Other Minds - The Octopus And The Evolution Of Intelligent Life By Peter Godfrey-smith

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01Meetings Across The Tree Of Life20210510
01Meetings Across The Tree Of Life20210510What if intelligent life on Earth evolved not once, but twice? The octopus is the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien. What can we learn from the encounter?

In Other Minds, the philosopher and scuba diver Peter Godfrey-Smith explores the startling evolutionary journey of the cephalopods. It all started for him when he began scuba diving near Sydney:

“I came across the octopuses by chance, by spending time in the water. I began following them around, and eventually started thinking about their lives. After all, the sea is the original home of the mind, at least in its first faint forms.”

Professor Godfrey-Smith explores what we know about the intelligence of cephalopods, including the tricks they play on the scientists who try to study them. He looks back 600 million years, to reveal the worm-like creature which was the last common ancestor connecting us with the octopus. He visits an extraordinary site off the coast of Australia, Octopolis, where the animals have developed a kind of city under the sea. He meditates on why the octopus, with such high intelligence, lives for such a short time. And he asks us to imagine what it feels like to be an octopus, raising big questions about the nature of animal consciousness.

In this first episode, he tells the story of the evolution of the octopus, in a different part of the evolutionary tree from humans. And yet a great deal connects us.

Peter Godfrey-Smith is a professor in the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney.

Read by Tim McInnerny
Abridged and produced by Elizabeth Burke
Sound design by Chris Maclean
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Philosopher and scuba-diver Peter Godfrey-Smith explores the intelligence of the octopus.

02Mischief20210511
02Mischief20210511What if intelligent life on Earth evolved not once, but twice? The octopus is the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien. What can we learn from the encounter?

In Other Minds, the philosopher and scuba diver Peter Godfrey-Smith explores the startling evolutionary journey of the cephalopods. It all started for him when he began scuba diving near Sydney:

“I came across the octopuses by chance, by spending time in the water. I began following them around, and eventually started thinking about their lives. After all, the sea is the original home of the mind, at least in its first faint forms.”

Professor Godfrey-Smith explores what we know about the intelligence of cephalopods, including the tricks they play on the scientists who try to study them. He looks back 600 million years, to reveal the worm-like creature which was the last common ancestor connecting us with the octopus. He visits an extraordinary site off the coast of Australia, Octopolis, where the animals have developed a kind of city under the sea. He meditates on why the octopus, with such high intelligence, lives for such a short time. And he asks us to imagine what it feels like to be an octopus, raising big questions about the nature of animal consciousness.

In this second episode, he explores what is known about octopus intelligence.

“Octopuses in at least two aquariums have learned to turn off the lights by squirting jets of water at the bulbs when no one is watching, and short-circuiting the power supply. And an octopus took such a dislike to one member of the lab staff that whenever that person passed by she received a jet of half a gallon of water in the back of her neck.”

Peter Godfrey-Smith is a professor in the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney.

Read by Tim McInnerny
Abridged and produced by Elizabeth Burke
Sound design by Chris Maclean
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Philosopher and scuba-diver Peter Godfrey-Smith explores the intelligence of the octopus.

03Octopolis20210512What if intelligent life on Earth evolved not once, but twice? The octopus is the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien. What can we learn from the encounter?

In Other Minds, the philosopher and scuba diver Peter Godfrey-Smith explores the startling evolutionary journey of the cephalopods. It all started for him when he began scuba diving near Sydney:

“I came across the octopuses by chance, by spending time in the water. I began following them around, and eventually started thinking about their lives. After all, the sea is the original home of the mind, at least in its first faint forms.”

Professor Godfrey-Smith explores what we know about the intelligence of cephalopods, including the tricks they play on the scientists who try to study them. He looks back 600 million years, to reveal the worm-like creature which was the last common ancestor connecting us with the octopus. He meditates on why the octopus, with such high intelligence, lives for such a short time. And he asks us to imagine what it feels like to be an octopus, raising big questions about the nature of animal consciousness.

