- Charles Darwin argued that a continuity of mind exists between humans and other animals, a view that subsequent scholars have supported.
- But mounting evidence indicates that, in fact, a large mental gap separates us from our fellow creatures. Recently the author identified four unique aspects of human cognition.
- The origin and evolution of these distinctive mental traits remain largely mysterious, but clues are emerging slowly.
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Not too long ago three aliens descended to Earth to evaluate the status of intelligent life. One specialized in engineering, one in chemistry and one in computation. Turning to his colleagues, the engineer reported (translation follows): “All of the creatures here are solid, some segmented, with capacities to move on the ground, through the water or air. All extremely slow. Unimpressive.” The chemist then commented: “All quite similar, derived from different sequences of four chemical ingredients.” Next the computational expert opined: “Limited computing abilities. But one, the hairless biped, is unlike the others. It exchanges information in a manner that is primitive and inefficient but remarkably different from the others. It creates many odd objects, including ones that are consumable, others that produce symbols, and yet others that destroy members of its tribe.”
“But how can this be?” the engineer mused. “Given the similarity in form and chemistry, how can their computing capacity differ?” “I am not certain,” confessed the computational alien. “But they appear to have a system for creating new expressions that is infinitely more powerful than those of all the other living kinds. I propose that we place the hairless biped in a different group from the other animals, with a separate origin, and from a different galaxy.” The other two aliens nodded, and then all three zipped home to present their report.
This article was originally published with the title Origin of the Mind.