How smart are insects?

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by Xmo1, Apr 29, 2017.

  1. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Yhat's where the Theoretical and Hard Sciences meet. Quantum Central.
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  3. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    The suggestion was that all living things respond to certain mathematical universal functions. As these functions are themselves not complicated, it is quite possible that we share this mathematical potential with the fundamental fabric of the universe. After all, we are part of it.
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  5. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Their abilities are only extraordinary when compared to humans.

    Then again, humans' perceptive range is extraordinary when compared to other mammals. Dogs and cats cannot distinguish reds from greens.
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  7. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Agreed. Still explains nothing.
  8. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    True, each species necessarily has certain advantages as well as disadvantage. Cats and dogs may not see certain colors, but the sense of smell of say, a blood-hound is 1000 x more sensitive than humans. A cat's whiskers can detect the most subtle air disturbance of the slightest movement in total dark. Not surprisingly.

    Our great strength is the ability for long range planning and construction and use of tools, by which we can compensate for our physical vulnerability and limited sensory abilities. as a species.

    I think we can see the same evolutionary development in other vulnerable species such as the octopus and cuttlefish. Vulnerable, but very smart. Instead of tools, they use "shape shifting".

    This is why I pay homage to all extant life. It has managed to survive in spite of the greatest possible global disasters. I don't see any mighty dinosaurs , but then today, the dinosaur has morphed into other smaller reptiles and birds, which can rise high above danger.

    Of course the insect mastered flight 50 million years before any other species. And mastering flight is a purely instinctive use of aerodynamics. Come to think of it, every organism uses mathematical functions in their quest for survival, even if the user is not aware of these skills.

    Only a few species can figure out how the mathematics work and take advantage of this for survival purposes. It does not matter how this knowledge is acquired. An octopus can figure out how to *unscrew* a lid from a jar with food. When another octopus observes this discovery by another octopus performing this feat, it will learn this trick and will opens the jar, without hesitation or needing to search for possible openings. IMO, an example of a mental mirror function.

    As Thoreau said "everything in the universe is connected". I would like to add that everything in the universe is mathematically connected.
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
  9. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    You mean, it does not explain why? Does there have to be a why?
    The question "why?" is moot. IMO, if we can figure out the *how*, we'll understand the why.

    It cannot work the other way! The question *why" asks for motive. or imperative.
    As I suggested before, IMO, the *why* is a Csmoc Mathematical Imperative.
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
  10. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    (It may be moot, but why would you change the question?)
    No. The question was: How intelligent are insects?
    I did not see the relevance of all the fancy couldn't-be-any-other-way mathematical patterns to the intelligence of insects -
    or to the response - instinct - genetic memory - problem solving continuum in the evolution of thought.
    Still can't, but that's all right.
  11. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    What do you IQ number? Most insects have no brains or at best a rudimentary central processor, but they have lots of extremely evolved sensory abilities, such as seeing infra-red and sensitivity to chemical stimulus, such as pheromones.

    As to "couldn't-be-any-other-way" is true, insects can only do what they are hardwired to do. This is what makes them so successful.

    This is simpler than it appears, if you consider that each new generation consists only of 4 different individuals with a specific function (not purpose) . In a bee hive, Queen, drones, workers, scouts. Any divergent individual is immediately disposed of. This can be seen when all drones in a bee hive get booted out to die, after the mating contest is over and they become useless to the hive.

    Moreover, hives have few maintenance requirements and a rigid division of labor.
    5 or 10 chemically (a rough guess) triggered involuntary actions (skills) are all that is necessary to contribute to the overall welfare of the hive.

    Think of a rhumba vacuum cleaner. It'll clean your floor in oblivious obedience to its simple hardwired program. Nature has been able to pack something like that (neural network) into a tiny living organism and given it the ability to chemically communicate , which (when needed) triggers an immediate response from others.
    Even these chemical signals need not be complicated. Ants have few enemies, they are too small and their bites or stings are very painful, or even deadly

    When a queen bee dies, several ordinary larvae are chemically marked to be fed royal jelly, which miraculously transforms otherwise sterile workers into fertile queens, which after mating may live to 50 years and lay millions of eggs, all from a single mating.

