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Nella mente di una balena [EN]

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Come si fa a entrare nella mente degli “alieni” più intelligenti tra quelli a noi accessibili, se questa mente pesa dieci volte quella degli umani e il corpo dell’alieno non potrebbe mai entrare in una macchina per la risonanza magnetica? Ne parla Hakai Magazine, che pubblica un estratto del libro di Tom Mustill How to Speak Whale: A Voyage into the Future of Animal Communication.

Trying to infer from brains and their structures which animals are “better” at cognition and ranking animal brains in order of “intelligence” is as treacherous as it is tempting. Stan Kuczaj, who spent his lifetime studying the cognition and behavior of different animals, put it bluntly: “We suck at being able to validly measure intelligence in humans. We’re even worse when we try to compare species.” Intelligence is a slippery concept and perhaps unmeasurable. As mentioned earlier, many biologists conceive of it as an animal’s ability to solve problems. But because different animals live in different environments with different problems, you can’t really translate scores of how well their brains perform. A brain attribute is not simply “good” or “bad” for thinking, but rather varies depending on the situation and the thinking that brain needs to undertake. Intelligence is a moving target.

L’argomento è affrontato anche in un articolo di OPB (una radio pubblica americana) ma con un focus diverso: i cefalopodi.

What makes the octopuses’ mind so foreign to ours is not just that they evolved intelligence in a cold, dark, underwater setting, nor that our last common ancestor was a worm some 350 million years ago — although those things certainly help. The key difference is that the majority of the cephalopod’s neurons are not in a central brain. They’re spread out between the arms and suckers, which do a lot of thinking on their own. It’s like if our arms and fingers could process the world on their own.

Sivitilli calls it distributed intelligence, and it’s the focus of his research at Friday Harbor Laboratories in the San Juan Islands.

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