Too intelligent for all of ya
04. April 2023 • 2 Minuten
“Instinct” continues to be the explanation of choice whenever animal behavior implies too much intelligence. Are we going to do the same to machines?
Most of us are familiar with the remarkable navigational abilities of migrating birds, which are able to find their way to specific nesting grounds across continents. When I learned about this, I was told that it was “instinct.” (“Instinct” continues to be the explanation of choice whenever animal behavior implies too much intelligence.) Instinct, though, wouldn’t go very far in explaining how pigeons use human transportation routes to navigate. Pigeons follow highways and take particular exits, likely following many of the same landmarks as the humans driving below.
Intelligence used to be narrowly defined as intellectual ability (book smarts); we now consider multiple intelligences, such as visual-spatial, interpersonal, emotional, and musical. A cheetah is not intelligent because it can run fast. But its uncanny ability to map space — to find the hypotenuse, to anticipate and counter the movements of prey — is a kind of mental work that matters. To write this off as instinct makes as much sense as equating the kick that results from a physician’s mallet tapping your knee to your being able to successfully take a penalty kick in a soccer game.
— Jonathan Safran Foer (Eating Animals, chapter “Words / Meaning”)