the trope, as is the entire POTA franchise. In Orion's Arm we call it proactive Evolution, or Provolution (http://orionsarm.com/eg-topic/45bbfdbc381f4).

We may never encounter real alien intelligences, or this encounter may be delayed for thousands of years; in the meantime we might be inspired to create non-human intelligences of our own, either artificially intelligent computers, uplifted (provolved) animals, or entirely artificial biological entities (as imagined by Karel Capek). I suspect that all these avenues might be explored, if only in simulation.

molesworth
2014-Feb-06, 11:04 AM
The geocentric assumption that humans were and are unique doesn't appeal to me. Maybe some other spieces are just, like us, within 0.001 billion years of doing what we did? Maybe we could help them along by a factor 1000 or so?
Where are you seeing claims that humans are "unique"? We may be (currently) the most commuicative, inventive and social animal on the planet, but that just puts us at the top of a very long scale. Many other species have a range of abilities in all of these areas.

Many birds, for example, show great problem solving ability, can make tools, and can communicate their skills to others. Cetaceans, particularly dolphins and porpoises, are highly social, and can also learn and teach new skills to others. And of course the intelligence of many of the apes goes without saying. The list of species studied is extensive, and includes cephelapods (especially squid and octopuses) pigs, dogs, cats, spiders, ants etc. etc.

The overall conclusion from all of this is that many, many species have abilities which we can look at as "intelligence". Humans are far from unique...


Even a simple animal must experience its own actions and sensations. It's all going through its nervous system. If social language could help it store and spread the data about such an event, I think we could have a very benefitial process of increased rationality going there.
The problem is that, although many species are intelligent, not all have the ability to process complex communication on a level which would allow us to "talk to them". They have evolved sufficient language and social abilities for their surival, and without a push to evolve more complex behaviours and abilities, then no amount of "teaching" will add to that ability.

NEOWatcher
2014-Feb-07, 06:40 PM
They have evolved sufficient language and social abilities for their surival, and without a push to evolve more complex behaviours and abilities, then no amount of "teaching" will add to that ability.
That is a very important statement.

Every time this discussion comes up, I am reminded of a show (Nova, I think) where they talked about apes (or chimps, or some other primate) and languages and and complex and/or advanced thinking.
The barrier comes in when it comes to teaching. They will teach, but only when they see a need for it. Humans pro-actively teach before the lesson is needed. Until this benefit is part of their species, it will not be used. We may be able to teach individual animals to do this, but the next generation would just have the same issue.

eta:
oops I didn't realize what section this is.
I don't normally participate in LiS, so if you reply to this comment and I don't counter-reply, don't take it personally. I may not see it.

Local Fluff
2014-Feb-07, 07:28 PM
Here is the page about 'biological uplift' on Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_uplift
David Brin has written quite a lot about this subject, but he was not the first - the idea can be traced back to Wells' Island of Doctor Moreau and probably earlier. The movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one example of the trope, as is the entire POTA franchise. In Orion's Arm we call it proactive Evolution, or Provolution (http://orionsarm.com/eg-topic/45bbfdbc381f4).

We may never encounter real alien intelligences, or this encounter may be delayed for thousands of years; in the meantime we might be inspired to create non-human intelligences of our own, either artificially intelligent computers, uplifted (provolved) animals, or entirely artificial biological entities (as imagined by Karel Capek). I suspect that all these avenues might be explored, if only in simulation.
Great set of links there, now i have thoughts to try to build upon. Thanks! I had no idea.



Where are you seeing claims that humans are "unique"? We may be (currently) the most commuicative, inventive and social animal on the planet, but that just puts us at the top of a very long scale. Many other species have a range of abilities in all of these areas.
Yeah, that's thepoint here! We happened to be the first, someone has to be. But other animals are well on the way. They are social, they have problem solving abilities, they communicate and coordinate. Thus if we created and gave them a more efficient language for whatever they understand and communicate already, maybe they will take off just as we did, on the very biological foundation they have today, just as we did with the same biology we had 10 000 or 100 000 years ago! If we facilitated their memories and their articulation of details in their communication. Providing them with technologies with standards so that they could start building on the experiences of each other.

I think that what makes human "unique", with respect to what we understand as having a civilization, is that we have a language.