In this third episode, he visits an extraordinary site off the coast of Australia, Octopolis, where the animals have developed a kind of city under the sea. He dives down to Octopolis and observes a site where generations of octopuses have learned to live close together, beginning to evolve new ways of communicating with each other.

Peter Godfrey-Smith is a professor in the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney.

Read by Tim McInnerny
Abridged and produced by Elizabeth Burke
Sound design by Chris Maclean
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Philosopher and scuba-diver Peter Godfrey-Smith explores the intelligence of the octopus.

04Experience Compressed20210513What if intelligent life on Earth evolved not once, but twice? The octopus is the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien. What can we learn from the encounter?

In Other Minds, the philosopher and scuba diver Peter Godfrey-Smith explores the startling evolutionary journey of the cephalopods. It all started for him when he began scuba diving near Sydney:

“I came across the octopuses by chance, by spending time in the water. I began following them around, and eventually started thinking about their lives. After all, the sea is the original home of the mind, at least in its first faint forms.”

Professor Godfrey-Smith explores what we know about the intelligence of cephalopods, including the tricks they play on the scientists who try to study them. He looks back 600 million years, to reveal the worm-like creature which was the last common ancestor connecting us with the octopus. He visits an extraordinary site off the coast of Australia, Octopolis, where the animals have developed a kind of city under the sea. And he asks us to imagine what it feels like to be an octopus, raising big questions about the nature of animal consciousness.

In this fourth episode, he meditates on why the octopus, with such high intelligence, lives for such a short time.

“What is all the brainpower doing if an octopus is dead less than two years after hatching from an egg? Their situation reminds me of Ridley Scott's movie Blade Runner, in which a class of artificial but human-like “replicants” are programmed to die after only four years. Blade Runner's replicants, unlike cephalopods, know their fate.”

Peter Godfrey-Smith is a professor in the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney.

Read by Tim McInnerny
Abridged and produced by Elizabeth Burke
Sound design by Chris Maclean

A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Philosopher and scuba-diver Peter Godfrey-Smith explores the intelligence of the octopus.

05Our Minds And Others20210514What if intelligent life on Earth evolved not once, but twice? The octopus is the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien. What can we learn from the encounter?

In Other Minds, the philosopher and scuba diver Peter Godfrey-Smith explores the startling evolutionary journey of the cephalopods. It all started for him when he began scuba diving near Sydney:

“I came across the octopuses by chance, by spending time in the water. I began following them around, and eventually started thinking about their lives. After all, the sea is the original home of the mind, at least in its first faint forms.”

Professor Godfrey-Smith explores what we know about the intelligence of cephalopods, including the tricks they play on the scientists who try to study them. He looks back 600 million years, to reveal the worm-like creature which was the last common ancestor connecting us with the octopus. He visits an extraordinary site off the coast of Australia, Octopolis, where the animals have developed a kind of city under the sea. And he meditates on why the octopus, with such high intelligence, lives for such a short time.

In this final episode, he asks us to imagine what it feels like to be an octopus, raising big questions about the nature of animal consciousness. What is the nature of their consciousness, and how does it challenge the usual way we think about the brain/body divide?

“In an octopus, it's not clear where the brain itself begins and ends, and the nervous system runs all through the body. The octopus is suffused with nervousness; the body is not a separate thing that is controlled by the brain or nervous system.

“The usual philosophical debate is between those who see the brain as an all-powerful CEO and those who emphasise the intelligence stored in the body itself. Both views rely on a distinction between brain-based and body-based knowledge. The octopus lives outside both the usual pictures. It lives outside the brain/body divide.”

Peter Godfrey-Smith is a professor in the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney.

Read by Tim McInnerny
Abridged and produced by Elizabeth Burke
Sound design by Chris Maclean
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4

Philosopher and scuba-diver Peter Godfrey-Smith explores the intelligence of the octopus.