Why does intelligence exist at all?

I’ve been thinking about the points I made in my previous post and I’ve come to, what I think, is a rational explanation of why intelligence exists. While I’m also interested in the evolution of intelligence, because working your way backwards leads to the ultimate reason for intelligence, it seems to me that the overall start of intelligence is what we really want. This is just an overview of my thoughts. There are a lot of deeper examples and time lines that go with these thoughts, but please forgive the lack of research for now. This could all probably fit in a book which I don’t have time to write because I need to be coding! Anyway…

So why does intelligence even exist? What are the basic building blocks? The two basic building blocks in my mind are Light and Sound. Let’s look at Light first.

Early multi-celled organisms on planet Earth evolved to the point where they were being bombarded with photons coming from the Sun. This was a critical part of their environment. The first organisms to fully exploit this were plants. Plants started using sunlight as a means of making light energy into chemical energy (photosynthesis). Other organisms would evolve to use light as an advantage to navigate around their environment for finding food or evading predators.

The first light-detecting cells were very primitive. A simple on or off cell. Light or no light. As these cells evolved they started taking into account the brightness of the light. This in turn led to more tuned evolutionary advantages. Finding better hiding spots, better sources of food, and so on. The more the organism harnessed light the better chance it had to survive.

Color recognition came next and further expanded the advantages of advanced light-detecting cells. At some point along this evolutionary path came the dueling light cells. Left and right eyes for dealing with the three-dimensional world that these organisms were evolving. Things were really starting to come into focus, and coming into focus at quite the exponential rate.

Somewhere along the way in this evolutionary journey came the detection of sound waves. This could have been the slight detection of a change in pressure around some cells or the reaction to vibrations caused by sound. These adaptations were useful for avoiding predators, identifying similar organisms, or even for detecting larger organisms with which to feed off of.

As the organisms evolved so did their breakdown of sound. Very much like the evolution of light processing, sound processing started growing exponentially from being able to detect low and high frequencies, judging distances, to being able to distinguish between a very large collection of different sounds made by different organisms. Add in the three dimensional collection of sound via dual ear-like mechanisms and sound is off on the same exponential path as light.

These improvements are both fine and good by themselves, but it is when they are combined together that they really start to take off. By combining visual feedback with audible feedback there comes a third sense that is the product of the two: audio-visual sensations. Visual clues are reinforced by audio clues and vice versa. The amount of information from the surrounding environment that can be used for survival grows at an astronomical rate. (Literally. Billions and billions of ways. Thanks Carl.)

There are other senses that these organisms develop and use for survival too. Smell, taste, and touch. But I believe these senses are absolutely dwarfed in comparison to being able to sense light and sound. Light and sounds are an always on perception. While the other senses have their moments when they have to step up to the plate and sense something they are moments few and far between when compared to sight and listening.

In the same sense (ha!) sound pales in comparison to light. The processing of sound is at least a handful orders of magnitude less than light. It is important, but nowhere near as important as light.

I want to end this post by, again, noting that I have not used any references here. There are a lot of things I am taking for granted, a lot of things that need to be explained better, and probably more than a few holes. The overall idea remains the same however. Intelligence comes from the presence of Light and Sound, with light being the dominant force. Light is the genesis of intelligence.

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