Scientists systematize intelligence | wibnet.nl
Chimpanzees know how to pry a raisin out of a crack with a stick.
The zebrafish can count its congeners.
And even a roundworm with only 302 nerve cells seems to be able to consider whether or not to eat a bite.
Animals have very different skills, but does their behavior show that they are intelligent? And if so, which species is the smartest?
Researchers do not yet have a clear answer to these questions. They even struggle to answer another fundamental question: what intelligence?
However, intelligence researchers now want to learn from it periodic table der elements, where you can know, based on the location of an element, if it conducts electricity or if it reacts strongly with water, for example.
A team of neuroscientists, philosophers and computer scientists wants to start the project various intelligences organize our knowledge of intelligent behavior and brain structure in animals and humans in the same systematic way.
The team hopes to use such an intelligence system to predict what skills you can expect from a certain species and what it takes to call an animal intelligent.
Monkeys cheat on the mirror test
In general, we see intelligence as the ability to react appropriately to the environment, to solve problems and to acquire new knowledge.
But even in humans, it can be difficult to measure pure intelligence with an IQ test. And even more in animals, because we can only study intelligence indirectly through their behavior.
Behavioral scientists see a lot in mirror testing, in which an anesthetized animal is given a mark on its forehead. When he wakes up later, he is placed in front of a mirror.
If the animal tries to get rid of the sign, for example by rubbing its head, it can be assumed that the animal knows that it sees itself in the mirror, and therefore has a form of self-awareness. This is traditionally considered a basic element of higher intelligence.
Children as young as one and a half years pass this test, as do great apes, dolphins, elephants and magpies.
But in 2017, rhesus monkeys tricked a Chinese research team. Normally, rhesus monkeys fail this test, and so do they. chinese research. But if they were rewarded for hitting the mark on their head, they would have mastered the trick within weeks.
This suggests that rhesus macaques may know they are looking in the mirror, but do not find the mark on their head disturbing. For example, many more species could pass the mirror test, and the list of intelligent animals could be much longer than we think.
With the mirror test as the litmus test for intelligence, scientists are once again left empty-handed when it comes to defining intelligence in animals.
The system connects behavior and the brain
Animals also exhibit other behaviors that can be considered an expression of intelligence. For example, squids can learn to open a screw cap to grab a treat, and crows throw rocks into a water tube, so the water level rises and a tasty snack is within reach. tomorrow.
But neither the squid nor the crow can do what the other can do, making it difficult to determine which animal is smarter.
What is needed is a new, clear definition of when an animal is intelligent and what makes one animal smarter than another. It is the challenge that Andre Baron from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.
Barron leads Diverse Intelligences, the interdisciplinary research team that aims to integrate intelligence into a system. As a neuroethologist, he himself studies the relationship between the behavior of animals and their nervous system.
According to Barron, this is the key to a periodic table of intelligence.
He thinks that the intelligent characteristics unique to each animal are linked to its environment and its way of life. Even relatively primitive animals like the bees can therefore be intelligent beings.
According to Barron, during animal evolution, the brain developed a number of intelligent properties – for example, the ability to learn, count or plan.
Some of these traits may be useful to one animal, but not to another, which must have very different characteristics. For example, the intelligent properties of animals have to do with what they should be able to do.
But while these animal skills may seem random, Barron thinks intelligence can be organized as systematically as the elements of the periodic table. To arrive at a table of intelligence, he and his team want to find a pattern in the relationship between different intelligent traits and brain structure.
Barron examines what anatomical details influence the speed and efficiency with which the brain works.
If the nerve signals travel through thick nerve bundles, the animal probably thinks faster than if the nerve bundles are thin. Similarly, animals with a thicker cerebral cortex and more neural connections can be expected to solve more complex problems.
Good cooperation between specialized brain centers also contributes to a more efficient and versatile brain that can handle multiple tasks.
Animals have many different types of brains and nervous systems – from brainless sea anemones and jellyfish, to insects and worms with tiny brains, to mammals with brains as big as ours.
However, evolution not only makes the nervous systems and brains of animals more complex, but also their behavior.
Andrew Barron and his team attempt to combine these properties – brain structure and intelligent behavior – into a single system, just as the elements of the periodic table are arranged in horizontal rows based on their electrical properties and in vertical columns based on their chemical properties. .
The chimpanzee knows best
Just as the periodic table has put us on the trail of new elements, an intelligence system could also provide startling information.
For example, we usually assume that we are the most intelligent beings on earth, but that’s not necessarily the truth. After all, we define intelligence from a human point of view.
However, animals live in a reality very different from ours and can have specific skills adapted to their way of life.
Just think of the bat and the shark, which orient themselves via echolocation and electroreception respectively. As a result, they experience the world in ways we can’t even imagine.
And we humans have already been defeated in our own domain in terms of intelligence. It happened in 2007 at Kyoto University in Japan in a scientifically controlled duel between the chimpanzee Ayumu and a group of students.
Monkeys and humans played a special version of memory, which involved remembering the position of numbers that briefly appeared on a screen.
Ayumu swept the students in the memory test and remembered 80% of the numbers, while the students only got 40%.
Despite this defeat, Andrew Barron firmly believes that when finished we will have a prominent place in the periodic table of intelligence. But it is also sure that we can learn a lot – not only about the intelligence of animals, but also about our own.
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