Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Madanapalle scale of sentience

Er.. this stupid site does not support superscripts, so wherever numebrs just suddenly appear, refer to them at the bottom of the article. I have not said anything about the need for this, but jsut how I went about it...

This is somewhat of a joke, but…

The Madanapalle scale of sentience

Motivation here means simply why creatures do stuff. Here, sentience is calibrated based on motivation. Fleas drink blood, parrots eat nuts, and men eat food for the same reason. Fleas just suck, parrots crack the nuts, chimps use primitive tools like licking a stick, than using it to extract ants from an anthill, and men prepare their food, but still, as their motivation for doing this, is the same, no one is actually better off than the other. But fleas can communicate only with the help of chemicals, which to for very primal reasons like attracting a mate. Parrots can be taught to talk, but they cannot communicate anything with humans, as far as we know now. However, they do communicate with each other for things equivalent to the location of food, and a prime spot for building a nest, as well as build in mating rituals, over which they have no control, and are on flea-level there. They also have somewhat primitive motivations. Chimps, can convey emotions like hunger and sadness with humans, and have a pretty good co-ordination with other chimps. Chimps unlike parrots, have a motivation for being comfortable, and that’s why they can communicate emotions like hunger and sadness. Humans, however manage to communicate with parrots, chimps and to a very good degree with other humans and have an exteremely high degree of sentience. That is why “motivation” is a very convenient thing to use to make a scale for sentience. Sentience can be considered to be the inverse of predictability. For example, you absolutely know what ants are going to do when a cube of sugar is dropped near an anthill. But what will a baby do when you give it a cube of sugar? It may eat it, fiddle with it, throw it away, play with it in various ways, or stick it in his nose… The greater the sentience, the lesser the predictability.
We cannot say we are sentient because we have built complex machines and have the power to change energy from one form to another, and are the first species to make calculators. This would be because the sentient leap form say, chimps or dolphins to humans would be very large and a scale is supposed to be gradual. Instead, again, I looked at the motivation. There is something that motivates man to build machines, dolphins cannot imagine the future of their race or tribe or whatever they have, and take steps to protect it, but we can. They have a totally different set of motivations. It’s the thoughts that count here, and not the actions. The one about electronics and calculators would come on a scale of manipulation of the universe, universe in the sense of our surroundings.

Robotic, automated, unchangeable motivation. Heavy reliance on chemicals, hormones and enzymes for provision of motivation. Very limited range of interaction with surroundings. Hence, a very high degree of predictability.
E.g. ants, bees, butterflies

Instinct based motivation, little change of behavior over life span, prime motives being food and propogation of species. Inability to learn new behavior, short memory span. Instinct takes over during danger.
E.g. goldfish, crab, slugs

Ability to make a mental map of the surroundings, ability to learn from mistakes, ability to adapt to new surroundings. These animals “learn” to live in totally unnatural surroundings, like mazes or white boxes in which food appears only on the press of a button.
E.g. Mice, chicken, rabbits

Ability to use crude tools, ability to distinguish different forms of danger and react accordingly, instead of one standard approach to any form of danger.1 Greater potential to adapt to newer surroundings. Ability to display rudimentary emotions like hurt and pride. Are also more adept at navigating mazes, and learn more quickly from mistakes.
E.g. Crows, parrots

Complex problem solvers, can break out of unnatural containments in different ways, show a rudimentary sense of affection with children, which is more than the natural maternal care. Quick learners, ability for complex interaction with objects.2
E.g. Moose, otters

Ability to be easily trained by humans, and understand simple human commands. Have massive long-term memories, and capable of exteremely complex interactions with world objects. Learn and adapt very quickly. Motivation of a small degree of comfort, but mostly towards food and rearing of young. Understanding and distinguishing sense with regard to threatening situations, like a butcher walks in with a knife to kill it, and a butcher approaching to feed it, or a butcher walking in to kill another creature. However, inability of, and lack of motivation towards play, beyond necessary training for survival.
E.g. pigs, horses, goats, cows

Ability to feel affection for humans, and other world objects. (Dogs get attached to blankets, rugs etc). Motivations include appreciation, and love. Ability to learn complex tricks, as well as reason for these. Will “show off” in the presence of receptive humans. Ability and motivation to play, and learn skills beyond what is necessary for survival.
E.g. seals, dogs, cats

Exteremely affectionate towards children, and feel affection to members of other species as well. (Elephants are known to protect baby birds). Comfort is a major motivation, and will show a high degree of co-ordination, and a complex language, and a cultural hierarchy.3 Can have complex interaction with humans and puzzles. Juveniles are playful. Show many complex emotions. Many actions are not part of normal behavior, and learn advanced behavior even in the wild. Ability to feel a sense of loss for the death of a human trainer, or a wild relative or friend. Elephants are known to cry over dead parents and siblings. Ability to act against instinct emerges.
E.g. Orangutans, elephants

Exteremely playful, can be trained for interactions with other species, quick learners, and associate objects in the world with one another. Capable of conveying complex emotions, and feeling them. “Whim” is a motivation. Extreme ability to enjoy. Have complex languages, and a complex cultural hierarchy. Will cheat and lie for having fun. Often behave in ways that are not necessary for survival4.
E.g. Chimps, Gorillas, Dolphins

Ability for complex visualization, interaction with different species. Can effectively suppress a lot of primitive instinct and behavioral patterns. Whim is a motivation. Affectionate towards objects and creatures and humans in the world. Also affectionate towards ideas. Has a complex culture, and ability to communicate in various detailed languages. Also, ability to recognize symbols, and an advanced script for a language. Ability for abstract thought, and great degree of foresight. Ability to ask questions irrelevant to survival, and a desire to seek answers (does god exist?). Ability and desire to create art, as well as ability to explain and justify it.
E.g. Humans

Effectively suppresses all primordial emotions, and therefore a uniform, peaceful and advanced culture. Ability for complex calculation and visualization without the help of tools (like comps). Ability of complex co-ordination through the merest actions and words. Ability of extreme degree of communication, and understanding through the medium of body language, facial expressions et cetera.

1. Mice will run away whether attacked by a kitten or charged with electricity, a crow will peck the kitten, but fly away from the electricity.
2. Otters are known to dig under fences, and when floor of the containment has been cemented, to heap up the mud to climb over the fence.
3. A cultural hierarchy is defined as one which involves consideration to age and ability. The hierarchy in bees is purely based on one hormone, known as the queen’s jelly which will make the queen, and she secretes the hormones in appropriate amounts to make the drones and workers. Elephants usually have an experienced and aged matriarch as the leader of the pack.
4. Apart from humans, dolphins are the only creatures that have sex for fun.

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