The barrier comes in when it comes to teaching. They will teach, but only when they see a need for it. Humans pro-actively teach before the lesson is needed.
No, I don't see how that differs! And if it differs, then it is because they don't have a real language. Without ability to store experiences and to explain them, teaching is not much more than imitation. If animals could abstract and communicate their ideas, which means using a language, then the minds of every new generation of them would be part of a new improved culture.

Noclevername
2014-Feb-07, 08:02 PM
If animals could abstract and communicate their ideas, which means using a language, then the minds of every new generation of them would be part of a new improved culture.

(bold mine)

But abstract thought requires a specific set of brain structures; ask any frontal lobotomy patient. Teaching animals human language, technologically aided or otherwise, just gives them another means of communicating what they already have the ability to communicate, through birdsong or pheromones or what have you. It's the brain structure that determines understanding, not the symbols.

TrAI
2014-Feb-08, 12:49 AM
Well, here is a few thoughts I have on the subject:

Teaching another species human language may pose a serious problem to our search for other intelligent species; since they are likely to be evolved with different degree of senses(and senses we do not have in some cases) and a different brain structure, their form of intelligence may be very different from ours, which means that any result we get about their level of intelligence may be incorrect.

For example, a species where a lot of brain capacity is dedicated to process information from the olfactory system might possibly process ideas and memories as scent, and so may be totally unable to express these ideas in human language.

Animals that have evolved a large ability to process visual information might be easier to understand, since humans can to some extent think in images, however, the language is not suited to rapid interchange of visual ideas and memories, even when talking to another human it can be difficult to express, you will have to use common experiences and basic ideas, and if we are talking with a species with little ability for lingual processing, it might be even worse.

What we see as signs of intelligence may be inherently anthropocentric concepts, if we see a species that are able to do some amazing things, we might conclude it is unconscious instincts simply because we see intelligence as the specific abilities that human intelligence presents. We might also consider a species unintelligent if it acts in a way different from what we consider intelligent, or another species might just have a world view and motivations so alien to us that we can't understand them, but from their point of view we might seem to be the dumb ones.

Local Fluff
2014-Feb-08, 12:55 PM
The basic idea is not to teach them our language, not even to understand them (so Dolittle was a poor choice of word here). But instead to teach them to communicate with each other and how to store representations of their sensations and their contexts in a form which they can refer to later. Maybe computers with userinterfaces they can easily interact with could become a resource for them to spontaneously do that. Be it in ultrasound, infrared, smells, image sequences of body movement patterns or whatever is familiar to them.

Abstraction might spring out of getting a language. I think it would and that it did for us. I think so since civilization and genetics exist on incompatible time scales, "inherent humans" biologically identical to us had no civilization for many tens of thousands of years, then in no time we suddenly created it by coordinating ourselves and sharing information. I think civilization emerges through language, not that it is hard coded on some lower individual brain level.

But even without any increase in abstract thinking, "talking animals" might anyway develop their hunting, migration, mating and whatever behavior they already have. They do naturally have social behavior and "body language" and more. They could develop some kind of civilization on their own terms. Even if we don't understand iota of their language but see that they coordinate differently than before. Maybe that would be even more interesting from a theoretical ETI study perspective!

Look, smartphones haven't changed "inherent human" ability to think abstractly. But simply the easier access to information in a form we already understood about things we already were interested in, like there's a nice café in that place, improves our ability to find good cafés. Why would not the same be true for a dog or an elk which is looking for something to eat, as usual?

molesworth
2014-Feb-08, 01:50 PM
The basic idea is not to teach them our language, not even to understand them (so Dolittle was a poor choice of word here). But instead to teach them to communicate with each other and how to store representations of their sensations and their contexts in a form which they can refer to later. Maybe computers with userinterfaces they can easily interact with could become a resource for them to spontaneously do that. Be it in ultrasound, infrared, smells, image sequences of body movement patterns or whatever is familiar to them.
Many species do already have quite complex languages, and several have displayed the ability for some form of abstract thought. Birds, particularly members of the crow and parrot families, can solve problems to get food, make and use tools, count or "enumerate" objects, and most importantly, can communicate their "ideas" to other members of their species. There are many examples of other animals with similar abilities, as a quick search around the web will show.

Trying to improve these abilities for some chosen species may seem like a worthy goal, but I believe it will prove much harder than you seem to think. As for using "computers", this has been done to some extent, but (as far as i know) hasn't really shown any increase in language or social skills. Even developing an interface for a non-human species is a hugely difficult task, and very often comes down to using coloured blocks or simple symbols, which are of course of human origin and don't have any inherent meaning to the animals under study.

