View Full Version : Are we the only form of conscious life?

2003-Jul-23, 08:59 AM
Okay, there maybe life anywhere else. :unsure:

But conscious life - life forms that can see ,feel , and are intelligent? :(

They can be made outta anything from carbon to electric signals .

But do you think ........

2003-Jul-23, 10:10 AM
Are we a form of conscious life?

Read my new topic in the "everything else" category! :P

2003-Jul-23, 11:09 AM
For this one I'm not even going to leave earth to answer. Even before aliens ...

I'm one of these people who think that animals have just as many rights as do humans. Further, I don't consider there to be a distinction between humans and other species of animal. Granted, the nature of various animals and their needs and goals may be different but essentially we are all about survival and procreation.

Humans have our imagination and that's about it. Other animals are far superior in many other areas - running, jumping, hearing, sight, smelling, longevity. We simply don't understand the goings on in another animal's brain (we don't even understand the goings on in our own!). How and why do whale pods sing the same songs to each other regarless of whether they're on one side of the planet or the other? do we understand them? the complexity of dolphin interaction? no. If a chimp can learn sign language and converse with us and make jokes it had never been taught and recognise itself in a mirror is it intelligent and self aware? I can go on for days with similar examples...

The only thing that we have in abundance, in my opinion, is arrogance. To think that we are the only sentient life forms because basically we can't ask the other species is completely pompus.

So, no. We aren't the only conscious life forms we aren't even the only ones on this planet. not by a long shot.

2003-Jul-25, 10:26 AM
I agree. But I think that animal (that is critters other than human beings) behavior is far more predictable than our behavior is. Maybe predictability is just proportional to brain size and complexity though.

2003-Jul-25, 10:51 AM
c'mon man, don't point out technicalities :angry:

you can take 'we' as 'intelligent observers' or as 'all life forms on earth' B)

i want your thoughts on the topic :)

2003-Jul-25, 11:22 AM
If I was able to freeze myself and wake up in 10,000 years I would expect one of two things when I thaw out.

Scenario one: our civilization has collapsed and we are either extinct or living in a less technological society than we now have.

Scenario two: Earth is populated by some form of artifiacial life and humans are either symbiotic with it or completely replaced by it. If you consider the economic pressures to develop nanotechnology, computers, and biotechnology then this doesn't seem quite so far fetched. Our economy is currently a driving force in the evolution of what will replace us.

I would expect that if we find intelligent alien beings, they most likely will be "very advanced" machines that have been designed or have evolved to live in space and have replaced their original makers as the dominant life form. Machines are a lot better suited to function in space than biological life is so it wouldn't surprise me at all.

Bill AH
2003-Jul-25, 11:52 PM
In response to JSBerry, 10,000 years may be far to long to see number one happen. As for #2, technology is racing ahead quite fast, which makes this scenerio more believeable. I suspect, though, that if #2 were approaching it may be the cause of #1.

As far as the original question is concerned, or at least what I believe is its' intent, I have to believe that there are other lifeforms, including what we may term intelligent and sentient. I find it hard to believe that with a universe so vast there isn't someone else out there and we're just a freak of nature or the only place where life was created by a deity.

The next question is 'Will we ever know about them?' Because the universe IS so large, the likelihood of ever hearing from or contacting an alien race is pretty slim. I certainly would like to believe that it will happen (which is why I am running the SETI screen saver application) and I would even like to believe that there has been contact in the past (ref: cave drawings of possible aliens and spacecraft; landscape in Peru; etc.), but if it's happened where are they?

