Saturday, May 14, 2011

Advanced Intelligence... Without Art?

Continuing my riffing on the question of a possible advanced non-human intelligence and art, as originally posed by Rich Reynolds, one can look to science fiction for some clever, and I think realistic, speculation about how such an intelligence could evolve and be totally devoid of a need or use for anything even remotely resembling what we would call the arts.

Perhaps Doctor Who has covered it best over the years, with the creation of two classic villainous races, the Daleks and the Cybermen.

And of course there are the Borg from Star Trek, perhaps the greatest villain that the series ever had, because it was the one which represented a completely alien and truly existential threat to the Federation in a way that Klingons, Romulans and the Dominion did not - at least until the writers ruined it all by trying to make the Borg more... well, human. The Borg appeared as cybernetically enhanced humanoid drones of multiple species, organized as an interconnected collective, the decisions of which are made by a hive mind, linked to subspace domain.

They were scary, because they spoke to our fears about mechaization, artificial intelligence, and our own possible future someday.

None of these sci-fi villains would have had any use for art - the Borg and the Cybermen were concerned with assimilating technology, and humans to replenish their ranks, not culture, whereas the Daleks were bent on simple conquest, and all other species were considered inferior.

The point is that if we project into the far future (or is it really that far?), we can imagine such a cybernetic reality for ourselves, or any other advanced species... or perhaps a world where our creations have superceded us.

Indeed, the late Mac Tonnies was hardly alone in his fascination with the idea that someday we may be able to transcend our humanity, and become posthuman. But would such a species have any use for "the finer things" of life, particularly art in all of its myriad forms?

What use would Debussy string quartet be to a Dalek, or a Cezanne painting to a Cyberman, or the works of Bertolt Brecht to the Borg?

There is a very real possibility that art would be of no use at all. Indeed, for beings that in all cases came from "organic" origins, one might expect that they would view any form of art, with its attendant appeal to "humanity" and "emotion", as an abomination - an affront to the perfection of being that they had achieved.

Of course, this is just one possible answer to the question Rich raised about why ET doesn't seem interested in our art and culture, should it exist "out there" and be coming here. In fact, if life "out there" has developed beyond the biological form into something that we would call "artificial", it might well be that "they" have no use for, or even concept of, art and culture at all.

A sobering thought, particularly as it might also be a portent of our own bleak, emotionless future as a species.

Paul Kimball


Red Pill Junkie said...

Interesting thoughts, and yet current research in Neurology seems to suggest that the Vulcan ideal of pure Logic as a means to attain a superior intellect is a fallacy.

It is our human injection of emotion in our cognitive processes that which seems to enhance our grasp of the natural world. That might be the biggest obstacle cyberneticists have in the creation of true A.I.

Anonymous said...

I agree with RPJ. I'll go a step further and suggest that any intelligent species would almost certainly develop art or else there would be no science. Art is the expression of our creative nature. Without creativity we can not "think outside the box" as it were. The first time you come across something non-intuitive, it would be the end of your research.
I will go so far as to say, a non artistic intelligence would be a non-technology intelligence.

xarx said...

scientific research is based on detailed analysis and theoretic modeling (graphic charts, calculational formulas,etc.),not on art,intuition,or "thinking outside the box".Its hard work,not guessing.

Red Pill Junkie said...

@ xarx,

You'd be surprised to find all the important scientific discoveries that were the product of 'hunches', intuition, or even... dreams :)

As a designer, inspiration is one of my greatest interests; whereas Paul sees them as a very plausible example of contact between a non-human intelligence, I on the other hand sees it as the moment the human mind reconnects with the Divine in all of us.

In the end all human advancement is the product of "connecting the dots". It's always preferable when we are backed by an amount of evidence or observation, but sometimes there are quantum leaps that could be called, for lack of a better word, leaps of faith :)

Paul Kimball said...


Well said.


You might want to read my post on Against Method.


xarx said...

atheistic snobs(aka.sociopaths),and religious people have much lower intellectual capabilities then non-snobbish atheists > bacteria and viruses arr getting more resilient now what i mean !!!