Thursday, 13 July 2017


"The universe is rather bigger and more complicated than any given set of brains."
-Poul Anderson, "Lodestar" IN Anderson, The Earth Book Of Stormgate (New York, 1979), pp. 368-408 AT p. 389.

Is it? I thought that the human brain was more complex than anything else. See here.

Some will reply that the brain must be complex to generate self-consciousness and intelligence. However, mere complexity is insufficient to generate these phenomena. Below reflective self-consciousness, which includes intelligence, is mere consciousness of the environment and below that is immediate sensation, e.g., feeling hot or cold.

Consciousness requires interaction between two entities such that one of the entities becomes the subject and the other becomes the object of consciousness. These entities are an organism and its environment. Naturally selected organismic sensitivity to environmental alterations quantitatively increased until it was qualitatively transformed into conscious sensation. A complex central nervous system became necessary, and was naturally selected, to process immediate sensations into perceptions of discrete objects. Then, even greater complexity became necessary to think about the environment.

Thus, in the generation of intelligence, organism-environment interaction was primary and complexity was secondary. A mere complex artifact cannot be intelligent.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I would argue that the statement "The universe is rather bigger and more complicated than any given set of brains" can be defended. If we include as part of the meaning of "universe" intelligent races as well as dust, galaxies, stars, planets, etc., then it can rightly be said that the cosmos is more complex than any given set of brains.