OK. That Sun like headline title was purposely designed to sensationalise but, really, at last I have some science to help me make a point I have raised time and time again.
In previous original posts or comments, I have often tried to dampen down the human Mighty Man complex we have whenever we boast about our superiority over the plant and animal kingdom … certainly as far as intelligence is concerned and in posts relating to artificial or machine intelligence, I have often stated that higher intelligence isn’t and needn’t be viewed as being only in the realms of us humans, having previously cited the intelligence of problem solving birds, co-operating ants and Honey bees that could actually calculate and triangulate position as accurately as any electronic device.
I’d previously made the point that really clever thinking could take place with organisms that didn’t really have a brain at all and I’d debated the argument that future machines, humanoids or Internet of Things based devices will have an understanding of their/our world to such a degree that they will be as self aware and sentient as human beings - but just in a different way.
My point, always being that we should not judge other creatures or machine like intelligence as being either inferior or sub par when compared with human intelligence just because that intelligence is not manifest in a familiar format like our own.
Everything I’ve mentioned, I’d claim, also applies to intellectual thought too; with intelligence being a means of amassing information and intellectual prowess being a means of usefully processing aforementioned intelligence based information.
ANYWAY. All over today’s news and internet, we are just learning that Honey bees, (using less than a million neurons), can conceptualise via abstract thought; can count, use symbols to perform mathematical calculations and hold a concept of zero as well as being able to utilise both long term and short term memory, (to calculate using short term memory and to remember the task/ongoing sum using long term memory),
As theconversation website elegantly reported, “Our new findings show that learning symbolic arithmetic operators to enable addition and subtraction is possible with a miniature brain. This suggests there may be new ways to incorporate interactions of both long-term rules and working memory into designs to improve rapid AI learning of new problems.” (I'd add/use the word machine learning but calling it AI is still ok) :-)
So … Although human civilisation has relied upon being able to use its big primate brain to build its society, (or count its bottom line during trading), the Honey bee research in the news today just underlines the fact that “being real smart” in the animal or plant kingdom does not require the industry of some big, energy consuming brain; something I’ve been banging on about for years to qualify why a machine mind, (with trillions of equivalent neurons), is likely to be able to out-think us humans easily … probably within our own lifetimes … without needing to demonstrate any human like means of thinking we traditionally associate with higher intelligence.
OR, as the inverse website headlined, “Honeybees That Solve Math Problems Challenge Supremacy of Human Brains”.
Oh. And the next time you attempt to step on a spider, be aware, because some spiders have an ability to recognise individual faces so it’ll be able to recognise you in a mug shot … if interviewed by the police! :-)
NOTE. On Wiki’s “List of animals by number of neurons”, there is a vast scrolling list of creatures rated by neuron brain capacity (with Humans in 2nd place right near the bottom with 16,000,000,000 neurones), yet, starting from the other end, Honey bees come in with 960,000 neurones only 17 places down from sponges.
Honey bees - supposedly in the top 20 of near brainless organisms … yet they can apply abstract thought … just like us humans!
I'm not surprised about bee's an individual bee might not be very clever but the hive knows everything that happens to its members and as a group they're incredibly clever, I think whilst we've known about the hive mind, we've not really explored it until recently.
I think we underestimate the intelligence of many creatures, even the ones we think we know well, sheep recognise dozens of different faces, including those of humans. The theres ones we know less well such as the great apes, who seem to be as good as us at many problem solving tasks, my favourites though are the Orangutans in a sanctuary who adopted a dog and a giraffe midwifing another giraffe. The pregnant giraffe was in labour and was a first time mum and seemed to want to push against something which was stopping her calf being born, another older female came up to her and stood behind aloing the labouring giraffe to use her to push against, the calf was born slipping between the front legs of the midwife. That was thought on the part of the midwife giraffe, recognising a problem, and coming up with a solution and acting it out.
It's the opposite, apparently, Hen.
A single bee acts individually … not like a collection of ants acting together. That's the amazing, remarkable, thing
And, yes, the Great Apes are scarily close to humans in understanding and vocalising their (and our) world.
