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Intelligence: Mundane or a Miracle?

How do you define intelligence?  Intelligence is a fuzzy concept defined by scientists as “a level of cognitive complexity.” For centuries, humanity thought that we were the most advanced, and hence, a unique expression of intelligence on Earth. We believed a series of improbable events that cannot be repeated elsewhere triggered our human intelligence, making us the only intelligent species in the Universe.

Modern studies based on scientific data have shown that other types of intelligence exist in our biosphere. An intelligent organism can be a single cell that reacts to its environment. More complex brains allow species like chimpanzees or dolphins to possess sophisticated cognitive capacities and use tools, do math, and comprehend symbolic communication. Even bees can count and learn from others. So, if we are not alone in sharing the trait of intelligence, why are we not studying this wide range of intelligence in SETI and astrobiology?

We invited two scientists to discuss the concept of intelligence and whether or not intelligence is a natural property of biological organisms. Lori Marino is a neuroscientist and expert in animal behavior and intelligence. She believes that the biological origin and evolution of intelligence should be integral to astrobiology.  Laurance Doyle is a principal investigator with the SETI Institute who has developed an information theory for animal communications. Doyle will bring his mathematical thoughts on communication and intelligence and how we can measure the complexity of communication for a species and maybe, one day, an extraterrestrial message.

Molly Bentley, the co-host and producer of the radio program and podcast, Big Picture Science, will be the moderator.

Wednesday, 10/02/19


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SETI Institute: SETI Talks

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Menlo Park, CA 94025