How smart are insects?

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

  1. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    It is hard to visualize gradual improvement in complexity and sentience over time.
    But if we consider farmers who purposely select the best breeders, so does nature by "natural selection" (probability) which obviously requires long periods of time, for probabilities to be "tested" by nature, whereas in farming, certain traits can be achieved in a relatively sort time (a few generations).
    And we can also look at athletes, who can improve on their performance in very short times, by sheer practice.
    If sports is a family's means of survival, I would be willing to bet that offspring, gradually become better at it from observation alone, but when combined with practice, the chance that this offspring will develop better skills in their sport, than say a family of bookkeepers, who get better at maths. The environment itself forces specialization and given enough time, this specialization becomes part of the DNA coding.

    Oh, lest we forget *mutations*. Below is what I believe to be the evolutionary stage of hominids and at what point home sapiens must have split from its common hominid ancestor. A simple mutation which is only present in only humans and not in any other hominid. I believe this was a significant mutation, which perhaps stimulated brain growth.
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  3. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    No, it isn't.
    What's hard is to see where following mindless rote math patterns turns into sentience; how 'hard-wiring' becomes 'free will'.
    Again, not automatically: that's a sentient function: they make purposeful decisions about what skills need improvement, which exercise will achieve the best results,
    how long, how hard, how much of their resources to commit and what to give up or leave unsatisfied.
    And, of course, there's a ceiling. When an athlete or musician or mathematician has reached the upper limit of his physical and mental capacity, he stagnates, then begins to decline.
    Evolution, on the other hand, has no 'up' or 'down', 'better' or 'worse'; it keeps proceeding in the direction of most genes surviving to the next generation.
    I'd like to see statistical data on a reasonable sample - say 1000 families of each, tracked over four or five generations.
    I'll go so far as to say that both successful athletes and successful bookkeepers are likely to raise healthier offspring than unsuccessful musicians or thieves.
    That's the crux of the matter. It's because of so great a variety of environments and conditions that we have over 12000 species of ants.
    Every one of their adaptations happened over time, in response to a change in their circumstances -
    and every one of those responses was a departure from rote performance of automatic tasks, by one or more individuals.
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  5. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    True, but consider the many ways organisms can evolve. Moreover, solitary organisms need unique and sometimes drastic changes in their DNA coding. Such is not required in a smooth running hive environment.

    From every example, an ant looks like an ant and has not physically evolved to be more than an ant, unlike say, the cuttlefish, which evolved from slugs, but is no longer recognizable as a slug..

    I find this explanation very credible. DNA is a chemical string. Why should DNA be exempt from chemical interactions as any other chemical in a free state? And as shown, the evolution from hominid to human was most likely due to a (probabilistically) mutation of two genes merging into a single (perhaps significant) chromosome.

    But more importantly, do ants need to evolve all that much? For what purpose? In a hive, a perfectly working machine, individuality is not tolerated. Thus while there may be mutations from genetic drift, these individuals will be eliminated because they would disturb the orderly hardwired functions of the rest. Perhaps ant's DNA responds to its environment and food source, without altering the DNA structure at all.

    As I see it, ants only evolve to their specific environment and food source. That's why we have 12000 varieties, each with similar fundamental DNA, but with ever so slight genetic responses to the requirements of their environment, without the need for major physical changes.

    Such an example can be found in caterpillars. When caterpillars infest a tree, the tree will start producing tannin, randomly distributed among its leaves. Tannin is difficult for caterpillars to digest and they must alter their digestive chemistry . Then when encountering an unaffected leaf, they again need to change their digestive chemistry. This constant switch, requires a lot of energy and inhibits the consumption and growth of the caterpillar, and its capacity to metamorphosize.

    A clever tree trick, confuse your enemy by changing chemistry as a defense against being killed by caterpillars, which would otherwise eat every leaf and kill the tree.
    Last edited: May 7, 2017
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  7. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    This related article offers several hypotheses. It turns ot that insects used to be much larger, such as the dragon fly with 6' wingspan. Thus insects have evolved to be smaller, and thereby become a smaller target for predators, such as birds. A function of natural selection.

