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Predator And Prey Models - Part I

From: Terry W. Colvin <fortean1.nul>
Date: Fri, 27 Feb 2004 19:47:49 -0700
Fwd Date: Sat, 28 Feb 2004 10:58:59 -0500
Subject: Predator And Prey Models - Part I

[[The signature block is one of my previous lives. -TWC]]

Terry W. Colvin <colvint.nul>  Voice: [520]538-5392
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Air Tasking Orders [Desert Storm I]    DSN: 879-5392
Fort Huachuca (Cochise County), Arizona USA
"No editor ever likes the way a story tastes unless he pees
in it first." -Mark Twain

Predator And Prey Models And Contact Considerations
Douglas Raybeck

Anthropology Department
Hamilton College
Clinton, NY 13323

Paper presented at the 11th Annual CONTACT Conference
Palo Alto, California
March 18th P 20th, 1994.


Within the scientific community, as well as in the popular press
and among science fiction writers, there has long been a concern
with Extraterrestrials and the possibility of communication with
them. This concern has led to such projects as the Search for
Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) (Morrison, et al. 1977)
that continues to be a focus of attention for many scientists
even though currently facing reduced funding (Harrison and Elms
1990, Raybeck 1992). As recently as this year, Harrison
published an intriguing paper concerning Extraterrestrial
intelligence in one of psychology's major journals (Harrison
1993). At the same time, scientists have theorized and
speculated about the nature of Extraterrestrial intelligence and
the problems involved in inter-sapient communication (Sagan
1973). The general consensus has been that the universe is very
likely to host other intelligent beings, that some of these will
be more technologically advanced than current humanity, and that
some will be trying to locate other intelligences.

In the science fiction community, images of Extraterrestrials
have been variegated in form, in intelligence and in intentions.
They range form the beneficent aliens of Julian May, who only
wish to elevate the lot of humanity and facilitate our
participation in an intergalactic "milieu," (1987a, 1987b) to
the malevolent Extraterrestrials of Greg Bear, who travel about
the universe locating intelligent life forms and destroying them
because they may be potential future competitors (1987).
Generally, however, images of aliens in the popular press and
among the scientific community are positive. It is widely
believed that if a sapient form can achieve the degree of
civilization necessary to support inter-stellar communication,
it is unlikely to be characterized by hostile intentions.

In this paper, I wish to examine this assumption. As an
anthropologist, I am aware that there are some markedly
different paths to the evolution of intelligence. These
differences can provide us with models that can suggest some of
the variety we may anticipate among Extraterrestrials. I am
concerned about the possibility that a technologically oriented
intelligence may as likely be developed by a predatory species
as by a non-predatory one. I am particularly concerned with the
kinds of stimuli that promote the development of intelligence,
and with what sorts of ethical notions might be associated with
these varying modes of evolving intelligence. This exercise in
modeling should have consequences for how we approach the
possibility of Extraterrestrial communication.


Among the range of definitions for intelligence, one that is
widely accepted is the ability to learn new response patterns
(Jerison 1973). Generally, intelligence confers upon an organism
greater adaptability and flexibility in dealing with
environmental challenges. However, many complex adaptations to
the environment do not require the classical concept of
intelligence. Scientists have long known that insects are
capable of complex adaptations to their

environments in a fashion that relies upon genetic programming
rather than on learning (Wilson 1980). Indeed, Schull has
recently argued that even the adaptive characteristics of plant
and animal species are related to information-processing and
that it would be fruitful to view such species as intelligent
(1990). Overwhelmingly, however, the scientific community is
persuaded that a greater capacity for learning is a superior
adaptation to suggested alternatives.

In the evolution of intelligence on earth there has been a
consistent trend from relatively closed instinctive patterns
toward "open" learning. (Hinde 1974, Sluckin 1965). Jastrow has
noted the evolution of intelligence from lower organisms to
humanity and to computers (1981). He and others believe that, if
one has competing species, the evolution of intelligence is
inevitable because the the advantages it confers upon the
possessor (Itzkoff 1983, Sagan 1977). However, the questions
concerning the rate at which intelligence is developed and the
nature of the species that are most likely to possess it are
more complex.

Evolutionary theorists and developmental biologists have long
been aware that the development of intelligence involves a
series of interactions between organisms and their environment
(Laughlin and Brady 1978, Laughlin and D'Aquili 1974,
Manosevetz, et al. 1969, Mazur and Robertson 1972, Tunnell
1973). The environment must contain conditions for which
intelligence is an adaptive trait. Beings with greater
intelligence then reproduce in increasing numbers, filling their
eco-niches and driving out less intelligent competitors. It is
important to note, however, that the entities disadvantaged in
this scenario are the ones that either compete directly with our
intelligent others or are directly exploited by them.