Josh, you make a good point. It may be that not all animal species are self-aware, but there may be enough evidence to say that some are. There are many that are quite intelligent as well (besides instinct, I mean). I mean that seriously, but I add that my cats (4) are certainly self-aware and I'm sure most cat owners would agree that theirs are too! :P

2003-Jul-25, 11:55 PM
Who's to say that if machines developed artifial intelligence, that they would be evil and want to destroy us. The fact that you would suggest this indicates two things:

1. You have been watching movies such as terminator and the matrix

2. This is the thinking of humans, and that we are an inherently aggressive species.


2003-Jul-26, 11:09 PM
We might integrate a symbiotic relationship with these machines. I like that idea. If we had the means to upload software I think we would. That, I know, is very matrix but it's not completely sci-fi ... We may be Borg yet :D

2003-Jul-27, 04:23 AM
Josh, I hope not!! I can't imagine anything more abhorrent! :o


2003-Jul-27, 04:27 AM
Why not? It would sure save on university time.

2003-Jul-27, 07:25 AM
I would hope that we, as a human species, could come to an understanding of our own minds first, before we try to understand another's, or another form of intelligence or a.i. ... ie 15% isn't that great...
And we've still much room to grow...
But, maybe our current laws are limiting our potential within certain areas that may need exploring... cloning isn't really whats needed... although, producing functioning parts for much needed surgery isn't wrong. Gene altering may be grounds for some morally controversial practices, but examining those genes to discover their purpose, origin &/or reason for being, plus any possible paths to cures is definitely a good thing. And to discover what powers the will to survive wouldn't hurt. We all seem to have that.... those of us not left in the gutters... :angry:
As for actually meeting some extra terrestrial beings..... ie Star Trek....
not likely.... unless our governments are so stuck on themselves and have no understanding of advancement for the human race, and actually ARE concealing crashed UFOs and have little aliens in cryogenic stasis cambers..... i really couldn't believe that we would see, let alone meet, anyone within this side of our galaxy.....
Time between stars may be too altered to even allow interstellar travel to be possible within tens of thousands of years...

Discover our worth, then discover our place...
...else lose the chance to know ourselves.

. ..-={A}=-.. .

2003-Jul-27, 09:33 AM
I think that the things we think to be impossible today may become possible after 10,000 years. :)

In fact, things that we considered impossible just 200 years ago ( the simplest examples are of the net and aeroplanes) are commonplace today. So we shouldn't consider A.I. , 'star treks' things that are too far off in the future. By the time we enter the 22nd century, we may be living next to Artificial conscious life ! :rolleyes: ( i.e. , considering the rate progress of science today )

2003-Jul-27, 09:34 AM
The only problem that I have with advancing medical research is that it potentially prevents natural selection from taking place.

2003-Aug-01, 11:33 PM
Remember, nature is tougher than you think. We make a better antibiotic, Mother Nature makes a better germ.

2003-Aug-02, 12:42 AM
We've been interfering with natural selection for thousands of years. Keep in mind that everything we eat has been modified by humans to suit our needs. Plants, animals, everything.

So, don't worry about that process, we stepped away from it long ago.

I want to stick in a mention for a book I just finished reading on this subject. Guns, Germs and Steel (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393317552/universetoday) by Jared Diamond. Many of you will have already read it, but for those of you who haven't, seek it out either here from Amazon.com or from your library.

2003-Aug-22, 11:30 PM
The human species is unique to other animals in many ways. But then again, so is every other species. That's what makes them seperate species :-)
You can't say that we are the only species able to speak....Parrots do that. Chimps can sign. The bonobo (a seperate species from the chimp) actually mates face to face and has sex often, even when they are not capable of mating and at times other than when they are fertile. The women masturbate and the men engage in oral sex. Sex is a social tool for them forging alliances and showing social status. The women control the sex. This is much like us. Beavers build dams, Birds build nests, and there are ants that even farm their own fungi. You can't even say that we are the only toolmaker since chimps regularly make a tool out of a twig to retrieve termites from their nests. They also posess basic cognitive skills, being able to figure out that if they pump a well, water comes out.
What does make the human species unique however is that we have all of these unique attributes combined.
Much of this is probably due to our fine motor skills which the other primates do not posess. Since the Chimp and the Bonobo don't have these skills, they never developed the mental abilities to use them. This is why experiments attempting to teach them to make stone tools have failed.
Before we can answer this question, the first question we need to answer is "What is consciousness?"
One dictionary says "Having an awareness of one's environment and one's own existence, sensations, and thoughts. "
The key here is "awareness of one's own existence". I would have to say that it would have to be a recognition of the fact that the person or animal is alive and the realization that death will eventually come. An awareness of time and the fact that the person or animal's life is temporary. If this is the definition, I would have to say that we are the only conscious species alive today.

