Does intelligence eat intelligence?


Octopus is delicious, but every time I eat them via sushi, takoyaki, grilled, etc., I once-again-remember the extreme intelligence some have demonstrated. Maybe I should stop eating them.

I’ve pushed aside those decisions for now, but they’ve gotten me thinking about how a human should feel eating another intelligent life form. Is there a relationship between the “intelligence”* (its definition being a whole other debate) of an intelligent life form, and its respect for other intelligence?

As a stand-in measure of some dimension of respect, we could observe a species’ decision of whether they eat (assuming it’s considered a disrespectful concept, so that depends on who you ask) another species.

As a crude stand-in measure of “intellligence” of each life-bearing planeet’s apex species, we could use some variant of “if/when/how fast the species successfully becomes spacefaring.”

(*) how intelligence is defined is a whole debate. This post will assume there is some sort of chosen measurement by the researchers, but that is outside of the scope of this post. Assume this caveat of “there is no objective measurement that humans have figured out so far” applies to all uses of “intelligence” in this post


Collect data about different planet’s apex species. For a given apex species S:

a) details around S becoming spacefaring (or not) b) calculating the average “IQ diet” of the species S

From this data, model a relationship between the “intelligence” (proxied via spacefaring-capability) of an intelligent apex species, with its IQ diet.


I expect there to be a negative correlation, so the more intelligent, the less likely it will eat other intelligence, given traits like compassion, cooperation, positive sum thinking, etc.

But one can also imagine arguments for other relationships, such as ruthlesssness and competition, pulling the value towards some middle ground. Or maybe there’s a Kuznet’s Curve type effect–where if we moved the goal higher beyond spacefaring capabilities, only then do successful species start to be more compassionate and stop eating other intelligence.

Raw notes onwards


We propose running a study across all planets in the universe:

For each planet, analyzing its first spacefaring life form, and all its members that ever existed up until the point where it reached spacefaring.

Across all its members that ever existed of, what was the average value for:


Define d(m) as: for the member m, returns the average intelligence of its diet (average the intelligence level of things it ate)

Question: What is the average value of d(m) across all members of that intelligent life form that ever existed (before it got to spacefaring)?


The worth of the Main question:

Among all species, is there significant deviation from the null hypothesis that: probability of reaching spacefaring status is NOT influenced by how much the species respects the value of intelligence–which we measure by how fully they come to the decision to not purposely kill / eat other forms of intelligence.


How would we define “intelligence” in the prompt, for both the eaters and eaten?

When conducting the study, should we or should we not include the spacefaring life forms that are not sentient?

In the diets, should we set a lower limit, for any “meaningful” reason, on a food item’s intelligence in order for it to count?

For a given individual of the spacefaring race, how exactly would we calculate “average intelligence” of the individual’s diet?

Since components from intelligent life forms are used in products and not just food, we might also want to track anything that counts as purposeful killing, not just diet


If the null hypothesis was rejected, why would such a relationship exist? And why in that direction?

If rejected, and there’s an inverse correlation with average-IQ-of-diet and reaching-space, perhaps they’re related in that deciding to not eat / kill intelligence is a result of greater intelligence, where it “recognizes” itself in other forms and avoids hurting it. And if it has greater intelligence, then that could explain why it’s more likely for them to design the technology needed to reach space (since we also presume it is self-preserving in wanting to get off its home planet)

If rejected, and there’s a positive correlation with average-IQ-of-diet and reaching-space, perhaps there’s some implication of ruthlessness being correlated with reaching space. This actually has dangerous implications in line with the Dark Forest Theory. When we arrive in inter galactic space, natural selection for the bottleneck factor of “Reaching-Space” is one that selects for willing to commit violence. It’s not too hard of a logical jump… at least with the baseline of “conflict” at the level of how we treat members of our own species, our wars, and how most of the artifical life we’e created are computer viruses that simply destroy (and replicate).

But what if this is only a short-term win?

Or, what if it’s actually a sign of lack of intelligence?

We could be making a faulty base assumption that (relatively) higher intelligence is correlated with reaching space. If we consider the gold standard of intelligence as “whether they successfully preserve themselves,” it could be possible that higher intelligence understands the importance of being a proper steward of their homeworld. After realizing that, they have no reason to escape their homeworld due to no threats from pollution poisoning own food chain / M.A.D. or nuclear fallout / etc.

So the need to reach spacefaring status is actually a symptom of LACK of intelligence–not linked to higher intelligence as we assumed. Its like that quote of intelligence being lazy. if they’re smart about things, no need to make extra work for themselves to have to get off planet

If we saw an ant colony trash its own dwellings over time, and need to make a risky trek to build another one, wouldn’t we call that stupid?


Next dimensions of study:

  1. In whatever their version of “omnivore/vegatarian/pescatarian” are, try calculating by % of other intelligent species that they could eat (not poisonous etc.), that they actually do eat.

  2. Convert the average-IQ-of-the-diet to a score. Then, to each individual’s score (which before the IQ metric was presumably counted at the time of that individual’s death?) apply a multiplicative weight that varied overtime; the weight being proportional to how hard it was for them to make the decision at the time.
    • This increases the impact of individuals’ scores where they purposely avoiding eating intelligence, even though it was hard. It also increases the impact of individuals’ scores where they continued eating intelligence though it was easy to stop doing, both cases shine more light on how much respect that the members of the species (and thus the species as a whole) have for intelligence
  3. See whether there is a shift in the dynamic based on “after it establishes contact with intelligent aliens”
    • i.e., given it has already reached space, is its ability to thrive (however defined) influenced by the intelligence of its diet?
    • this could perhaps unveil connections to whether it is likely to disrespect / violently treat other spacefaring life forms. or perhaps if it’s harmonious with all other member species of the United Universe Government (or whatever exists at that point)
    • What if thrive is just classicly defined by whether it continues reproducing and furthering the existence of life (as we know it) in the universe?
      • The tardigrade has successfully reached space… ( so maybe humans are just part of the equation, like how parasites use other species during part of their lifecycle (but in this case we are talking about a larger scope of time). Or maybe even compared to humans outgrew steam power in turn for electricity. In these manners but dominated by the analogy of how a crab might outgrow a shell and leave it behind…
      • being a bacteria and staying the same life form, then hitching a ride on the spacecraft of more intelligent life form, perhaps is the real optimum strategy? Because you are still a hardier life form that is more likely to easily survive another random planet. Thus, humans are just some type of dumb limiting reagant to the bacteria’s evolution; the humans eventually just kill themselves (via self destruction with technology), after fulfilling their job (as defined from the bacteria’s pov)
    • Life at a meta level is like a flower… it grows sex organs (intelligent life) to disperse pollen (simpler life entities) to other places in the universe. And the pattern continues, (not unlike grey goo)
      • Maybe our end move is just going to be filling a shit ton of rockets with life payloads and sending them in random directions…
      • None of this runs counter to our understandings of “life” or “intelligence”. It might seem weird, but consider that the only reason we think of “species” as the norm, or consider these random patterns as “normal” “life cycles,” is just complete coincidence with no underlying meaning. DNA simply propagates through a physical pattern that kept looping with stability over this current time span, and just got more complex over time

2/12/21 Probably the most important conclusion of this article:

evolution at life ecosystems/planets level, not populations. Life-planet ecosystems evolve based on traits that led to certain qualities of life going, aka how those traits interact to preserv life