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What Happened to the Hominids Who Were Smarter Than Us? | Human Evolution | DISCOVER Magazine

The most recent Brain special issue of discover discusses the 1913 discovery of a hominid species that co-existed with humans more than 10,000 years ago before mysteriously going extinct. These humans had a cranial capacity 30% larger than humans with a prefrontal cortex theorized to be more than 50% larger than our own, and small, child-like faces. In short, they resembled our modern image of an alien and may have had an intelligence well in excess of their human contemporaries.

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Date: 2010-01-07 04:43 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] nightprincess
The facts are fascinating, but the speculation...
...cries out for some speculation of my own. ;)

Even before I checked for names, "Gary Lynch and Richard Granger" sounded like boys to me. Boys apparently have to be reassured over and over again that size doesn't matter.

The authors seem to be unaware of the neuron density argument. Apparently, a few studies have suggested that boys generally have bigger brains but girls have better neuron density, so it balances out.

Furthermore, the authors' description of intelligence makes me wonder what they consider intelligence to be. Sci-Fi has conceived of many very intellectually advanced but highly hostile and destructive technologies. Humanities majors (and journalists) might like to push the idea that "military intelligence" is an oxymoron, but a lot of our modern miracles still come from adapting military tech.

The authors also claim, "We internally activate many thoughts at once, but we can retrieve only one at a time." I would disagree. I think people tend to easily activate and retrieve many thoughts at once, but we can only express one at a time. To me, an impartial third-party scientific observer is likely to have difficulties investigating the difference between the two. We can't express to each other the vast number of thoughts and array of data that goes on all the time, and no matter how hard we try, we can only push out a very paltry number very tiny, limited concepts. Our inter-organism pathways are far more limiting than our intra-organism neural connections. And, we are taught all our lives that, if we can't express it, it doesn't exist / it doesn't count. So, maybe that's why people might report only retrieving one thought at a time; they can't express the others, so those thoughts can't get counted.

Another question is what is "smart"? Something to consider is the mainframe model vs. the client-server one. When I was young, I considered my brain to be the mainframe, fully in control of my body and the rest of the body entirely relying on the brain for intelligence. Over the last several years, however, I've been slowly realizing that I didn't get along with my body because it has its own intelligence, and I wasn't respecting that intelligence. It's more like a client-server model in which my brain passes tiny bits of coordinating data back and forth, but my body does and knows very many things on its own. Asking people various questions can uncover various "body intelligence". For example, ears and eyes have a different intelligence that help perform checksums for spelling and grammar; that "intelligence" is very apparent when it breaks down, like when a word doesn't "look" or "sound" right even though the person "knows" it is. Another example is that fingers often remember passwords and pins better than the brain.

In the computer world, over time, we've moved away from the mainframe model to the client-server one. It was generally more efficient as we demanded our computers to perform more and more tasks. Modern servers can be tiny compared to mainframes. Even with smaller brains, we can still be "smarter" than the Boskops.

It's not the size that matters; it's how it's used.

January 2010

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