It's no different than saying that the bat is the only rodent with wings, or the long-tongue prairie moth is the only species that eats the nectar of the western prairie fringed orchid. We have a few unique attributes. Consciousness and extreme self-awareness are part of that uniqueness. A chimp may recognize itself in the mirror, but that's a long way from coming up with a philosophy or an understanding of it's own place in the universe.

Now that I have said that, I need to stress the words "only conscious species alive today". This is very important to understand. We are not the first, nor are we the last. Evolution has not stopped. A descendant of the chimp or bonobo may very well become "intelligent" (I use this word generically to mean conscious, self-aware, and capable of manipulating the environment, creating language and art). It could also come from a different branch of the tree of life altogether. Whatever branch it comes from, it will have to be able to move and manipulate objects with it's hands at the same time.

Not only is it possible to see others in the future, it has in the past. Homo Sapiens, the predecessor of Homo Sapiens Sapiens (us) was certainly conscious and intelligent, as were Homo Erectus and Homo Neanderthalensis (which were two seperate species by the way). We did not descend from either of these. We descended from Homo Heidelbergensis which was also intelligent. Heidelbergensis and Erectus both descended from Homo Ergaster who most likely was intelligent given the stone tools and ability to work with fire. Homo Habilis and Homo rudolphensis may have been intelligent as well. Exactly where they fall, we aren't sure, but it is in the DNA lineage of Ergaster. And possibly, even Astralopithecus Boisei was somewhat more intelligent than chimps and walked upright making tools.

So here we have at least 5 and maybe more distinct species that have been "intelligent" that we know of. Then there are a few "maybes". It's also entirely possible that the dinosaur age produced some sort of mildly intelligent species that we may never know about. They were dominant far longer than mammals have been around. They do lack the internal metabolic engine to keep them warm, and most likely didn;t have fine motor skills, but then again, we'll never know. The fossil record is just too thin. Bones have to undergoe a chancy process and be very lucky to become fossils.

Anyways, the answer is yes if you are talking about right now on this planet. But we aren;t the only one's who have been, we probably aren;t the only ones who will be, and given the speed at which several species of intelligent beings evolved from basic primate stock, the rest of the universe is simply a question of whether or not there is life elsewhere in the universe at all. I can't believe for a second that Earth is unique enough in the billions of star systems to be the only one with life at all. And odds are, wherever life has evolved some of those will evolve complex lifeforms. And certainly, in some of those, intelligence has risen, or will arise someday. I seriously doubt we are alone in the universe and it is more likely that we are either being avoided, or we haven;t been discovered because of our solitary existence on the outer edge of the galaxy.

2003-Aug-22, 11:47 PM
..which makes me wonder how life may fair within the inner regions of our galaxy if life does exist there...

Gravity must be much more intense... so profoundly so... and life may not be able to form so far in towards the Galactic bulge....

Maybe the outskirts is a good place to be... so searching for life along the fringes may be the best place to start...

Also, here on earth, alot of animals and other species are conscious of their lives by recognizing that they ARE alive, which gives them a survival instinct...

Why don't we ask the dogs in Japan (or whatever country) that have that dog translator on them, enabling their barks to be understood!! :rolleyes: yeah...
They may enlighten us...

They would probably ask us why we fight so much, and can we please give them more food to eat...

Anywho... is there evidence that Man was around during the times of the Dinosaur?
Lurking in caves, or whatever... any fossils discovered from this Era that may show how long our species was around?

