Brief background to Intelligence in Astrobiology
This project is co-directed by Dr. Lori Marino (Emory University), and Dr. Kathryn Denning (York University), and is affiliated with the NASA Astrobiology Institute team at Arizona State University, led by Dr. Ariel Anbar. Funding has been provided by the NASA Astrobiology Institute. With this project we are seeking to jumpstart a new era in research into intelligence in astrobiology, by bringing researchers from a wide variety of disciplines into a conversation about life in the universe. Through our upcoming series of virtual workshops, we hope to initiate a serious empirically-based discussion of the topic of intelligence in astrobiology, and give astrobiologists the opportunity for in-depth discussion and data exchange with scientists in fields related to intelligence.
Questions about the origin and evolution of intelligence on Earth are now more technically, methodologically, philosophically, and scientifically tractable than ever before. Our starting questions for our first virtual workshop are simply these: To begin to understand the possibilities for intelligent life in the universe, what should we be asking about the evolution of intelligence on Earth? What don’t we know about intelligence, that we need to know to consider it within an astrobiological context? So, we will be focused on identifying relevant research questions, data and concepts. Future virtual workshops will continue in this vein, with a view to creating a ‘roadmap’ for the study of intelligence in an astrobiological context.
This project is part of a larger ongoing effort that has, thus far, culminated in the Virtual Resource Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry into Intelligent Life, funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute and housed at the SETI Institute. This is the first online resource of empirical, analytical and theoretical information about the evolution of intelligence, especially collected for the astrobiology research community. Topics covered include animals which display complex intelligence and behavior (e.g. primates, cetaceans, birds, cephalopods); animals which show other kinds of social coordination and communication (social insects, stigmergy, etc.); other neural systems (basal phyla); artificial intelligence; models of alien intelligence in fiction; and evolutionary theory. We invite you to explore the Virtual Resource Center briefing papers and database at http://intelligence.seti.org An overview of that project is available at http://intelligence.seti.org/pages/project_overview.
Brief biographies for Marino and Denning may be found here: http://intelligence.seti.org/pages/our_team
For a review of thinking about intelligence in the universe, please see our essay here.