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Human Versus Animal Intelligence

Human intelligence as depth

The consensus among ordinary people is that humans are the most intelligent species on Earth. However, the world of academia is more interested in countering human hubris, reminding us that, "We're not so special after all." Other species have tool-use, memories, emotions, self-reflection, language, culture, art, creativity, logical thinking, and so on. Every few months a new popular science article reveals something new about animals, whether it's how crows can remember the location of 10,000 objects or how sea lions can deduce transitive logic (if a = b and b = c, then a = d).

If we use basic categories, such as memory, to separate ourselves, then humans are indeed not unique. The rest of the Animal Kingdom has some combination of all the basic pillars of our intelligence. But what's different is our depth. Dolphins have language, but their language can't tell stories. Chimpanzees can use novel tools, but they can't learn a thousand of them like we can.

It's obvious we're smarter than other animals just by looking at the end-points of our endeavors: no other animal writes, does algebra, builds fires, builds ships, or uses computers. No one is contesting the uniqueness of the results of our intelligence. But we don't define human intelligence as fire-building or as computer-usage. So, if we can't delineate human intelligence by its foundations (memories, speech, culture, etc.) nor by its end-points, we have to use something in-between. That middle-ground could be that while all other animals share our basic faculties, they don't have it to the extent that we do. Or as Darwin put it, "The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind."

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