Hmmm... let me Google search that.... <_<

then again.... that whole time period could have been too harsh for humans to exist in, unless there was an abode that sustained their fragile bodies....
they more likely would have made good morsels for the Real rulers of the planet...

Any paleantologists around?

. ..-={A}=-.. .

2003-Aug-23, 12:18 AM
Also, here on earth, alot of animals and other species are conscious of their lives by recognizing that they ARE alive, which gives them a survival instinct...

I wouldn;t go that far. Simply having an instinct for survival doesn;t make one aware that they are alive any more than the instinct of ducking means that you were aware of what the heck it was that just flew by your head. Instinct and awareness are two seperate things. You don;t see the object, interperet it, decided that it is a threat, and duck, you just duck. It&#39;s a reflex. Just like a fly takes off when you swat at it.

Anywho... is there evidence that Man was around during the times of the Dinosaur?
Lurking in caves, or whatever... any fossils discovered from this Era that may show how long our species was around

Absolutely not. That&#39;s not what I was implying. Our oldest recognizable ancestor died out about 4.5 million years ago. That was Ardipithecus Ramidus. Most likely it wasn&#39;t an intelligent creature. It was probably less intelligent than the chimps are today being that chimps decended from the same.

Dinosaurs on the other hand died out 65 million years ago. This means that for 60 million years, there was nothing resembling us. All that was left after that great extinction were the smaller species of everything. Little furry mammals and little scaley dinosaurs included. The mammals were better at adapting and overtook the dinosaurs except for the little flying ones that eventually became birds. We see the first prosimians about 60 million years ago. Early primate monkey thingies were around 35 million years ago and monkeys about 23 million years ago. Apes came from the monkeys shortly therafter.

It was my intention to point out that some kind of bi-pedal semi-intelligent reptile could have evolved in such a large time frame that we will never know about. It could have been advanced enough to use leather whips and build straw huts and we would never know about it unless it became very common, had sufficiently large numbers to produce fossils (very few bones become fossilized). All evidence would have been totally destroyed in the 65 million year period since their demise. Especially if they were only indigenous to a small area directly around the impact crater that wiped out the dinosaurs.

In short, it was just idle speculation to get people to recognize the vast amounts of time involved here and how little evidence of the past actually survives through millions of years.

2003-Sep-11, 03:17 PM
Isn’t consciousness just a product of our senses and physiology interacting? If so, then what for all the other different senses, and degrees to which senses are used in relation to others, as in every other species, is that not just another form of consciousness completely different from ours and hence incomprehensible and unconceivable using our own consciousness?
Trans-species consciousness has to be considered on too many different planes, from too many different angles and with all the answers, of which our consciousness plus the consciousness of all other living species would still not be enough. Only an omnipresent, all-seeing, possessor of the entire senses repertoire could not be perplexed in understanding real consciousness, but then what would our consciousness be in comparison to such a deity?
Is consciousness relative or absolute? i prefer relative.

2003-Sep-12, 12:31 AM
Originally posted by kashi@Jul 27 2003, 09:34 AM
The only problem that I have with advancing medical research is that it potentially prevents natural selection from taking place.
I can&#39;t really see your point here. Maybe you could elaborate?

The truth is that natural selection takes a LONG time at the genetic level. Generations anyway (evolution takes a much longer time). And all that&#39;s being selected are more suitable genes.

Nowadays, we are making huge breakthroughs (http://www.betterhumans.com) in genetic and cybernetic technologies. We are making people who are quite a bit "better" than those made through natural selection. And the potential is quite high.

Now, on the other hand, natural selection of societies can happen very rapidly. Some theories indicate that we&#39;re putzing along trying out societal concepts, and eventually stumble across superior ways of living.

It&#39;s a theory, I&#39;m not convinced, but it&#39;s a theory.

This type of natural selection is actually done best by a large population (as long as they&#39;re stable). The more societies that are trying to find a better way of living, the more likely we are to find that better way.