Complex environments select for intelligence by creating
conditions where more intelligent competitors have an advantage
in exploiting limited resources (Evans and Schmidt 1990,
Robinson 1990). Animals that proceed by instinct have a limited
set of behavioral repertoires with which to respond to changing
conditions. They are limited not only by their physiology, but
by their ability to perceive the existence of new demands and
new resource possibilities. Their coping equipment is
genetically based and suited to the parameters of the
environment in which the organism evolved. Should that
environment change, the organism may likely prove unable to
adapt to the new circumstances and be seriously disadvantaged in
its competition with other species. (Daly and Wilson 1978,
Dawkins 1976, Smith 1984).

Generally, increasing intelligence confers upon an organism a
better opportunity to model the environment, both natural and
behavioral, so that food getting, mating and general survival
strategies can be maximized. Intelligence is selected for
because it benefits the possessor, not because it is helpful to

Costs and Advantages of Intelligence An increase in intelligence
has meant a corresponding rise in brain size. As Jerison has
noted, "The mass of neural tissue controlling a particular
function is appropriate to the amount of information processing
involved in performing the function" (1973: 8). This has been
true in organic evolution, and in the evolution of artificial
intelligence as well (Gardner 1985, Goldstein and Papert 1977,
Jastrow 1981, Llinas 1990, Nelson and Bower 1990, Schank and
Childers 1984). It seems likely that, however information is
processed, it would also be true for Extraterrestrials.

Intelligence is not without certain physical costs. Particularly

the case of high mammals, intelligence has been found to be
expensive in terms of the body's resources. Brain tissue
requires large supplies of glucose and oxygen (Milton 1988), but
these are justified by the advantages that intelligence confers.
Indeed, the costs of intelligence are evidence of its importance
and success as an environmental adaptation.

There are also social consequences that accompany the
development of significant intelligence. An increasing reliance
on a learned repertoire implies an increased period of
dependency on the part of the young. The need for learning plus
the problems of rearing learning-based offspring involve a very
serious cost from an evolutionary perspective. Such organisms
have few offspring and this means that, unlike lower organisms
that reproduce in greater numbers, the survival of each of these
offspring is important. This longer maturation period and the
need for security creates a trend toward social living, as the
infant and its mother are in need of the support of others
(Laughlin and D'Aquili 1974). This model is not only true for
humans but also apes, cetaceans, elephants, and most other
mammals with appreciable intelligence. Further, as we shall see,
the exigencies of social life can prove to be as strong a
stimulus for the evolution of increased intelligence, as any
other factor. This creates a positive feedback loop in which
intelligence promotes social living which, once established,
makes increased intelligence highly adaptive.

Even among lower animals, greater intelligence means more
flexibility in dealing with environmental conditions. For
predators this implies a greater ability to locate and consume
prey, while, for prey, greater intelligence increases the
likelihood of avoiding such a fate (Byrne and Whiten 1988).

As intelligence increases, other emergent properties appear
which reflect the expanded complexity of the system, and which
confer still greater advantages upon the possessor. At some
point, increasing intelligence should lead to self-awareness
(Itzkoff 1985, Jastrow 1981, Laughlin and D'Aquili 1974). An
organism equipped with self- awareness can model not only the
externals of the environment, but can now include itself as an
element of attention. It has a self- concept separable from the
environment and capable of conscious examination and reflection
(Tunnell 1973). Concurrent with such a development is an
increase in the organism's ability to construct an internal
environment that can not only represent the external world, but
also make possible the construction of symbols which are, by
definition, arbitrarily related to their referents (Gazzaniga
1992, Laughlin and D'Aquili 1974, Laughlin, et al. 1990).

The capacity for symbolism represents an enormous evolutionary
advantage for any intelligent species. Prior to its appearance,
communications are limited by environmental stimuli in what is
termed a "closed" system (Hockett 1973). In such circumstances,
an organism emits a signal that is automatically called forth by
an external stimulus. There is no displacement in time or space,
and such calls are generally mutually exclusive. The information
carrying capacity of the system is thus limited to the number of
calls hard-wired into the organism. With symbolism, organisms
gain the ability to displace their messages and to combine them
in ever more complex and novel assemblages. Further, they can
assign meanings in complex ways influenced, but not dictated, by
biology. This opens up the realm of culture, a learned set of
patterns for behavior that are far more malleable than the
biological substrate that made them possible.

While symbolism involves greatly increased freedom from the
constraints of the organism's biological limitations, this
freedom is not absolute. For humans, the structure of our brain
imposes limits both on the amount of information we can process
at any given time (Miller 1956, Miller 1951), and on the kinds
of information we can process (Ardila and Ostrosky-Solis 1989,
Jerison 1990, Lenneberg 1967, Thompson and Green 1982). There is
reason to believe that similar limitations and perceptual
dispositions would attend any evolving sentience (Gazzaniga
1992, Sauer and MacNair 1983, Stokoe 1989, Wasserman 1989).
Given such an expectation, it seems likely that sentients who
have evolved from a predator background would differ markedly
from sentients whose gustatory preference run to plants.

"Only a zit on the wart on the heinie of progress." Copyright 1992, Frank Rice

Terry W. Colvin, Sierra Vista, Arizona (USA)

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