FacebookTwitter
Hatrack River Forum Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Sentient Life

   
Author Topic: Sentient Life
AchillesHeel
Member
Member # 11736

 - posted      Profile for AchillesHeel   Email AchillesHeel         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
So I have been absentmindedly been considering what the bare requirements would be for sentient life to evolve. Looking at humanity's rise to complex thought I see characteristics that narrow down the differances between us and everything else on the planet. Warm blooded, social, lower status holders allowed breeding rights, omnivorous, highly adaptable and life-spans that last several generations.

Im curious to see what the board can think up, what traits are the most likely to allow sentient non-human life to evolve?

Posts: 2302 | Registered: Aug 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Samprimary
Member
Member # 8561

 - posted      Profile for Samprimary   Email Samprimary         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Do you mean 'sapient' life?
Posts: 15417 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Strider
Member
Member # 1807

 - posted      Profile for Strider   Email Strider         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
movement
memory
error learning and error guided behavior
heuristic interactive strategies (emotions)
limbs that allow fine grained manipulation of the environment
sociality/communication

a few that jumped out at me.

though, I should point out that I don't think we're talking about an all or nothing phenomena. Organisms that don't have sociality or communication can likely still evolve the ability to experience, to be conscious. Samp's right that would should probably be clear about definitions.

Posts: 8741 | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Hedwig
Member
Member # 2315

 - posted      Profile for Hedwig           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Strider:

Organisms that don't have sociality or communication can likely still evolve the ability to experience, to be conscious.

I think we have a few of those around here.
Posts: 127 | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
AchillesHeel
Member
Member # 11736

 - posted      Profile for AchillesHeel   Email AchillesHeel         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I was simply pointing out differances between us and most other life on Earth. I was more curious about physical and social traits that would help a species evolve to sentient status. Plenty organisms outside of primates have proven to have low formed language and lasting memory retention but self awareness and complex manipulation of the world around them still escapes them.
Posts: 2302 | Registered: Aug 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Rabbit
Member
Member # 671

 - posted      Profile for The Rabbit   Email The Rabbit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
What do you mean by "sentient"? In philosophy, it generally denotes the ability to feel emotions like joy or suffering. It's evident, at least to me, that humans are not the only species on this planet that a sentient by that definition.

In the context of science fiction, I've heard sentient used to mean something beyond the simple ability to feel but I've never heard it very well defined. Based on what you've said, I'm confident you are talking about something more akin to the science fiction usage than the precise philosophical definition. I think it would help the discussion if you tried to define what you mean.

Posts: 12591 | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Mucus
Member
Member # 9735

 - posted      Profile for Mucus           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
* the ability to theorize about how other species aren't sentient/sapient [Wink]
Posts: 7593 | Registered: Sep 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Mucus
Member
Member # 9735

 - posted      Profile for Mucus           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
In the context of science fiction, I've heard sentient used to mean something beyond the simple ability to feel but I've never heard it very well defined.

OTOH, here's one place that could be looked at in science fiction.
quote:
PICARD
Enough. Suffice it to say, he's
an expert.
(right up in his face)
Commander Maddox, it is your
contention that Data is not a
sentient being and therefore not
entitled to those rights reserved
for all other life-forms in this
Federation?

MADDOX
Data is not sentient, no.

PICARD
Why, Commander?

MADDOX
Because Data is a piece of
outstanding engineering and
programming.

PICARD
What is required for sentience?

MADDOX
Intelligence, self awareness,
consciousness.

http://www.st-minutiae.com/academy/literature329/135.txt
Posts: 7593 | Registered: Sep 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
AchillesHeel
Member
Member # 11736

 - posted      Profile for AchillesHeel   Email AchillesHeel         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It seems I was using the word improperly, thank you for clearing that up. Sapience is what I was thinking of, higher congnitive thought and action in contrast to a gorrilla who is considered intelligent because it uses a stick to eat termites.

So to be more precise, traits that would allow a species to evolve to the point of human level of intelligence.

Posts: 2302 | Registered: Aug 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Orincoro
Member
Member # 8854

 - posted      Profile for Orincoro   Email Orincoro         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by AchillesHeel:
self awareness and complex manipulation of the world around them still escapes them.

This assumes that we evolved these abilities as if they were goals to reach for. But evolution doesn't work that way- everything we can do is a consequence of having needed these abilities to survive.
Posts: 9912 | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
jebus202
Member
Member # 2524

 - posted      Profile for jebus202   Email jebus202         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Or a consequence of not impeding our survival.
Posts: 3563 | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Strider
Member
Member # 1807

 - posted      Profile for Strider   Email Strider         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
AchillesHeel, my list still stands. I purposefully abstracted away from specific human traits such as warm blooded or omnivorous, and tried to come up with a list that might be relevant given the unpredictability of selection pressure and conditions on any given planet. I was attempting to point out some universal characteristics that might be important, rather than specific characteristics that were part of our history.

