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Old 10-10-2013, 02:08 PM
 
Location: Earth Wanderer, longing for the stars.
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Are Humans Inadvertently Helping Make Animals Smarter? | Alternet

essentially proved that animals with bigger brains tend to learn tests quicker, meaning they generally learn better.

What I was taught, decades ago, was that it was the amount of convolutions in the grey matter that was correlated with intelligence, and not brain size. Maybe that was wrong.
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Old 10-12-2013, 09:24 AM
 
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No, you're not wrong, but sheer brain size is a factor, too. Just think of the chimp-size brain of Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) compared to Homo sapiens. But our human brains have actually been shrinking in size for the past 60,000 years, while we've been getting socially smarter, so size is not the whole story.
But the article reminds me of sci-fi author David Brin's "Uplift" series, about humans in the future genetically altering certain animals to give them rationally thinking brains and language (not that I don't think they have that already, at a rudimentary level).
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Old 10-15-2013, 09:56 AM
 
Location: Earth Wanderer, longing for the stars.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clark Fork Fantast View Post
No, you're not wrong, but sheer brain size is a factor, too. Just think of the chimp-size brain of Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) compared to Homo sapiens. But our human brains have actually been shrinking in size for the past 60,000 years, while we've been getting socially smarter, so size is not the whole story.
But the article reminds me of sci-fi author David Brin's "Uplift" series, about humans in the future genetically altering certain animals to give them rationally thinking brains and language (not that I don't think they have that already, at a rudimentary level).
When I look at some dogs and cats I often wonder where they would be if they had human vocal chords. How many words would they learn? I mean, they can learn a lot now, what would happen then? Could they possibly read?
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Old 10-17-2013, 02:30 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clark Fork Fantast View Post
No, you're not wrong, but sheer brain size is a factor, too. Just think of the chimp-size brain of Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) compared to Homo sapiens. But our human brains have actually been shrinking in size for the past 60,000 years, while we've been getting socially smarter, so size is not the whole story.
But the article reminds me of sci-fi author David Brin's "Uplift" series, about humans in the future genetically altering certain animals to give them rationally thinking brains and language (not that I don't think they have that already, at a rudimentary level).
Also bear in mind that a bigger body requires more brain mass dedicated to motor function. Neanderthals had a larger brain capacity, but it was likely dedicated to driving their superior athleticism.

The "convolutions" of the cerebral cortex add surface area. Most of what it is to be a human happens at the very surface of the cerebral cortex. The conscious "you" that is a rational, problem solving being who learns and remembers is just a few layers of cells thick, so the important calculation may be the surface area of the "unfolded" cerebral cortex rather than the actual displacement. The reason convolutions are interesting is because a more "wrinkly" brain will have a greater surface area and, therefore, more neuron bodies.

As far as humans making animals smarter, sure. We can select for smarter dogs through selective breeding and we can also select for more resourceful raccoons, more clever coyotes, more wary deer, etc. etc. by the variety of intentional, direct, indirect and unintentional pressures that our activities place on creatures in our immediate and extended environment. It is the nature of life on this planet that every living thing is adaptive and overcoming.
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Old 10-17-2013, 02:55 PM
 
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Originally Posted by goldengrain View Post
When I look at some dogs and cats I often wonder where they would be if they had human vocal chords. How many words would they learn? I mean, they can learn a lot now, what would happen then? Could they possibly read?
Doubtful. Part of human psychology and physiology is being able to recognize abstract signs. I think humans are the only creatures that can "cut sign", or sight track. An image of a footprint in the mud means nothing to a dog, a lion, an elephant or a chimpanzee. You (or an experienced tracker) can look at a track in the mud and understand how old the track is, which direction the animal that left it was traveling, whether it was walking or running, what species, etc. etc. (of course, canids and felids can probably smell more information than we can see from a track), and I think that this abstract visual ability is probably part and parcel of the human emergent properties of sophisticated art and complex written language - which, I believe, are unique to humans (at least among mammals).

Some birds appear to exhibit amazing abstract problem-solving abilities and they do it all without a cerebral cortex. Their thinking must be REALLY alien to our own. I actually think that birds are more highly evolved creatures with better body plans and senses than mammals. Our lungs, for example, are just like reptillian lungs. It's just a reciprocating bag like a simple bellows. Inefficient. Residual air space that appears to be fundamentally flawed and wasteful. Birds don't have residual air in their lungs. When they breathe, all of the gas volume is exchanged. Efficient. They have better vision without question and they seem to have worked out how to do A LOT with very little actual brain mass. Birds all have a black belt in evolving.
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