[Marxism] Fwd: Amia Srinivasan reviews ‘Other Minds’ by Peter Godfrey-Smith and ‘The Soul of an Octopus’ by Sy Montgomery · LRB 7 September 2017

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Aug 31 06:10:12 MDT 2017

Octopuses do not have any stable colour or texture, changing at will to 
match their surroundings: a camouflaged octopus can be invisible from 
just a few feet away. Like humans, they have centralised nervous 
systems, but in their case there is no clear distinction between brain 
and body. An octopus’s neurons are dispersed throughout its body, and 
two-thirds of them are in its arms: each arm can act intelligently on 
its own, grasping, manipulating and hunting. (Octopuses have arms, not 
tentacles: tentacles have suckers only at their tips. Squid and 
cuttlefish have a combination of arms and tentacles.) In evolutionary 
terms, the intelligence of octopuses is an anomaly. The last common 
ancestor between octopuses on the one hand, and humans and other 
intelligent animals (monkeys, dolphins, dogs, crows) on the other, was 
probably a primitive, blind worm-like creature that existed six hundred 
million years ago. Other creatures that are so evolutionarily distant 
from humans – lobsters, snails, slugs, clams – rate pretty low on the 
cognitive scale. But octopuses – and to some extent their cephalopod 
cousins, cuttlefish and squid – frustrate the neat evolutionary division 
between clever vertebrates and simple-minded invertebrates. They are 
sophisticated problem solvers; they learn, and can use tools; and they 
show a capacity for mimicry, deception and, some think, humour. Just how 
refined their abilities are is a matter of scientific debate: their very 
strangeness makes octopuses hard to study. Their intelligence is like 
ours, and utterly unlike ours. Octopuses are the closest we can come, on 
earth, to knowing what it might be like to encounter intelligent aliens.

full: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n17/amia-srinivasan/the-sucker-the-sucker

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