Why/How did the early primates progress to become humans? Will there ever be any new beings as intelligent as humans originating from different species?


Why/How did the early primates progress to become humans? Will there ever be any new beings as intelligent as humans originating from different species?

In: Biology

Early primates had problems, and solved them with their brains. There’s a few other animals that are also doing that, but they don’t have all the same advantages humans did. There’s also different kinds of intelligence.

* Octopi are very intelligent and can hold onto complex objects very well, but they live underwater (no good tool materials), don’t form large groups (minimal sharing of information), and have very short lifespans (smaller chance to learn complicated tricks in one lifetime).

* Dolphins are intelligent, social, and have no hands, and tool materials are limited by being aquatic. Similar problem to the Octopi.

* Crows/Ravens can use and make tools, and use teamwork or environmental quirks to their advantage, but they are small, fragile, and have to use their mouths or feet to hold things. This means they can’t hold more than one thing at a time very easily, which means they can’t make specialized tools in advance and carry them everywhere.

* Elephants are social, strong, and have one thing that can hold tools, but they don’t live in a lot of places, and they’re better at cultural knowledge (death rituals, long complicated relationships, remembering people and places they haven’t seen in years, etc) than technological/tool knowledge. They also have very very long gestation times, so generations come very slowly, and are very huge, so it takes a lot of food to feed even a small group of elephants. They won’t form giant cities very easily.

* Dogs and Cats are good at human social interaction, and some of them manipulate their owners, or understand using things like doors. Sometimes dogs form large, feral social groups, which can feed themselves by hunting or living off of human trash. They don’t have enough fine dexterity (“hand”-eye coordination) to manipulate complicated tools, and some are much, much, much less smart than others.

I think there’s nothing specific stopping other animals from getting humanlike intelligence — but there’s a lot of things that make it hard for any given one of them to pass down tools and information, learn agriculture, build towns, and gradually start gaining technology.

Some advantages humans had and used to get where we are:

* We hunt in groups, meaning that humans who communicate better are more likely to eat, survive, and multiply. We also got very, very, very good at communication — a lot more than the neanderthals, which didn’t have throat anatomy that lets modern humans speak.

* We are bipedal with hands, which lets us carry two things while walking, easily. Our hands can apply enough force to break something in a very well controlled manner, which makes weapons and general tool-creation a lot easier.

* We have both strong nomadic tendencies (making it easy for us to spread), and strong territorial tendencies (making it easy for us to settle down somewhere, and defend a location from outsiders, encouraging those outsiders to be more nomadic).

* Since the thing we hold stuff with isn’t attached to our feet or our face, we can hold dangerous or awkward things like flaming torches, or containers of molten metal.

…there’s probably other things, but this is what comes to mind right now.

Evolution is mainly “randomness, and if it doesn’t work you die”.

One really important thing to see is that intelligence **isn’t** always good for a species. You consume additional resources for your brain, that could be used to survive hunger instead.

For a species to increase intelligence, you need:

* A context where improved intelligence is actually helping rather than being a waste of resources.
* A population small enough for the mutation to spread trough the population in few generations. Or a **very** long time where the context remain favorable to intelligence and no concurrent mutation overwrite it. [Note that humans most likely got at least one period with very low population. Some hypothesis says that the human population was probably down to 2000 individuals 150 000 years ago]
* A **lot** of luck.

The luck part is much more important than you might expect. As an example, let’s take photosynthesis. You know, this power so “overpowered” it is present almost everywhere by some species? Well, this power was “invented” only once in 4 billion years, and literally every plant descend from the lucky bacteria that “invented” it. Up to our knowledge, no species latter ever manage to re-invent it. (Unless you count artificial photosynthesis we human do in our laboratories, then humans are the only other species we know of).