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What if we make animals as smart as humans?

September 17, 2012

Recently a group of reserachers reported that they had designed a brain implant that sharpened decision making and restored lost mental capacity in monkeys.

Even if that’s a very interesting piece of research (you can read NY Times report here) it’s of course lightyears from making animals intelligent.

Still one bizarre idea immediately struck me.

I have no difficulty in accepting the idea that we sooner than many believe will be able to make computers that are as intelligent and conscious as humans, and that we gradually will integrate with these machines in the same way we already integrate with all sorts of medical technology.

In this way we will be able to extend our mental powers and keep following an ever accelerating pace of development.

But if we will be able to do this, we must sooner or later also be able to add intelligence to animals with some kind of brain implants.

Now try to imagine the implications. Let’s say we make a tiger, a lion or a bear intelligent as ourselves. Such an animal will be able to do all sorts of things, communicate with us in a fullblown way and understand how to obtain what it wants.

So what’s the difference between this animal and a humanoid, an intelligent robot? Well, it will be faster and stronger than us, as robots will probabaly be, but the animal will also keep all its strong instincts, designed for survival in a wild environment. Robots will probably have no such instincts.

Or should we imagine that if the animal gains intelligence and self-awareness,  it will be able to understand and control its instincts and adapt its behavior?

I told you it was a bizarre idea.

But some day someone will find out.

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