An Investigation of Modern Physics by Brian Williams
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  • Oldest Living Creature?

    Posted on July 18th, 2011 Brian No comments

    Amoeba, Memory and Intelligence.

    Strictly for amusement.

    The oldest living creature on the planet must be one of the amoeba or one of the similar type of creatures that recreate themselves by  binary fission, i.e.  each creature divides into two new identical ones.  I nominate this creature on the basis that it is clearly a creature, being capable of planned movement with an obvious purpose in mind, (I’ve known many a drunken human who couldn’t claim that much.)

    I have no idea how long they have been around, but it is obvious that each ‘individual’  must be the ‘same individual’ as the original one. Therefore each one must be millions of years old.

    You would think that having been alive all that time they would be super intelligent, but you could also argue that as each one only gets half a brain from each binary fission, then they must be getting less intelligent as time goes on. (This is not a valid argument because the human brain is really only a single cell organism in its early stages.)

    Do they have a brain? I suspect that they do because all deliberate movements in other creatures are controlled by the brain. There are many living things that move, such as plants but in general their movements are controlled by external stimuli such as the Sun or rainfall.(Possibly the drunk operates under the same external stimuli, such as the smell of alcohol.)

    Many biologists consider that the amoeba doesn’t have a brain, but it really depends on what are the functions needed to qualify for the definition of a brain.

    I think the definition that it can control its movements must be one of the main definitions of a brain.

    Reproduction is not a requirement, as even crystals reproduce themselves.

    Possibly memory is the main requirement, because memory is another survival trait.  It allows a creature to recognize dangers from previous situations. If the amoeba can modify its behaviour in response to danger, then this means that it probably has at least a rudimentary memory.

    We are coming to an obvious crucial point which is the very small brain (nucleus) capacity. Memory requires storage space, just like your computer. The small brain indicates that it has a very limited amount of memory storage, and will therefore only be able to remember a few things.

    So, is ‘intelligence’ dependant on the number of memory cells? Is a computer with 1 gigabyte of memory more intelligent than one having only one megabyte?

    Obviously not, because memory use in a computer is controlled by the CPU (Central processing unit), and in a similar way, biological memory requires control from the biological CPU. Memory storage is completely none intelligent. A book does not have intelligence even though it may be packed with useful information. ( Of course, this means that the same argument could be applied to the human brain. Is a vast amount of knowledge the same as intelligence?)

    A problem here is the word itself. Intelligence is derived from Intellect which comes from the French word Intellectus, meaning to choose between. This infers the ability to make decisions, (assuming intelligent decisions) therefore knowledge itself is not necessarily indicative of intelligence.

    The amoeba, therefore, may still qualify as an intelligent creature. It is evident that the amoeba has sufficient intelligence and memory to survive for millions of years in its environment. Does it actually need to be more intelligent or have more memory? A more important question is ‘Is the accumulation of knowledge in itself intelligent?’

    In many ways I find some sympathy with the amoeba. We both are uninterested in the names of the members of pop groups or the lives of long dead kings and queens.  We both cannot  find interest in every game played by the New York Yankees. Why swot up on history if no-one ever learns by it. Why waste memory on useless information storage. It would be useful if we could clear out  all useless information in our memories as you can on a computer.

    The human brain is rather strange in that it seems to able to store a vast amount of knowledge that appears to be almost unlimited. This cannot be actually  true even though scientist consider that only a small proportion of the brain is used. Recent research has been carried out on London taxi drivers who have to “Have the Knowledge” [ Note: London taxi drivers have to take a test on their knowledge of the London area before they can operate a taxi . This knowledge can take  up to 4 years to learn. This includes the best and fastest routes between any two points in London, a very complex problem.

    The research found that areas of the brain of London taxi drivers increased in size during the accumulation of  “The Knowledge”. Therefore the brain itself cannot have that much spare capacity.

    Maybe the amoeba will still be around when humanity is extinct, in which case the question would be “Who was the more intelligent, the amoeba or the extinct humans”.

    In binary fission can we be in any doubt that both the biological CPU and the memory take part in the fission process? This means that both halves of the original would have the same memories and the same ‘skills’.

    Although normally stated to be a single cell creature this is not strictly correct. It actually consists of thousands of cells.

    Author; Brian Williams