We generally tend to think about intelligence as something that describes only one individual. But it is possible to explain all varieties of collectives as intelligent, too – whether or not we are talking approximately social groups of humans, enclaves of insects, or maybe the mysterious behavior of slime mold & viruses.
By extension, could intelligence be found on a much grander scale – possibly that of a whole planet? In a newly published paper, a crew of space scientists explores this tantalizing question, attaining a few unexpected conclusions about our very own Earth.
“An open question is whether or not intelligence can function on the planetary scale, and if so, how a transition to planetary-scale intelligence may occur and whether or not it has already happened or is on our near-term horizon,” the team writes.
They notice that understanding this query should help us to steer the future of our planet; however, consistent with their own criteria, it looks as if we are not there yet.
“We do not yet have the ability to communally respond in the great interests of the planet,” says astrophysicist Adam Frank from the University of Rochester.
“There is intelligence on Earth, however there is not planetary intelligence.”
According to the researchers, emergence of technological intelligence on a planet, a common reference factor in astrobiology research, have to possibly be viewed not as something that occurs on a planet however to a planet.
In such an interpretation, the evolution of planetary intelligence could constitute the acquisition and application of a collective body of knowledge working throughout a complex system of various species on the same time, and in a harmonious manner that benefits or sustains the complete biosphere.
Unfortunately – and obviously – humans and Earth aren’t at that point yet.
In fact, Frank and his co-authors say we have got only made it to the third level in their hypothetical timeline for the development of planetary intelligence.
In the first stage, feature of a very early Earth, a planet with an ‘immature biosphere’ develops existence, however there are insufficient feedback loops among life and geophysical processes for co-evolution of various types of life.
In the second stage, the “mature biosphere” has developed.
Next, a planet could end up the third stage: an ‘immature technosphere’, in which Earth presently is. In this stage, technological activity has developed at the planet, however it is not but sustainably incorporated with different systems, which includes the physical environment.
If these tensions can be resolved, however, an immature technosphere stands a chance to develop to the very last stage: the ‘mature technosphere’, wherein feedback loops among technological activity and different biogeochemical and biogeophysical states act in sync to make certain most stability and productivity of the entire system.
This idealized state is in which Earth have to be trying to get to, the researchers argue. “Planets evolve via immature and mature stages, and planetary intelligence is indicative of while you get to a mature planet,” says Frank.
“The million-dollar question is identifying what planetary intelligence looks like and way for us in practice because we do not know the way to move to a mature technosphere yet.”
According to the researchers, we presently sit on a precipice, wherein our collective actions definitely have global consequences, however we aren’t but in control of these consequences.
If, in tandem with different forces at the planet, we can develop a balance in which those consequences end up controlled, we would sooner or later evolve – as a planet – to the next level.
“A transition to planetary intelligence, as we defined here, could have the hallmark property of intelligence working at a planetary scale,” the researchers write in their paper.
“Such planetary intelligence could be able to steering the future evolution of Earth, acting in concert with planetary systems and guided through a deep understanding of such systems.”
The paper was published in International Journal of Astrobiology.