    But the remarkable ability of such simple but relatively rugged organisms to have survived billions of years is proof that simplicity does not translate into failure to thrive.

    Unfortunately, our use of chemicals on flowering crops has probably caused an immune deficiency in bees and if they were to disappear, it would spell disaster for the world's natural food supply.
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
  12. DrKrettin Registered Senior Member

    Isn't the average IQ of an insect 100 by definition?
  13. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Compared to what? But within the hive and for its ability to cope with its environment, that standard could be applied.
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
  14. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Okay, that might work. But, no.
    What I'm looking for is a threshold or an overlap zone, where one kind of processing turns into another kind.
    It's quite a sophisticated processor of sensory input - and not the same type in all insects, but different processes or different inputs, with different responses.
    The couldn't be any other way referred to the mathematical patterns.
    So, are you saying that no biological machine can act in any way other than the hard-wired pattern?
    In that case, how could the big complex processors and elaborate wiring of dolphins and apes come about?
    Until conditions change to make the responses invalid. Then this is what makes them extinct.
    At some junctures in its history every species had to make a significant change, an adaptation, relatively fast (by evolutionary measure),
    in order to have survived to the present. Sometimes that change was a physical attribute, sometimes a change of diet or habitat, sometimes an idea.

    I go along with insects being generally quite short of intellect. But I'm skeptical about the blanket analogy of hard-wiring.
    Wiring is made by an intelligent craftsman, but living things were not designed and made. They developed organically -
    at some point the very simple branched off into the not-so-simple, etc.
    I'm interested in the interfaces, the alterations, the junctions.
  15. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I think that they are probably smarter than people once gave them credit for being. They can learn, they can orient themselves in their environment and navigate through it, they can identify food, dangers and others of their own kind, they can selectively pay attention to things that interest them, they even seem to be able to represent things in their tiny heads and form mental maps, and things like that. Very similar to the cognitive tasks we humans perform, except they perform similar tasks in simpler ways. readings/Artificial Intelligence/HoneybeeCognition.pdf
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  16. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    I suspect every living things is. (Okay, maybe not algae and viruses....)
    Ants, in particular are interesting in their variety of adaptations. If they were so simple and stupid as we've assumed,
    how did the leaf-cutting and aphid farming ever get started?
    Why are some species war-like; why do some migrate? Why does one colonize the bark of a particular tree, while another builds bivouacs of its own bodies?
    Somehow, complexity evolved. Sometime, an adaptation must have been unsuccessful, or insufficient, and something changed.

    I suspect that the hard-wiring metaphor limits our thinking. It conjures a mental image of a mechanical circuitry: useful, up to a point,
    but we find it difficult to see past such a graphic image to what is - even if it changes rarely and slowly - a life story.
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
  17. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I think you're making the opposite error of that which you cautioned me. I think you are equating intelligence with complexity.

    Then again, this may descend into semantics - eg. if I were to define intelligence as that form of adaptation beyond instinct.
  18. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Not equating. Not saying that non-intelligence cannot be complex, but that intelligence cannot simple; it won't arise from functional simplicity.
    Increasing brain capacity is expensive in terms of resources; nobody who isn't endangered in their established habits will make the investment to attain the next level.
    Intelligence had to start somewhere, somehow, for some reason. It had to develop. It had to build layer upon layer - always at a cost.

    That would still only be the start of a definition. And it wouldn't allow you to give a satisfactory account of instinct.
    Nor would it let you discover where instinct ends (so that you know what's beyond it)
    nor describe the systems when they work together, nor or let you quantify intelligence.