I think the things I listed are all important for the emergence of "representation", which in philosophy and cognitive science is what underlies mental content.

Posts: 8741 | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Stone_Wolf_
Member
Member # 8299

 - posted      Profile for Stone_Wolf_           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The Uplift series by David Brin has a lot to say on this topic. In these books human kind is a "wolfling" race, that is, no one "uplifted" them to sapience, where everyone else was, and each race that was uplifted owes the race that brought them up many generations of servitude. Humans having no progenitor and having brought up dolphins and chimps are a wild card in galactic society. Even the oldest races which have client races themselves where uplifted by a long lost race.

In looking over the wiki page, I seem to have fallen behind this series, but it's a good read and brings up a lot of interesting discussion on the topic of sentience/sapience.

Posts: 6683 | Registered: Jun 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Rabbit
Member
Member # 671

 - posted      Profile for The Rabbit   Email The Rabbit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm going to suggest, we make things simpler and discuss the characteristics needed for a species to develop advanced technologies. That avoids the whole difficult of defining sentience/sapience and how we might identify it in another being.

Here are some things I think are essential for a species to be capable of developing advanced technology.

1. The ability to pass acquired traits/skills on to the next generation. Without this, the species is limited to what an individual can learn in their lifetime. Lots of species do this. Cranes teach their young to migrate. Mother bears teach their cubs to forage. Wolf packs teach their cubs to hunt. But humans have taken it to a whole different level. Inventions like the printing press, schools and universal education have been critical for human innovation and technological progress. I'm interested to see whether information technology provides the same kind of boost to human progress that the printing press did.

2. Abstract reasoning ability. The ability to imagine things that do not exist, to connect abstract symbols with concrete objects, and to develop equations that are predictive.

3. A cooperative community that allows individual specialization. This allows the species as a whole to be far more intelligent than any of its individual members.

4. Leisure time or the ability to do more than is necessary for simple biological survival. One way to achieve this is by having access to an energy source that makes it possible for individuals to do more work than their bodies are capable of doing. There may be others.

Posts: 12591 | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Juxtapose
Member
Member # 8837

 - posted      Profile for Juxtapose   Email Juxtapose         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It's been mentioned previously, but fine motor skills ought to also be on that list.
Posts: 2907 | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Mucus
Member
Member # 9735

 - posted      Profile for Mucus           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Consequently, no Goa'uld.
Posts: 7593 | Registered: Sep 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
AchillesHeel
Member
Member # 11736

 - posted      Profile for AchillesHeel   Email AchillesHeel         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
[ROFL]
Posts: 2302 | Registered: Aug 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Rabbit
Member
Member # 671

 - posted      Profile for The Rabbit   Email The Rabbit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Juxtapose:
It's been mentioned previously, but fine motor skills ought to also be on that list.

I've been trying to find a more generic way to say that. The best I've come up with is "ability to manipulate matter".

Some of our most critical technologies like integrated circuits and synthetic chemicals require us to manipulate matter at a scale far smaller than we can do using our hands. If I extrapolate that backwards, I can imagine a species that might be able to manipulate matter without any motor skills at all, perhaps by using enzymes (i.e. the descalada), or telepathy (i.e. the unwyrm) or by forming a symbiotic relationship with another species (i.e. Trills, Goa'uld).

Posts: 12591 | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Tresopax
Member
Member # 1063

 - posted      Profile for Tresopax           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
This is an awfully hard question to justify an answer for, given we only know of one species that has achieved "sentience" as its being defined here, and given that we don't even really know exactly how it arose in us.

For one thing, it's quite possible that the key minimum requirement is the existence of a Creator that wanted us to become sentient. If you have that, and if the Creator is sufficiently powerful, I'd think the other requirements would be pretty flexible.

Posts: 8120 | Registered: Jul 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
jebus202
Member
Member # 2524

 - posted      Profile for jebus202   Email jebus202         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well, that's an interesting definition but it doesn't have anything to do with the development of sapience in our own species. [Wink]
Posts: 3563 | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
shadowland
Member
Member # 12366

 - posted      Profile for shadowland   Email shadowland         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
This is an awfully hard question to justify an answer for, given we only know of one species that has achieved "sentience" as its being defined here, and given that we don't even really know exactly how it arose in us.

No, the question is still applicable. If there is a creator, then there are at least two species that have achieved sentience. If not, then there must have been a process that had some minimum requirement.
Posts: 161 | Registered: Aug 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Strider
Member
Member # 1807

 - posted      Profile for Strider   Email Strider         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
This is an awfully hard question to justify an answer for, given we only know of one species that has achieved "sentience" as its being defined here, and given that we don't even really know exactly how it arose in us.

