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Author Topic: Plant rights, aliens, meaning of life... deep stuff like that  (Read 1234 times)


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Perhaps this is a bit odd, but I had a very interesting conversation with my SO via text earlier today, inspired by a Wikipedia article on plant intelligence; it was all written down anyway, so I thought I might share it - I edited it a bit to make it shorter and more organized (mostly trimming and reordering, no rephrasing).  Not sure what to say other than that, there's a lot here that could be discussed, I'm still feeling like I have counter points to make :P  I hope there's not too much "we know each other so we don't have to say things clearly" going on.  Also sorry it's so long, holy crap it's long.  In any case, here it is:
I had no idea that plants communicated or learned

wow cool
maybe they think the same about us

plant rights dude
The idea that only sentient beings deserve rights is ridiculously egocentric
the concept of rights is becoming very unclear to me

that's because it's fundamentally flawed
and not actually a thing

I know right, and that's what you've been saying all this time


So how should we treat one another?  Does cruelty even matter?
I feel like it matters
but I can't come up with a consistent model in which it matters and it is also possible for life on earth to exist in a "good" way

man some of this article
so words
The section on plant intelligence
There are like 3 teensy places where they even mention what plants do that might be considered 'intelligent'
90% of it is just spinning the concept of intelligence around until it lines up with what the plants are doing so they can apply the label
I don't care about the label
Just tell me what the plants do

well I think that section is supposed to be a debate on whether plants can be considered intelligent
the above sections define what plants actually do

well then we can just delete that section now can't we
It's just words

it's a point of view thing I think.... people have this idea of what it means to be intelligent (and it means, basically, like people), and they also have this idea that being intelligent is the bee's knees
thus, problems

'are plants intelligent' is a useless and vacuous question; they do what they do whether they're described as intelligent or not.  Why decide whether they're intelligent, then act on that classification, when you could just look at their actions directly??

See, this is what I think is the mostly likely outcome for encounters with alien life.  There are so many ways that we can just fundamentally overlook the intelligence/value of things that are different from us.

TBH I doubt that will happen
If we meet e.g. spacefaring, tool-making alien life, I bet they'll be remarkably similar to us in many respects
The planetbound nontechnological aliens are probably going to be weird
Though perhaps little more weird than some things on Earth, on the macro scale at least
The novel biochemistry might be bizarre

But why do you assume that spacefaring = tool-making?
and that intelligent species are spacefaring?

Well, I don't; there could well be an organism that just lives in space all the time
I merely use spacefaring to indicate a certain level of development
Like us; we CAN space-fare, kind of, but we rarely do

Why is tool-making more "developed" than non-tool-making?
Will alien species go through a similar technological development process to humans?  Do we have any reason to believe that?

I think we do
We've applied an enormous amount of computation, as a species, to searching for advantages


If there was some wildly different avenue we could've followed, I think we'd most likely have found it

But okay, let's go back to the beginning
We are still differentiating between "unimportant" "non-developed" species
and "important", "intelligent", as you say "tool-making" species
The fundamental assumption here is that scientific, reasoning, tool-making species like us ARE "alien life", and everything else is "weird planetbound stuff"
What makes one species more important than the other?
Is it that they are more successful, i.e. they are more likely to survive as a species for longer?

Because the tool-making ones have more power to affect our destiny, and in some ways us theirs
It is an inherently relative thing in some ways


Though I expect humans have more power than anything else on earth over most if not all species
in the long term

So is it because we are more confident we can communicate with them?

That's part of it
And if we do communicate, how that will change us and them
Immediately and over the duration of a long relationship

where change is technological development?

If we find Martian pseudobacteria, we say 'oh wow cool', study their microbiology, it has a profound effect on our medicine and nanotech, and we move on

So we don't care about them because we don't care about them lol

An 'intelligent' species we get that PLUS advances in every other field, discovering new ones
We don't care about them because they don't help us
And at the end of the day we only actually care about us
EVERYTHING else we care about to the extent that it affects us

I suppose that's true

The one wrinkle to that, of course, is that some of that transitive-affecting has been 'learned' into our genome by the evolutionary process
And some of that is incorrect and/or out of date
See e.g. keeping pets
We care about Max and Pluto waaaay more than we 'should'

So you're saying that we care about things because we genetically learned to do so, because it gave us an advantage

There is no 'should' or 'moral right' beyond that; asking how we 'should' approach valuing other species is in that sense a silly question
We 'should' follow our instincts and do whatever we feel like doing, except for where we can guess the 'intent' of those instincts and reason out something better to do
B/c those instincts are approximate and out of date

I guess Should is relative to goals

And the only goal that makes any sense is the one our genes want, i.e. to exist more

That's a big thing to say
Out of the blue with nothing to back it up

Because if you try to further any other goal, unless it also accomplishes that one as a side effect, you will cease to exist and you can't make your argument 😉

That doesn't mean that the primary goal doesn't make sense... it just means that there are requirements for the goal to be accomplished.  Every goal has that
For one thing, my "genes" want to cooperate with other living things, and treat them nicely

That's one of those approximation things

It doesn't matter what the intention of the desire is, I still have it
Why is that desire less valid/important than the desire to exist?

Because the desire to exist is why that desire exists

You are interpreting evolution as intention 😉

I'm not anthropomorphizing though
I'm analogizing
Because English doesn't have the words I need

but I think you could argue that the desire to exist was just a side effect of needing to exist to accomplish other goals


I mean, who makes up the intentions here

Yes it would be a prereq to many goals
If not all of the ones we'd consider sensible


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