Before we get to the science of uplift.... Announcing the re-release this week of all of my Uplift novels from Open Road publications - all of them recently re-edited, with fresh cover artwork and newly written introductions!It all starts with my first uplift novel - my first published work of any kind - Sundiver, a murder mystery largely set right at (on?) the sun! And yes, the whodunnit part works... as do the characters and the physics!
Researchers have recently identified a key molecular switch that can make ape brain organoids grow more like human organoids, and vice versa, and may help explain why human brains grow much larger, with three times as many neurons, compared with chimpanzee and gorilla brains. (And you don't think secret labs are already doing this? Transparency!)
“A study, published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology, looked at 134 male and female bottlenose dolphins from eight facilities across the world, with each dolphin’s personality being assessed by staff at the facilities. The results of the study found a convergence of certain personality traits, especially curiosity and sociability.... The most widely accepted model of human personality is defined by five traits -- openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.”
It sounds to me like there’s a lot of overlap there, but comparison to apes and dolphins remains interesting. And yes, Startide Rising, remains a favorite among dolphin researchers!
As for humans… I find it odd that bad forms of addiction are seldom correlated with positive behavior-reinforcement mechanisms - e.g. “addicted to love” of family, children, and skill - that use identical neural and chemical pathways! That is doubtless the reason why addictive pathways exist in the first place!
== Is sapience a galactic imperative, driven by evolution? ==
In “Terrestrial biological evolution and its implication for SETI,” Jean-Pierre Rospars theorizes that human and super-human intelligence are natural and expected outcomes under Darwinian evolution.
“A frequent opinion among biologists upholds that biological evolution is contingent and, consequently, that man's apparition is a random event of very small probability. We present various arguments against this view, based on chemistry, molecular biology, evolutionary convergences, the existence of physical constraints on the structure of living beings, and the evidence of acceleration in the evolution of many features, e.g. brain size, over geological times.
"Taken together they suggest that “laws” of evolution exist and may have a universal validity. We extend this view to the evolution of “intelligence”. We show that it is an essential aspect of biological evolution and that human cultural evolution is just another aspect of it. Finally, we argue that brains more complex than the human brain are conceivable, endowed not merely with quantitatively better functions but with qualitatively higher cognitive abilities, of the kind found in the transition from, say, dog to man.
"This thesis predicts that the usual concept of advanced civilizations merely separated by huge distances is too restrictive. It favours a different concept, in which the separation results predominantly from cognitive, i.e. temporal factors. This idea, far from being discouraging, offers a stimulating solution to Fermi's paradox and opens new ways to SETI.”
I have four reasons to doubt this.
1- Ernst Mayr's observation that it took Earth 4 billion years to make one - just one - sapient race out of billions of actual species, and that one almost vanished several times.
2- A certain baseline level of intelligence - simple semantic skill and basic manipulative tool use - appears to erupt quite often in nature... dolphins,
apes some monkeys, sea lions, elephants, corvids/crows, parrots, even octopi, all seem to crowd under pretty much the same glass ceiling, implying that such levels truly are common emergent properties, as proposed in the paper. Perhaps velociraptors did reach that same level.
Alas, that didn't ultimately help them. The significant lesson from this commonality of threshold sentience is that Nature and Darwin are generous up to that point and extremely stingy about going beyond.
3- Yes, we humans shattered that glass ceiling by orders of magnitude, especially in the Great Reprogramming Revolution that I speak of, in EXISTENCE. And yet, despite that incredible leap -- I deem that rarity of ceiling-smashing at the top of my list of "fermi" explanations for the Great Silence across the galaxy!
Oh, sure. We still crest at a level that averages just below what it may take to solve our obstinate cultural stupidities - like feudalism, the dour, lobotomizing system that dominated 99% of our ancestors. Worse, evidence suggests that it is very hard to get smarter than our current smartest. Elite intellectual families like the Huxleys show what happens when brilliant people marry brilliant people. All too often, mental and neurological instabilities are rife as offspring dance along a razor's edge.