We only know of one universe, but we've still been able to discover an awfully large amount about it.
Posts: 8741 | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Rabbit
Member
Member # 671

 - posted      Profile for The Rabbit   Email The Rabbit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
This is an awfully hard question to justify an answer for, given we only know of one species that has achieved "sentience" as its being defined here, and given that we don't even really know exactly how it arose in us.
When we do finally make contact with other species that have developed advanced technologies, we will likely be very surprised by their abilities. Until then, its fun to speculate.
Posts: 12591 | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
AchillesHeel
Member
Member # 11736

 - posted      Profile for AchillesHeel   Email AchillesHeel         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I dont believe we ever will, after several decades of going to a satelite orbiting our planet it seems impossible to actually venture through open space. It would take years and a comet just to go to Mars not to mention the resources, why would it be less periless for another species? Unless they can defy the laws of physics as we understand them lenghty space travel is impossible. I also worry about the validity of a human spending years in zero-g, we are not meant for it and the science fiction of artificial gravity has no footing in fact.
Posts: 2302 | Registered: Aug 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
fugu13
Member
Member # 2859

 - posted      Profile for fugu13   Email fugu13         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Lengthy space travel is entirely feasible. It just isn't possible quickly. However, while it would be very expensive, it is currently within the productivity of this world (much less the whole solar system, which will be much higher when we get around to it) to produce a generational ship capable of reaching nearby stars. It wouldn't even be that many generations, due to relativistic effects.
Posts: 15770 | Registered: Dec 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
jebus202
Member
Member # 2524

 - posted      Profile for jebus202   Email jebus202         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by AchillesHeel:
I dont believe we ever will, after several decades of going to a satelite orbiting our planet it seems impossible to actually venture through open space. It would take years and a comet just to go to Mars not to mention the resources, why would it be less periless for another species? Unless they can defy the laws of physics as we understand them lenghty space travel is impossible. I also worry about the validity of a human spending years in zero-g, we are not meant for it and the science fiction of artificial gravity has no footing in fact.

As usual, there's an xkcd for that.

Make sure to read the alt text.

Posts: 3563 | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
AchillesHeel
Member
Member # 11736

 - posted      Profile for AchillesHeel   Email AchillesHeel         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I dont trust the limited studies that have been done in the interest of wether or not humans can procreate in zero-g, unfortunatly we cant be certain until a fetus is successfully grown and and delivered in orbit. Such a thing would border on human experimentation but how else could we truely assure the validity of multi-generational space travel.

What awaits an advanced alien species here? not much unless Hawking is correct and they want our resources at any cost. Food, art and culture are all purely subjective and offer little interest versus the hardships necessary to travel the stars.

Posts: 2302 | Registered: Aug 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Stephan
Member
Member # 7549

 - posted      Profile for Stephan   Email Stephan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
From what little I know about evolution and biology, it still makes sense in my mind.

Isn't evolution more about survival for those species most able to adapt to their surroundings? That sounds like the perfect way of eventually leading to sentience. If anything I am surprised we haven't found evidence of any prior sentient species on our planet.

Posts: 3134 | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Rabbit
Member
Member # 671

 - posted      Profile for The Rabbit   Email The Rabbit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
A multi-generational ship wouldn't need to zero gravity. It would be relatively simple to design a ship that rotated to provide an artificial gravitational feed. This is one of the smaller technological problems needed for a multi-generational space ship.
Posts: 12591 | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
AchillesHeel
Member
Member # 11736

 - posted      Profile for AchillesHeel   Email AchillesHeel         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Micro-gravity still shows many of the same disadvantages on the embryonic level as no gravity at all. Has there been any research into how sperical revolution effects gravitational pull? how much mass could we stuff into a space craft, spin it and still travel in an intentional direction while allowing for unforseen maneuvers? Dont get me wrong, if the USAF digs up a big metal ring I will be the first to volunteer, malp or no malp, but so much of the requirements for long-term space travel are still science fiction.

quote:
From what little I know about evolution and biology, it still makes sense in my mind.
True, but evolution is blind and a single generation on a ship is no way to breed a human suited to space travel, there is no telling what could develop with the healthiest of babies in a controlled enviroment let alone one where the entire point of thier existance hinges on thier mental and physical abilities that we cannot predict.
Posts: 2302 | Registered: Aug 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Rabbit
Member
Member # 671

 - posted      Profile for The Rabbit   Email The Rabbit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm not talking about Micro-gravity. 1 g should be pretty easy. The calculations are pretty simple and the technology to implement it isn't a big deal. Like I said, this is the least of the problems for a multi-generational ship.

Even if they overcome all those technological limitations, there is no way I'd ever volunteer to be in a metal can surrounded by the vacuum of space for the rest of my life.

Posts: 12591 | Registered: Jan 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
AchillesHeel
Member
Member # 11736

 - posted      Profile for AchillesHeel   Email AchillesHeel         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I would, even the vain hope of being proactive and productive in the future of our species is enough for me provided the means can justify the ends.
Posts: 2302 | Registered: Aug 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2