Brains or Thumbs?

This article is not about texting.

Most anthropologists agree, at least, this is my understanding of that which I learned in school, that despite weak defenses, humans evolved to dominate the world because of big brains; more sophisticated might be a better term, or it might not.

Many animals have bigger brains than we.

It has been shown that animals are capable of language and that their math skills are far superior to ours. Dolphins and gorillas especially, but who knows how many animals can outwit us? IQ tests are said to be unfair because it is difficult to design them without some cultural bias. How different, then, must an animal’s IQ environment be? Street-smarts over book-smarts, one might say. Who’s to say how many species are more cleverer than us?

The problem, perhaps, isn’t one of intelligence but simply communication.

Some would say that the reason we took over was our thumbs (opposable digits.) Thumbs allowed for tool-making which quickly devolved into an arms-race that goes on to this day.

But, other animals have thumbs, too. So, why not them? Maybe they know love.

Maybe they had the good sense to know that ‘less is more.’ They traveled light. They had the power to defend themselves, but they lacked the desire to dominate, to take everything over. They saw that growth (1 of 8 – 09:17) would only lead to their eventual demise. They had the courage to face the world and its dangers, to do things the hard way, without seeking to insulate themselves more and more from the hardships which make life interesting. Are they foolish or wise? Asian cultures consider that animals kept in captivity are ultimately happy, like they won the lottery of life. The western view differs, thinking it cruel to deprive animals of their freedom (to face danger,) although western culture, strangely enough, reflects this way of thinking by isolating itself from the ‘dangerous’ natural world. Is it in our very essence to imprison ourselves and to weaken ourselves to the point of total dependence? Desmond Morris thinks so.

Instead of spending hours growing food we can eat, we now spend hours growing grass which we throw away. That’s a big red flag.

So maybe there is something else which allows us to dominate, another quality which permits us to lord over all we see, to the point of writing it into our gospels. Maybe it’s a moral quality or a primal arrogance, maybe we are just so physically weak that we have become a paranoid species. “Humanity No# 1 !” Discipline through fear seems pretty natural to humans on many levels.

As Gunnery Sergeant Hartman said, “It is a hard heart that kills.” I would distinguish that it is either a hard heart, or an empty stomach. Killing everyday to eat makes one a pacifist by nature. You don’t want to have to kill during your breaks, too. Killing is hard and it’s dangerous. You only do it when absolutely necessary. Does never killing anything besides a mosquito or a spider cause a buildup of whatever it is that got us here, in the first place? Does not killing result in us not being able to control the urge to kill? Do we need to kill? That would explain a lot. Maybe it isn’t the killing we need, maybe it’s the risk of being killed. That would explain extreme sports.

Maybe it was the combination of language, technology, and hubris that got us here. Maybe it was dumb luck. I wonder what animals must think of our stewardship. After seeing an interesting episode of the CBC’s “The Nature of Things,” I thought about [when a translation device is invented] what kind of questions animals will want to ask us. I also wonder about the answers we will have for them. I also wonder if the government will be involved to put the proper ‘spin’ on the first official inter-species communication. Government, industry, the military, and religion will probably all be represented and involved.

It might be good practice for when the aliens arrive. Come to think of it, it’s probably just hubris… and it’s all down-hill from here.

Knowlege vs. Intel’gence

Knowledge from Your Dictionary:

“Knowledge is defined as what is learned, understood or aware of.”

A collection of definitions of ‘knowledge.’



Intelligence from Wordsmyth:

“-the capacity to learn, reason, and understand
-the demonstration of such capacity”
A Collection of Definitions of Intelligence.

Knowledge is the awareness of information retained.
Intelligence is the ability to manipulate and use said information.
If knowledge is learning the alphabet and knowing words, intelligence is crafting sentences and communicating efficiently.

“In an organizational context, knowledge is the sum of what is known and resides in the intelligence and the competence of people.”

Intelligence, indeed, has many components, but it can also be seen as a process.

  • attention
  • memory
  • pattern recognition
  • discretion
  • synthesis
  • manipulation
  • usage
  • speed
  • recall
  • interpretation
  • implementation
  • evaluation

Not only is intelligence complex, it is as broad as it is tall.

“E=mc^2” has become something of a badge of intelligence although it displays nothing but information. It was arrived at, however, using nothing but pure intelligence (and lotsa’ chalk.)

“Achieving complex goals in complex environments” B. Goertzel

In AI terms, intelligence means accomplishment of a mission. This implies that success is an integral part of intelligence. Truly, if it didn’t work, it wasn’t an intelligent conclusion to have reached, or supposition to begin with.

The only thing necessary for something which is wrong to be accepted is agreement (faith, consensus, belief.)

“What a misfortune it is that we should thus be compelled to let our boys’ schooling interfere with their education!” Grant Allen

Genius describes one who knows more about a particular subject (or subjects) than almost everybody else in the world, or is seen to. The knowledge behind the intelligence to put it all together is very vertical in nature. It needs to be. Like a focused beam of light, it can reach farther. In this case, a narrower base builds a taller tower. A genius can often experience serious failings in other areas, though. Genius is relative.



Wisdom is something else altogether. Wisdom has more to do with judgement.

“Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.” -Evan Hardin

So, one could say that wisdom comes from a lack of wisdom.
But that would be stupid.
Stupid does not mean ignorant, in the same way that intelligent does not mean knowledgeable.

Ignorant simply means not knowing. Everyone has a similar capacity to learn, it is simply that we are not all interested by the same things, and so if I am ignorant in your particular field of expertise, you view me as a moron; but you are equally ignorant in my field, and so who is stupid? Both of us? Neither? Remember that we all think we are good drivers yet we think most others are not.

And then there’s just looking smart.




Dumb – not being able to say and having nothing good to say are seen as equivalent… but that is another subject, altogether.