    These are interesting attributes, and they require patient, open-minded study - not facile packaging.
    Last edited: May 5, 2017
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  19. SereneCalm Registered Member

    So far, the insects that I know can be smarter than us are ants. I think they are amazing because they do have the ability to reproduce via cloning and they can produce traffic and can reach enormous heights despite of their size.
  20. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Ah, yes, at what point does abstract thought evolve. Simply put; Complexity. The cuttlefish is a master at mirroring its environment.
    Yes, even in such a small body (a restriction) the neural network and nodal points can still be complex at that scale, allowing for a variety of instinctive behaviors.
    True, but there is an enormous variety of insects which, due to their simplicity are able to establish a territory almost everywhere and gradually specialize. Their exo-skeleton provides several natural advantages; it is a natural armor and allows maximum interior space for development of physical structural changes. The insect is one of the first mobile surface dweller and as an insect has been evolving in variety and specialization, such as horti-culture or husbandry and other forms of use of resource, including all out war (driver ants)
    No...the hardwired pattern itself increases fractally.
    Along with size comes the need and development of additional neural networks. Unlike manufactured computers, the natural fractal neural system are subject to change and creates a more "characteristic" individual response to similar situations. Moreover, skull size is extremely important in housing the growing neuron networks to be able process complex information.
    As I understand it, in hominids it was the great abundance of soft nutritous fruits and roots that caused the loss of great jaw muscles and bone structure, allowing more space for brain expansion. There is of course a physical limitation to this line of evolution.
    The great variety protects them from extinction. 95% of all species that ever existed are now extinct. The ant survived them all.
    Yes, what you see around you is the result of hundreds of million years of evolution. The insect was the first and , as Hellstrom said, will probably be the last to survive. It can breed whole new generations in just weeks or even days. The numbers are overwhelming and insects can be found world wide. It's truly astounding.
    But it is the variety and mixtures (configurations) of the hardwiring which must be present to allow intelligence to emerge as the most sophisticated forms of information processing, such as self-awareness.
    I'm no expert on the actual physical functions but in an evolutionary sense, IMO, the fundamental fractality of the brain allows for infinite networks and connections, allowing us to perceive a form of holographic mirror image of what we observe or detect. Memory.
    Fractality is one of the common denominators in nature and is mathematically functional at every level from the very subtle to gross expression in reality.

    That's why I say every extant species is a marvel of the mathematical function. Unfortunately, some are not very easy to live with, such as malaria, which is transmitted to us by a mosquito drinking our blood and in the process infecting us with a nasty parasite, to which the mosquito is naturally immune. How ironic.
    Last edited: May 5, 2017
  21. TheFrogger Banned Valued Senior Member

    Hello. I do not know! Perhaps it was an accident.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    I do however believe that wasps, flies and the like cannot see glass...that's why they find it so hard to leave a room with a window.
  22. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    There is no glass in nature. There is nothing in billions of years of past to prepare insects - or most other animals - for the sudden, catastrophic emergence of man-made materials.
    Nothing prepared the sea creatures for oil pellets, submarine engine noise and plastic islands. Nothing prepared migrating birds for lit-up skyscrapers and wind turbines.
    Nothing prepared snapping turtles and porcupines for highway traffic. The only animals that adapt readily to human habitation are raccoons, rats and cockroaches.
    Which of them takes over as dominant species will depend on the air quality we leave behind.
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  23. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    And as Hellstrom said that ultimately the insect is best equipped to survive any condition which is uninhabitable for more complex life.
    If all surface and airborne life on earth were to disappear, we'd still have life at deep ocean depths, independent of oxygen or sunlight or ocean water. There is a rich environment around Black Smokers. Unfortunately, that life is restricted to those specific condtions, but where there is life and sufficient time......?

    If you have not studied the cuttlefish in some detail, I urge anyone to check out this remarkable alien, a descendant of a "slug*, which has evolved a most astounding and beautiful ability to *shape-shift* , a perfect example of long term evolution of species in their environment.
    Last edited: May 6, 2017

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