Have you watched the documentary about Koko the gorilla? (After you see that documentary, you could never view the animal kingdom in the same way again). Look up "A Conversation With Koko The Gorilla: Full Documentary" on YouTube.
Koko, from birth, grew up with the same human family, being taught sign language.
She loved a book called "Three little kittens" and was always asking it to be read to her. Koko signed, "Kittens Good".
Eventually Koko asked for a kitten by signing "Cat Gorrilla Have visit. Koko love."
Koko names the kitten "All Ball" because she looked like a little ball.
The kitten she had asked for company … later, got run over in the road!
Koko was able to , fluently, describe her bereavement.
There is a funny side to the documentary too though.
Koko expressed a wish to be introduced to a mate … so video tapes were sent to her and she, critically, judged each potential gorilla suiter.
I won't relate further tales because a viewer should uncover the joy of this documentary themselves.
"A Conversation With Koko The Gorilla: Full Documentary" on YouTube.
I saw that when it was on telly, it made me really sad for her to be so desperately wanting a mate and a baby, but not being able to find happiness.
You're right it is amazing, I didn't know that individual bees are really intelligent as well as being a hive mind. I think the more we find out about other creatures we share the planet with the more amazing it becomes and how terrible that so many people see the natural world as dead, souless matter that humans can do what they like to. I was really pleased that Sir David Attenborough was asked to represent the peoples and the planet herself at the recent Davos summit, I don't think Gaia could have a better representative, probably most of the people there had grown up watching Attenborough.
Bees also forage for information. Not just food, nectar or other resources. They actually go flying about with some abstract objective to case a joint … and we can see this when we spot a single bee exploring a flower bed or a hole in brickwork to establish a nest or sanctuary. (A different scenario/method than a hive mind acting as one collectively amassing info OR a battalion of ants exploring/crowd sourcing and stumbling on resources by accident … although that method is brilliant once the news is spread and acted upon.
Bees learn categories, sequences, combinations and the changes involved with either taking something now or allowing some future event to enhance a reward for later over time.
So really, with only a million neurons, (at the bottom of the list when it comes to brain power), Honey bees, somehow, approach problems, (and then answers to them), using short and long term memory in a similar manner we might adopt.
Crows are awesomely intelligent too, being able to fashion tools, solve complex puzzles, (like raising water a level by dropping stones into a container to reach floating titbits otherwise beyond reach) … and there is a particular fishing Heron that doesn't fish in the traditional way that heron's fish, (by wading into water or spearing fish with a sharp beak), Rather, some heron actually fish using small insects as bait, to encourage their fish prey to swim up into range of being eaten. (That's abstract thought, tool territory as well).
And a few minutes ago, while mooching about online, I read that even single celled organisms can organise (or influence) other organisms in a manner only thought possible for multi-cellular life and even microbes and bacteria that are fairly underwhelming on their own can, perform comprehensive manoeuvres as a population although I guess we rarely think about bacteria in the singular anyway.
All this leads me to want to ask a slightly different question.
I mean; like the mice we use for experiments in a laboratory, humans have adopted the Honey bee as a creature to study out of expediency. (Easy to breed. Easy to study, etc) but it begs the question, (a bit like what happened to Koko) …
Is it the case that if we spent the same time studying other creatures the way we study Honey bees, (or Koko the gorilla), there is a good chance that we would discover that, perhaps, abstract thought, long and short term memory and complex problem solving abilities might never have just been, (with few exceptions), the single domain of "Man" but that, (perhaps) most or all of the living things in nature have exactly the same tools available, though perhaps such tools and abstract thought is manifest in ways we humans just don't always recognise?
Heck. Even some trees in Africa send out warnings to their brethren trees nearby, (via their root systems), to warn their neighbours that a herd of antelope has just arrived and are starting to eat their leaves.
And what do all the other nearby trees do with such vital, useful, information?
They go into 'battle mode' and start secreting poisons into their own leaves … our turn their leaves bitter by infusing chemicals into their capillaries … rendering themselves too unpalatable to be considered good eating.
Mind blowing, eh?