4. A good case is made that the most-rare event or fluke in Earth’s life story was the one-time joining of two separate genetic trees. “It’s the scientific consensus that a primordial eukaryote emerged 1.5 billion years ago when a less complex cell tried to ingest an anaerobic bacterium but was unable to digest it. The stalemate turned into a symbiotic relationship in which the bacterium became the power supply to the host cell, which provided a safe environment for it to thrive in return. Today we refer to the powerhouse of the cell as the Mitochondria.”
The resulting eukaryotes proliferated and experimented with multicellulatity for 800 million years before suddenly getting the hang of it and bursting forth with the Cambrian explosion of complex forms, including us. Moreover, if that combination fluke truly was both necessary and hugely rare, well, when we descendants of that marriage forge across the galaxy, we may just find… soup.
5. Of all possible theories for the Fermi Paradox, just five satisfy my requirement for plausibility. As I said just above, number one (in my book) would be the notion that human levels of ambitious, constantly-reprogramming intelligence is likely extremely rare, which implies we may be this galaxy’s one chance for an “elder race” to go rescue everyone else. (Also alluded-to in both my serious future-projection novel Existence and in my sci fi comedy The Ancient Ones.)
Another of those Five Plausibles? Well, I alluded to this one, as well. The sick, lobotomizing trap of feudalism sucked in 99% of human post agricultural societies, rewarding those males who took such power, ruining their civilizations while winning Darwinian reproductive advantages for themselves. The evolutionary imperative is so clear -- you see it throughout nature, from stallions to elephant seals -- that the amazing thing is that ANY sapient race found an alternative path, as we have done. A narrow, rarely tried path of Periclean-egalitarian enlightenment.
If this periclean experiment fails... if dullard-stoopid oligarchy succeeds at re-establishing its tedious/boring/lobotomizing pyramid of privilege again, then we may have our Fermi Paradox answer. And the galaxy may have to wait for someone else to break through that trap.
== Going to the dogs! ==
Interesting advances in the origin story of dogs, perhaps domesticated by isolated Siberian human communities around 25,000 years ago, before migrating together to the Americas.
And they may not be anywhere near at full potential, being our best friends! Much is made – of late – about how dogs are being used to sniff out early signs of disease in people. See, for example, Doctor Dogs: How Our Best Friends Are Becoming our Best Medicine, by Maria Goodavage. Today, dogs have been trained and proven useful in detecting breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, melanoma, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, malaria, Covid-19, and the onset of epileptic seizures, narcolepsy, and migraines. They can do this by sniffing breath, blood, urine, sweat, or even tissue swabs or socks / clothing from the subject.
As explained by Strategic News Service’s Mark Anderson: “It would appear that the canine nose, with its 200-300 million stereoscopic sensors (vs. 5 million in humans), aerated at up to 300 pants per minute and processed by 35% of the brain (vs. 5% in humans), is exquisitely sensitive, and eminently trainable, to detect whatever the dog, or you, are interested in.” Alas, dogs tire easily and there is an inability to apply metrics to their performance. So the search is on for artificial nose technology. (Which would have many other uses.)
== To uplift... cats? Or not? ==
Why did I "uplift" dolphins and chimps in the main uplift novels... and parrots elsewhere and allude to dogs... but not cats?
Well, not to neglect the felines... here's an image that's cute! prrrr. David Larks's lovely cat-uplift painting takes this idea in directions that are simultaneously way-cute and just a little worrisome! I am prompted to ponder Cordwainer Smith's "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell"! See the artist's gallery page.
Still, the trait of neoteny is one that dogs share with dolphins and humans... but cats not so much. Just saying. And anyway, you think I'm suicidal? No. Just no.
And finally....Neanderthal footprints exposed on a beach in Spain were fascinating enough. Only now it seems we can trace signs of young children at play!
See the range of great renewed Uplift Books to enjoy! ... and so much more!