    Even though hives have several forms of air-conditioning, it would not surprise me to find that oxygen levels in hives are just a little lower than in the open air, which allows the insect to perform at maximum efficiency, when leaving the hive in search for food or why soldiers (who spend a lot of time outdoors are able to grow larger.
    Last edited: May 7, 2017
  8. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Apparently, that strategy is not suitable for insects. They just remain hardwired little robots.
    However, it seems that even hardwired neural systems are able to recognize certain mathematical patterns, such as quantity. And once there is cognition and choice of two different quantities, the innate knowledge of mathematical functions, will guide the organism to the largest resource. Determinism or Free Will?

    Lemurs cannot count, yet they can tell the difference between *more* and *less*. They can do this as well as humans, when the experiment has the requirement of *instant* (intuitive) response. Many other animals have this and possibly other instinctive mathematical abilities, such as recognizing wave-lengths (from Sonar to EM), including gravitational waves. This makes sense, when assuming that reality and our perceptions is mathematical in its fundamental nature and everything in the universe has a mathematical underpinning, such as its geometry and in the chemical structures of elements and their atomic interactions when mixed.

    Why should anything NOT function in some mathematical way? Animate or inanimate, what would it do or be? It certainly would still be as chaotic as during universal inflation. What is ordering chaos into evolving patterns? IMO, this ordering is accomplished by certain fundamental mathematical functions, which allowed for the evolution of today's reality.
    Last edited: May 7, 2017
  9. Counter Registered Senior Member

    When an Insect consumes food, it continues to be an Insect. It's life has been prolonged. It is therefore free to continue consumption. Should an Insect BE consumed, it is no longer an Insect...
  10. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Yeah.......something like *natural selection*

    But consider this, if both man and ants (leaving a few human and ant societies, able to produce off-spring), were to disappear, it would take the insect a few months to return to its original numbers, where it would take humans millenia. Short life-spans demand reproduction at a much faster rate than for long lived organisms with long gestational periods, only to produce from one to six offspring. Insects multiply by the billions. Not all make it and cease to be insects, true.

    The insect reproduces at an enormous exponential rate. As Hellstrom said, (apart from bacteria) most all living organisms are on the decline, except for homo sapiens and the lowly insect. Man because he can control his environment, and the insect, because it can adapt to any change man does to the environment. It can almost always adapt (trees, rocks, mounds, underground, nomadic, due to their enormous number and variety.

    The insect was the first to re-inhabit the chernoble radioactive blast site. For their small size and simplicity of internal functions, these critters are tough, man. They have been through all natural disasters, without the need for drastic changes in functionality. It may not be intelligent, but it has proven to be a functional form of "simple" survival skills.

    But then, we also have Tardigrades and Extremophiles, which are so simple, they cannot be killed except by brute force.
    Last edited: May 7, 2017
  11. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    You're not pleading special creation for insects...? They were always like that; they will always be like that; end of story.
    Well, maybe they have achieved perfection - for the world as we know it - but I'm pretty sure they didn't spring, fully formed,
    complete with colonies and hives, out of the primordial rock-face.
    And wiring 12000+ species of different ants - never mind all the grasshoppers, butterflies and wasps would confound even God's robot factory.
    Who said anything doesn't? I asked how did anything become more than mathematical functions.
    It's not unusual for someone to be keen on math and also have a craving for sex, beer and Ramen noodles
    - remove lid from a university dormitory; see hive activity.

    I'm not putting down math. I'm positing that the animate population has math+plus.
  12. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Probably, except in greater numbers.
    Of course not, they evolved from even simpler organisms

    Last edited: May 7, 2017
  13. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Write4U, you seem to have contradicted yourself.

    The above implies insects have been, and will be, unchanging.

    Yet you acknowledge they have changed:
  14. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I am not arguing that Darwinian evolution and natural selection cannot function at extremely small scales all. On the contrary, I am arguing that brain evolution does not just happen by pure chance, but by an expanding ability to examine the earth from an ant's perspective.

