Alien Intelligence on Earth?
Or in water . . .
The philosopher of science Peter Godfrey-Smith, who appears to have a deep interest in the origin of consciousness, has written a book titled Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness, which the conservationist and writer Carl Safina has reviewed in the NYT (December 27, 2016) under the title "Thinking in the Deep: Inside the Mind of an Octopus." The review begins with reflection upon a question about alien intelligence elsewhere in the universe, namely, as to whether we would understand intelligent extraterrestrial life, or even recognize it as intelligent. Godfrey-Smith suggests that we first look closer to home for a very alien intelligence, and then observe how we interact:
"If we can make contact with cephalopods as sentient beings, . . . [t]his is probably the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien[, for] . . . . the minds of cephalopods are the most other [to ours] of all [other intelligent earthly creatures]."But how do we interact? Well, they can certainly react to us in recognizably friendly ways:
"You reach forward a hand and stretch out one finger, and [watch as] one octopus arm slowly uncoils . . . [and clasps] your finger as it draws it in[, . . . while]. . . . [b]ehind the arm, large round [octopus] eyes watch[, and the] octopus . . . [pulls on the clasped] hand and . . . [you follow as if] being led across the sea floor by a very small eight-legged child [who wants to show you its home]."Godfrey-Smith actually observed this scene just described, so these alien creatures, can definitely be friendlier than the aliens we dream up for Hollywood to scare ourselves with. Be that as it may, we humans and octopuses seem to recognize and even to understand each other's intelligence, to some degree.
It's a start.