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Adam I. Gerard
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Animal Societies

A few thoughts I had while bird-watching 🐥.

Fermi Paradox

Roughly:

  1. Given that there are billions of solar systems in our galaxy, each with stars and planets;
  2. And, given that many solar systems have at least one planet capable of supporting Earth-like conditions and life;
  3. And, given the vast timescales that planetary bodies have been around compared to the evolutionary timescales for humanity to reach its current technological level (particularly nascent spaceflight);

Why hasn't contact been made with or evidence been found of hundreds (or thousands) of advanced extra-terrestrial civilizations despite decades of deliberate attempts to do so?

In considering the Fermi Paradox, we arrive at two interesting strands of thought:

  1. Are there similar kinds of purported paradoxes afoot?
  2. Do answers to any of these paradoxes inform our answers to the others?

Smart Species "Paradox"

Consider the following recent discoveries about parrots:

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2016/nov/05/birds-intelligence-tools-crows-parrots-conservation-ethics-chickens
  2. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bird-brains-parrots-smarter/
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/grrlscientist/2018/07/12/what-makes-parrots-so-intelligent/#6404484a34e6

Ravens:

  1. https://www.popsci.com/ravens-smart-plan-ahead/
  2. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/07/ravens-problem-solving-smart-birds/
  3. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/raven-intelligence-memory-1.4204396
  4. https://www.audubon.org/news/like-humans-and-apes-ravens-have-foresight-save-future
  5. https://gizmodo.com/more-evidence-that-ravens-are-ridiculously-intelligent-1796882085

Factoid: ravens use tools (similarly to chimpanzees) - that is to say, ravens use technology.

And other birds:

  1. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/03/year-of-the-bird-brains-intelligence-smarts/
  2. https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/blogs/how-birds-are-so-smart-despite-small-brains

So, (using the Fermi Paradox as our guide here) I ask:

  1. If such animals are nearly as smart as we are (or smarter apparently), why isn't there an abundance of advanced non-human societies with technology rivaling our own here on Earth?
  2. After all, they've had tens of millions of years head-start on us (and we developed space flight in under 100,000 years).

Factoid: apparently, as many as 7 other hominids lived concurrently with homo sapiens sapiens.

Surplus and Society

I assert:

  1. That human societies emerge from a need to generate surplus (food, resources, etc.).
  2. Technology is the chief means by which to maximize surplus in an established society (productivity).

These two factors in turn derive from the anatomical limitations of being human. In earlier times, humans would travel 15KM to 60KM a day on foot.

Because of this inherent limitation, human societies emerged to produce local surpluses.

Most avians, by contrast, have the ability to migrate by flight (easily outpacing humans on the ground). The need for vast surpluses is diminished by that fact. And, therefore, the need for complex technologies and societies (despite the fact that avians may problem-solve or exhibit cognitive capacities nearly equivalent to humans in certain ways).

This flies in the face (yes, pun) of the notion that the absence of complex technologies and/or societies entails an absence of cognition or thinking-ability (which is likely an anthropocentric view).

Animals Governed Us?

Humorously, it turns out that many ancient societies were heavily dependent on other animal species for their decision-making:

  1. Roman augurs relied on literal chickens to decide major events like war campaigns or elections.
  2. Ancient Egyptian priests worshipped and sought guidance from cats.
  3. Consulting omens presented by birds was a common practice in aristocratic England (British Augury).
  4. Witch trials were decided by consulting how cats or animals like donkeys behaved. (Sometimes, unfortunately, being subject to trial themselves!)

When I realized this today, it dawned on me that what was common to many ancient civilizations is really a hitherto unnamed form of government:

What I shall here dub Eidocracy: literally, Eidos + Ocracy or rule by another species!

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