As well, evolution is much more likely in a rapidly reproducing organism. Germs evolve pretty quickly because they just keep on trying new genetic combinations. If the "standard" combination is the most successful, then it survives. But, successful alternates can only be attained by actually trying them out.

Well, humans don&#39;t reproduce quickly. But, another way of getting a strong genetic diversity is to have a lot of people. And, allowing the "less fit" to reproduce is a good way of encouraging genetic diversity.

Who cares that I need glasses? I&#39;ve got glasses (and contacts, and laser eye surgery, and transgenic repair, etc.). My genetic "weakness" isn&#39;t really a weakness.
.................................................. .................................................. ..
Oh, and the guy who wanted to see what it would be like in 10,000 years. www.imminst.org is a website devoted to the concept of human immortality. A good primer can be found at www.longevitymeme.org. I don&#39;t know about immortality, but I would like to live long enough to see the stars&#33;

2003-Sep-12, 01:08 AM
It was mentioned that other animals aren&#39;t conscious and that their quest for survival is just a reflex. If this is so why would other speices form "family" units - like other primates, quokas, whales and dolphins etc - and set themselves up with early warning systems, have one person .. sorry ... animal taking care of the rest as with gorillas etc etc etc. Dolphins communicate with each other, play, work, have sex for recreation, use tools, care for their young, look out for each other ... that sounds very "human". All species have a desire to survive which is more than a simple reflex. they want to survive and they want to procreate (thereby surviving through the ages). Humans are exactly the same. The only difference is that we ARE humans and therefore it&#39;s more important to us and we understand it a little better. I think judgement on the other animals should be reserved until we can actually ask them. Until then i&#39;ll give them the benefit of the doubt (just as i do with the intelligence of most humans hahaha).

2003-Sep-15, 02:27 PM
These animals that are seemingly altruistic, e.g. helper birds that bring up others young, communal mothers etc, have a hidden agenda, a purely selfish one that orientates around ‘practice makes perfect’, they often inherit the territory, nests etc and gain very valuable ‘experience’ and hence increase there own offspring’s chance of survival.
Warning systems such as in those weasel esq creatures in the desert and are preyed upon by land and air animals, directly contradicts the selfish agenda by endangering there own lives (by calling out they are increasing their own chance of predation), but these systems have evolved over time hand in hand with the social structure. These types of animals with such a warning system tend to be highly related within their group, and hence increasing survival of the group by calling out a warning (which carries the ‘warners’ genes) indirectly benefits the seemingly altruistic ‘warner’.
Basically it evolves around passing on ‘their’ genes to the next generation, be it directly (i.e. copulation) or indirectly (e.g. looking after cousins who possess some of there genes) the degree to which the animals are related (and hence similarity of genetic make up) tends to go hand in hand with the amount of help given.
Forming groups, communicating, practicing sex and looking after their young which some people associate with consciousness, are just behaviors that have co-evolved in a continual battle to procreate to the maximum and hence pass on their own genes into the next generation.
However the chimpanzees and higher primates that use tools to catch insects are a cut above the norm, they are seemingly human like in their ability to learn that tools can help, with proof in the fact that they reproduce the behavior again and again, maybe this is low-level consciousness or maybe they are benefiting via reproductive fitness in some way unknown.
I think high-level consciousness like our own (‘high level’ relative to other earth species, I’m not speaking for the aliens out there) was maybe aided by our ability to remember i.e. our memory. Does anyone know of any good sites to do with memory, or does any one know what role memory played in the evolution of high-level consciousness.

2003-Sep-28, 01:23 AM
QJones. Sorry to take so long to reply to your question. In my opinion, treating people with genetic illnesses so that they are able to go on and reproduce is weakening the gene pool by allowing such ‘bad genes’ to be passed down. Natural selection is being sacrificed here. Obviously there are moral issues here. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t treat such conditions.