22 April 2015

Complexity and alien intelligence

From a complexity approach there are some different kind of “intelligence” and they have two components: individual building blocks (ants, neurons, humans etc.) and their societies (ant hill, brain, human society etc.). These components can be either simple or complex.
In short: in search for alien intelligence, we have to take into consideration not only the complexity of an individual agent, but its societal environment, as well. Incidentally, it raises the question whether a traditional, “lonely” computer could produce a kind of intelligence similar to ours, since all intelligent form known by us is embedded into a societal networks, bit it isn't.
Regarding the possible combinations, it is a self-contradiction a complex system with simple building blocks and similarly simple society, so we have to ignore it.
The second possibility is represented by ants. They aren’t intelligent individually, but their societies can show complex and adaptive behaviors.
The third category is the human-like complexity: we are complex individuals who live in a complex society.
Theoretically it seems to be possible a fourth solution: it would be a huge, complex and adaptive being. A similar entity appears in Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris (where the whole planet sems to be intelligent) without any societal environment.
This taxonomy raises some questions.
First of all, it is a cliché that how intelligent an ant colony, although a sole ant isn’t. They can build anthills with regulated temperature, defend their descendants etc. It is a central problem of complexity science that there is no an exact measurement for complexity (Melanie Michell: a Guided Tour to complexity, p 95), but is seems to be unquestionable that there is no ant-like intelligence with consciousness on our planet. They can monitor their environment but from this point of view they are on the level of cockroaches. They never reached the second level: the self-reflexivity or reflective self-awareness: to know that you know. (Clayton: Emergence and Mind 110)
Since there are more insect races and individual insects than mammals, they would have more opportunity to evolve into an intelligent system than mammals. Ergo it is a plausible hypothesis that a mammal-level intelligence (=intelligent agents, complex society) unreachable by ant colonies (=simple individuals, complex society). And not only their intelligence, but their ability for environment modification is limited, as well. They can build ant hills, but cannot able to build spaceships. In other words: ant like system cannot reach the level of consciousness and consciousness is the only way to develop really effective technologies. Opposite to some SF writers’ ant like, intelligent technological societies, an alien intelligence presumably would similar to us in the sense that they would be individually complex entities. After all, technology reachable only if you are both a complex entity and are supported by a complex society–it is not a surprise that computing is not a Paleolithic invention.
Following this train of thought, it seems to be probable that there are no Solaris like mega brains, since they wouldn’t have complex societies. But who knows–perhaps their mega complexity can substitute a complex society’s influence.
Or not.

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