Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life

Front Cover
William Collins, 2017 - Animal communication - 272 pages
'Brilliant' Guardian 'Fascinating and often delightful' The Times

SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2017 ROYAL SOCIETY SCIENCE BOOK PRIZE

What 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, Peter Godfrey-Smith, a distinguished philosopher of science and a skilled scuba diver, tells a bold new story of how nature became aware of itself - a story that largely occurs in the ocean, where animals first appeared.

Tracking the mind's fitful development from unruly clumps of seaborne cells to the first evolved nervous systems in ancient relatives of jellyfish, he explores the incredible evolutionary journey of the cephalopods, which began as inconspicuous molluscs who would later abandon their shells to rise above the ocean floor, searching for prey and acquiring the greater intelligence needed to do so - a journey completely independent from the route that mammals and birds would later take.

But what kind of intelligence do cephalopods possess? How did the octopus, a solitary creature with little social life, become so smart? What is it like to have eight tentacles that are so packed with neurons that they virtually 'think for themselves'? By tracing the question of inner life back to its roots and comparing human beings with our most remarkable animal relatives, Godfrey-Smith casts crucial new light on the octopus mind - and on our own.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rivkat - www.librarything.com

Fascinating book about evolution and consciousness, and the octopus. Describing an early roundish ancestor that doesn’t seem to have had much in the way of perceiving organs (and seems to have existed ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - LisCarey - www.librarything.com

We generally consider mammals and birds to be the smartest creatures on Earth. It's not unreasonable; that includes us and crows. But an entirely different branch of life on this planet also shows ... Read full review

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About the author (2017)

Peter Godfrey-Smith is a distinguished professor of history and the philosophy of science at the University of Sydney. He is the author of four books, including Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection, which won the 2010 Lakatos Award for an outstanding work on the philosophy of science. His underwater videos of octopuses have been featured in National Geographic and New Scientist.

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