Science News: Smart from the start - Animal embryos get some respect for their survival skills

[From Bill Powers (2009.08.18.1203 MDT)]

Isn't this another example of the observer's projecting his own high-order perceptions onto the behavior of a much simpler organism?

In plant growth, the addition of cells to a growing tendril always takes place at the "apical cell", the one at the apex or tip. Someone wrote to me with this piece of information and asked, "How does that one cell know it's at the tip?" The answer, of course, is that it doesn't "know" anything. The apical cell just happens to be the one that has more than one side that is not adjacent to other cells. Being surrounded inhibits division. Maybe a cell has a reference level for acquiring cells around it.

I would look a long time for other explanations before attributing "smartness" to those embryos.

In the "Crowd" demo with a single active agent, naive observers will make up all kinds of fancy tales about what the agent is doing: planning its path, looking for the most open way ahead, searching for a way out of a trap, giving up its goal temporarily to find an indirect route, and so on. Show it to some innocent person and ask the person to guess what the agent is doing. But be wary: people don't like being told that they are imagining most of what they think they are seeing.


Bill P.


At 03:38 PM 8/17/2009 -0600, Ted Cloak wrote: