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What is Intelligence

What is Intelligence?

The growth of vast intelligent and semi intelligent data has had a peculiar result in that our definition of intelligence has changed.

Where once intelligence was defined by IQ, which analyses the brains processing speed and data capacity in the for of reading tests, meths test and observations tests, we now believe intelligence to be something far more indefinable.

If the truth be told, we believe it is anything which a computer cannot do. And that means we are on a shrinking island, as computers can do more and more.

There are other worrying factors. What if animals are intelligent? or there is an alien intelligence out there which is nothing like us? As our knowledge of the universe grows we have to expand our knowledge of life. As our understanding of mathematical universes grows we begin to realise that there are many more universes than our own.

Is the universe devoid of life? Do we really believe that the vast universe we inhabit is entirely empty of life?

Intelligent Life

When we search for intelligent life in other systems near to us we assume that life, in order to be worthy of the name, has to be bipedal hominids with a penchant for environmental exploitation and destruction, as well as a tendency to engage in genocidal warfare.

However, the advent of global climate change and the efficiency of genocide with ever more destructive weaponry suggest that these two traits at least do not promote long term survival.

So maybe we need to revisit the definition of intelligence?

For a start, we have been far too narrow in out definition of intelligent life forms. I have proposed this definition, which  takes into account several factors, namely:

An important aspect of the definition of intelligence is that it does not need to be hominid and bipedal. It does not need to be warm blooded and dependent on an oxygen rich environment. It does not even need to be carbon based. I have stated this because we need to consider the universe as a whole and what we know of it. If we consider the likelihood of life forms appearing as a function of the age and complexity of the environment then life forms do not need terrestrial planets to evolve.

A definition of Intelligence

Features of Ian Intelligent Species


An intelligence should be able to create an environment for long term survival and self evolution. Such creatures usually survive for millions of years (such as the dinosaurs). There is an element of planning for long term survival to this.  Intelligent planning involves ensuring an outcome which will modify the environment for the purpose of self proliferation.

Planning and executing functions to ensure survival and growth

Intelligence can be defined as demonstrating behaviour which supports the ability to:

  • understand and recognise aspects of the environment which are useful
  • to use them for the purposes of development.

For example it is not intelligent

  • to destroy those aspects of the environment which are useful
  • to exploit resources to an extent where they are no longer useful or damage life.


The species should be able to locate like intelligences for the purposes of

  • communication
  • co operation
  • reproduction.

This includes other of the same species as well as those of similar species.

It is rare to find intelligent creatures prepared to destroy others of a like kind and is not a trait which will allow for long term survival. (By long term I am considering the age and size of the universe.)

Self Propagation and Evolution

An intelligent life form needs to self propagate in order to survive. There are many different types of reproduction, including abiogenesis. It also needs to adapt to the environment or to adapt the environment to its needs.

Are existing Artificial Intelligence Systems Alive?

At the moment the virtual world is a hive of growth.

It is populated by

  • self re- configuring mobile networks
  • automated delivery systems
  • social media networks
  • computer games networks
  • gaming networks
  • self driving cars
  • automatic plane landing systems as well as people who interact with these systems using a variety of profiles
  • etc

Human interactions can be can be classified by the following roles

  • manipulators
  • users
  • designers
  • the manipulated
  • etc

Given that these systems are able to proliferate with the help of human intervention, I think that they can be classed as extremely simple intelligence with a minimal reactivity and adaptation of the environment. They are probably best classed as equivalent to a simple organism such as plankton or amoeba.

It is true that they do not procreate independently, but they can clone themselves and large elements of them are reusable. Since they need human intervention to reproduce I think perhaps we can class them as a parasitical or symbiotic simple organism, such as the bacteria in the human gut.

Future Survival and Evolution:

Of software Systems:

In terms of survival these systems are not only surviving but they are proliferating and evolving.

these intelligences are capable of sharing data between each other and have been evolving a speed which can only be described as remarkable.

Of Human Users:

We are living in a symbiotic relationship. Those who are using software to manipulate human behaviour are  in fact providing these simple organisms with additional abilities to adapt their user population.

This is not a dangerous or scary situation, we are merely being adapted to the needs of the software, rather than the other way around.







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