It may well be, as others have mentioned, that there are physical (neurological) reasons why other species seem to have reached specific limits to their "intelligence". Changing that will require evolution over a very long period, and I doubt that any "assistance" we can provide will affect it.

NEOWatcher
2014-Feb-10, 01:46 PM
No, I don't see how that differs! And if it differs, then it is because they don't have a real language. Without ability to store experiences and to explain them, teaching is not much more than imitation. If animals could abstract and communicate their ideas, which means using a language, then the minds of every new generation of them would be part of a new improved culture.

The teaching is somewhat imitative, but it is not imitative that the "student" is the only participant in that he just sees someone doing it.

The chimps in the show would see some other chimp struggling with something, then go over to teach them how. This is proactive teaching. But; the chimp that knows, will not show the chimp how to do something without observing the struggle.

This is where I see a difference. We help our children walk, expose them to music, and all sorts of other non-verbal exposure before they need it because we know they will need it in the future.

Delvo
2014-Feb-10, 02:27 PM
It's clear that we are hard-wired for complex communication whereas other animals are not. Human babies do not have to be taught to speak in complex sentences. As a parent, all you need to do is talk to them for several years, and they learn to speak on their own.They'll even invent their own languages among themselves sometimes. We're instinctively driven to speak in symbols. No other living organism is like that. If they were, we'd already see them doing it without humans teaching it to them.


Dogs do not learn to understand human speech (except in a very rudimentary way) no matter how much you talk to them. Dogs can clearly understand some individual words, but not grammatical structures.This brings up an important point about languages even among humans: the difference between having languages and not having languages does not need to be strictly binary. Human languages don't need to have started off with the complexity and flexibility they have now, and logically couldn't have. Since our last common ancestor with any other living animal, there have been a few million years for languages to gradually develop in, along with a gradual accumulation of any biological changes that might have helped. The invention of language in humans and/or our pre-human ancestors has been described a few times in this thread as "sudden", but no reason why was given.


We happened to be the first, someone has to be. But other animals are well on the way. They are social, they have problem solving abilities, they communicate and coordinate. Thus if we created and gave them a more efficient language for whatever they understand and communicate already, maybe they will take off just as we did, on the very biological foundation they have today, just as we did with the same biology we had 10 000 or 100 000 years ago!Your time scale is off, and with it, your scales of ideas like "problem solving" and "communication" are also off. No other living animal is where we were 10 or 100 millennia ago. The closest any of them get is chimpanzees and bonobos, which seem to be about where we were a few thousand millennia ago. And if you bring up other things like monkeys or dogs or birds, you're talking about animals that are roughly where we were dozens of thousands of millennia ago. The difference isn't just having language or not having it; it's a matter of how "ready" they are for it.

Local Fluff
2014-Feb-10, 07:24 PM
Your time scale is off, and with it, your scales of ideas like "problem solving" and "communication" are also off. No other living animal is where we were 10 or 100 millennia ago.
If so, then what mechanism differs us from all other spieces?
How could evolution expalin out potential to suddenly (in a sub-evolutionary time scale, which I here call "social time scale") create civilization? What good was that biological potential before it was realized? If that genetic potential rested in humans for eons before it came to use, so it could be for other spieces, I suggest.

Noclevername
2014-Feb-10, 11:13 PM
If so, then what mechanism differs us from all other spieces?
How could evolution expalin out potential to suddenly (in a sub-evolutionary time scale, which I here call "social time scale") create civilization? What good was that biological potential before it was realized? If that genetic potential rested in humans for eons before it came to use, so it could be for other spieces, I suggest.

Those factors-- meaning our creativity, social flexibility and complex abstract symbolic communication-- kept us alive in multiple harsh environments, which let us get to the places where resources for civilization existed and bring those resources together. It wasn't just unrealized potential, for most of our existence it was our strongest set of survival tools.

The thing we now call "civilization" is a social construct based on the existence of agricultural technology making large populations possible, which in turn makes large-scale endeavors and the luxury of free time for abstract thought possible. There are domesticated animals that have enjoyed those same benefits for millennia, yet they haven't developed civilizations or anything like them as a result. Dogs retain pack societies, because it's their instinct to do so. Feral pets are not notably smarter than their wild ancestors.