While scrollin’ and trollin’ on Twitter, I came across a discussion on veganism and the sentience of animals. One participant argued that no animal will ever be as sentient as a human. Being the annoying interjector I am, I threw into the discussion that there is a difference between sentience and sapience.
At that moment, Elon Musk’s new Neuralink implant came to mind. During the unveiling presentation of Neuralink, Musk let it slip near the end that they already had a monkey using the implant. The monkey was now able to control a computer using just its mind. And, it got me to pondering…
Sentience vs. Sapience
Sentience is a capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. All animals and even some plants have levels of sentience. Sapience, on the other hand, is a deep understanding of or knowledge of a subject. The extent of sapience in other animals is still being investigated. However, there is promising evidence that the sapience levels in non-humans are much higher than we once understood.
Exponential Sapience Growth by “Uplifting”
Bear with me here. We’re making fascinating discoveries in how some instincts are passed down through genetic memories. I have even pondered if we can use digital DNA and metabolomes to create genetic memories for a broad range of topics, surpassing the need for a Neuralink implant.
Brain-Computer Interface vs. Digital DNA
Neuralink is, perhaps, Elon Musk’s most controversial project. The promise of linking the human brain with unlimited…
The enhancement of non-human animals has been happening for quite some time. One of the many examples include researchers at MIT discovering a gene that allows us to learn and process language in 2014. They modified that gene and implanted it into a group of mice. The concept of elevating non-human animals to human-level intelligence is called “uplifting”.
Another remarkable study was conducted in 2011 where researchers took five rhesus monkeys, taught them basic shapes and symbols, then gave them doses of cocaine to mimic the effects of Alzheimer’s and dull their intelligence. But, before re-administering the test, researchers outfitted them with a device similar to Neuralink designed to monitor and correct the deficits in the brain created by the cocaine.
The devices restored the coked-up monkey’s cognitive abilities, but the really fascinating part was how it helped them when they weren’t hopped up. The improvements in performance beyond the baseline results were notable. And, it lends value to the idea that it is, indeed, possible to “uplift” a non-human animal’s intelligence to the human-level.
So, let’s say we implant Neuralink into a few different species that have similar neurological systems as humans. We then release them into the wild and allow them to procreate. Would it be possible that they would pass down some of their newfound sapience to future generations? Now, let’s say we do this for a few generations before we release them into the wild. What would happen?
This is all fascinating and somewhat worrisome at the same time. The movie “Planet of the Apes” comes to mind, right? Is this something that we should even pursue? What are your thoughts, my sapient friends?