Compelling Questions 4

***Can consciousness be quantified? Do humans have “more” consciousness than other animals?

***Can consciousness be qualified? Do humans have a more intense feeling of consciousness than other animals? Is our experience sharper, deeper, brighter, better, or more meaningful?

***Can any comparisons of consciousness be made?

***Does intelligence affect our consciousness? Or rather, does an increase in intelligence correspond to some sort of an increase in consciousness?

***What defines intelligence? What are the “prerequisites” for intelligence?

***What, if any, commonalities and subsequent properties mark intelligence and intelligent behavior? For example, is it the case that intelligence gives rise to a drive for progression, exploration, and expansion in thought, technologies, understanding, etc.? Some people believe that there could be a species on this Earth equal or greater in intelligence than humans. In order to find such a species and/or ascertain its intelligence level, one might logically attempt to search for markers of its existence by using markers of human existence as a rubric. For instance, humans have significantly altered their habitats by building structures that make life “easier” by accomplishing goals more efficiently. In other words, in order to feed people the production of food was made more efficient by farms and farm tools. Transportation was made faster by roads and vehicles. Living was made more comfortable by shelters and furniture. The resources needed to sustain and improve society demanded that larger structures be built and more land be partitioned for differing purposes. This has all changed over the past many thousands of years, but even before civilization homo-sapiens made simple but lasting changes to their environment such as burial grounds, cave paintings, [Stone Henge], and carvings in rock. Many such changes were intended to last well beyond the time of the originators and to be used or appreciated by posterity.

Yet we see hardly even a trace of any of these things from other species on Earth. There are environmental changes that came about as the byproduct of life (such as coral, crude oil, or tunnel-ways) but none of these were the result of refinement and improvement by conscious effort. Even among species that seem to exhibit behaviors that are recognizable to us as “intelligent,” (such as using simple tools, language, ability to learn from trial and error) these things have not been noticed to significantly change over time. Theoretically dolphins and apes live and behave the exact same as they did 50,000 years ago, but humans do not. We have made progress; we have permanently altered our living situation through conscious effort. We can also be fairly certain that if you taught cavemen how to sterilize water by boiling it or how to plant seeds and harvest, this life-altering information would be valued, used, and passed on to successive generations. I have great doubts that an ape will pass on anything progressive that it learns to its progeny, or even that it itself can realize the implications and potential applications of what it has learned. So we return to the original question: is progress (in a way that we can understand it) or the desire for progress a necessary consequence of intelligence? Yet again, this forces us to backtrack and first answer the following question:

***What is intelligence?

>>Other compelling questions: tag CQ

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