By Human Intelligence I Mean…

I haven’t yet written a symphony
And my poetry? Crude, simple verse.
My theorems, my physical theories
And technologies, frankly, are worse

I question the meaning(s) of living,
And I question the Meaning Of Life…
Do my shortcomings say I’m not human?
That’s the viewpoint of some (take my wife*).


(**I can quote Henny Youngman, though.)

So, yeah, this is a followup to yesterday’s. In the comments over at NPR, Gleiser is challenged by his colleague Barbara King for his claim that dinosaurs were “stupid”. He clarifies that he means human intelligence, rather than animal intelligence:

By human intelligence I mean the ability to create symphonies, poetry, theorems, physical theories, technologies, to be able to question the meaning of existence and the meaning of intelligence.

Of course, I am reminded of the scene from “I, Robot”: Detective Del Spooner asks (mostly rhetorically) “Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot take a blank canvas and turn it into a masterpiece?” Sonny replies, simply, “Can you?”


  1. says

    Dinos not intelligent??

    [This from one of my old essays]
    … from my observations of us here and now it seems clear that one obvious sign of civilization is mass extinction.

    Perhaps all that would be left of intelligence after 50, 60, 70 million years would be some soot and maybe odd distributions of rare metals platinum or, say, iridium and a lot of extinct species (though that last is no doubt a negative we can’t prove). And now we come to it, do you think that there is any way that you can prove that the dinosaurs didn’t develop intelligence and civilization (it has only taken us a few tens of thousands of years; tops: and they potentially had millions) and then (again to judge by ourselves) immediately develop weapons of mass destruction and then didn’t almost as immediately destroy themselves in pointless wars?

    That asteroid thingy was (if, that is, it actually were) probably just the gilt on the gingerbread….
    From Aping the Dinosaurs

  2. says

    Intelligence spans a continuing scale
    From rawest instinct to encoded Braille,
    And at its most abstracted stage,
    The self-aware enlightenment age.

    When mankind’s brains can diagnose
    Their own operations written in prose,
    Debugging the gap twixt the thought and the real,
    And linking a course from chance to ideal,

    Then can we speak of intelligent plan,
    With the designer lodged in the mind of man.
    We turn Nature’s stuff into tools for life
    But yet can’t deprogram our penchant for strife.

    Until our ideas come under control,
    Our software professes to be our soul,
    When what’s needed is an evolution
    For reason to reach an intelligent solution.

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