Three Components of an Intelligent Species
How would an intelligent alien civilization emerge on a distant planet? What would they look like? How would they act?
There are many unknowns in this question, thus the best we can do is give an educated guess based on our own anatomical history. This may give us clues into what intelligent life outside Earth might look and act like. Here are three essential components in our species rise from the swamp.
- Some Form of Stereo Eyes
In general, predators are more intelligent than prey, which means it’s more likely that intelligent aliens descended from the latter. To hunt effectively requires stealth, strategy, and knowledge of the prey. On the other hand, all prey have to do is run.
We can see this difference in the structure of their eyes. Predators, like tigers and foxes, have eyes facing the front of their face giving them stereo vision. This provides depth perception which is important when chasing down prey. Prey on the other hand, don’t need stereo vision. Instead they need 360 vision to scan the environment for predators. As a result, prey have eyes on each side of their face like deer and rabbits.
- Some Form of Grasping Appendage
A hallmark of an intelligent species is its ability to manipulate its environment. Humans are able to manipulate their environment and exploit tools thanks to our opposable thumbs. This is in contrast, to plants which live at the mercy of their environment. Opposable thumbs aren’t the only grasping appendage, other examples include claws or tentacles.
Any lessons learned by an individual dies with that individual without language. Language is essential to spread information from generation to generation, and each successive generation becomes more informed than the last.