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2006 Annual Science Report

University of Hawaii, Manoa Reporting  |  JUL 2005 – JUN 2006

The Evolution of Intelligence Under Environmental Change

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is forced to confront the questions of “What is intelligence?”, “Under what conditions can it evolve?” and “How can we detect it?”. These questions
are related to, but distinct from, questions about the definition, evolution and detection of life. Detecting intelligence can be a difficult task, and instead of testing for intelligence directly, we propose a set of features considered to be sufficient for intelligence, and explore their evolutionary advantages and disadvantages under a range of scenarios. Two features identified in this research are adaptation to novel situations on individual timescales (i.e. learning) and transmission of successful strategies over generations (i.e. recorded communication), and we focus the adaptiveness of these features with respect to a changing environment. We hypothesize that certain environmental profiles favor the emergence of intelligent species while other environmental profiles favor simpler forms of life.

In past years, we have developed two distinct simulations that test the effect different levels of intelligence have on a species’ ability to adapt to changing environments. These simulations take into consideration the various characteristics of r and K-strategist organisms and a given environmental profile in order to predict the survival rate for each type of organism. This year, we verified the integrity of the simulations by replicating the successes and failures of two species for which detailed population and environment histories are known: northern fur seals and Stellar sea lions. Our model predicts the performance of these populations very well; however, the simulation parameter settings, although extrapolated from real world conditions, need further justification. The next steps are to provide further support for our model by demonstrating its effectiveness for a wider range of species.