    Even from an AI perspective, we are running out of space on our flat boards, in spite of constant improvements on efficiency and speed
    So, now we are going to be stacking layers of the boards
  15. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Much, much, much simpler ones, obviously. An insect is hugely complex, both in physical structure and its range of possible behaviours and responses to stimuli.
    Not only has the class of insect itself come about through evolution from less complex life-forms, but has diversified into some 30 different orders, each with multiple species.
    Every one of the changes - every specialization, every differentiation, every adaptation to a newly available diet or ecological niche - came about through steps -
    little, tiny incremental bug-steps.
    That's not an assembly-line; that's a history.
    Do you not see the distinction?
    Last edited: May 7, 2017
    Write4U likes this.
  16. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    So am I. Precisely that: things change; animal changes. If more thinking is required by new conditions, smarter animal raises more new animals than dumber animal.
    Same with insects. I am thinking of the ant's perspective. She's not a robot; she is an animal of very little brain.
  17. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I am in total agreement, there are several causalities for evolutionary changes on the methods of delivering male sperm to the female egg, each using a currently efficient way to insure procreation. But, there is always this double strand mixing of the male and female chromosomal coding. Each generation bring more variety into the mix along with its strenghts and weaknesses. Natural selection does the rest.

    p.s. the cuttlefish females seem to favor not the largest most powerful males, but ones who are cleverest in disguise. Small males may disguise themselves as females and passed two warring big adults and will unchallenged approach the female and deposit his sperm. these females like intellectual problem solving.
    Last edited: May 7, 2017
  18. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    We know how sexual reproduction works! (Actually, changes can take place over time even with asexual reproduction, but the odds are greatly reduced.)
    All I'm saying is: you maths and physics types already have the universe -
    I claim the ants for biology.
    They're not robots and nobody wired them.
  19. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I agree with the first , but not the second. They are biological organisms , which by necessity transmit functional information throughout the *wholeness* via a fractal neural information network, the most efficient network is a fractally expanding ability to form new information highways. Self similarity is the easiest form of duplication. Leaves on a tree.
    But this may be of interest in the properties of spacetime.
    Causal Dynamical Triangulation (CDT) is a theoretical model how spacetime itselfs is created.
    Causal dynamical triangulation
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Beyond the Standard Model

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Simulated Large Hadron Collider CMS particle detector data depicting a Higgs boson produced by colliding protons decaying into hadron jets and electrons
    Standard Model
    Quantum gravity[hide]
    Causal dynamical triangulation (abbreviated as CDT) invented by Renate Loll, Jan Ambjørn and Jerzy Jurkiewicz, and popularized by Fotini Markopoulou and Lee Smolin, is an approach to quantum gravity that like loop quantum gravity is background independent.

    This means that it does not assume any pre-existing arena (dimensional space), but rather attempts to show how the spacetime fabric itself evolves. [/quote]

    And it shows in the functional artistry of fractals in nature. Ants live there also and learn to use the most efficient way to use natures resources to survive.
    One of the insects enemies is the predatory plant, which use chemically activateds hydraulic systems to "close their jaws". For something to live, something must die and that applies at all levels of life and in the abstract to reality itself, where we call it *change*.

    Ants are just eminently equipped to rule the world at that lower (simpler) level of existence.
    Ants have no problem in decision making, they never ask the question.

    p.s. could you model a more efficient mathematical way of solving a maze to a food source than a brainless slime mold (a single celled polyp) ? The mathematics and their potentials are everywhere and are expressed at every level from the very subtle to gross expression in *our* reality.
    Except for the necessary functional size restrictions, the world would be crawling with unimaginable alien monsters, intent on "bringing home the bacon".

    Have you ever looked deep into the eyes of a Praying Mantis?
    Last edited: May 8, 2017
  20. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Every chance I get. They're my favourite insect, partly because they can turn their head and look you in the eye.
    The mantids do not, but I do know we're machines, but I still reject the concept of a Maker.

    (PS Bert Holldobler gives better ant-lectures.)
  21. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    As do I. A creative function does not require a motivated maker.

    I'll be sure to read some of his work. Thanks for the link.
  22. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    The honey bee is my favorite insect. It has discovered mutually beneficial symbiotic existence. What can be more beneficial to life on earth, than this most remarkable creature..
    In fact the lowly worm has my deepest respect, it tills and fertilizes the soil which provides us with the abundance of seasonal plants which we so love in our salads.
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
  23. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Yes, and then they break a foot and they are no longer athletes. Natural selection.

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