Intrinsic negative feedback as a limiting factor for the evolution of higher forms of intelligence

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Longstanding scientific efforts have been dedicated to answer why and how our particular intelligence is generated by our brain but not by the brain of other species. However, surprisingly little effort has been made to ask why no other species ever developed an intelligence similar to ours. Here, I explore this question based on genetic and paleontologic evidence. Contrary to the established view, this review suggests that the developmental hurdles alone are not high enough to explain the uniqueness of human intelligence (HI). As an additional explanation I propose that HI is normally not retained by natural selection, because it is, under most conditions, an intrinsically unfavourable trait. This unfavourableness, however, cannot be explained by physical constraints alone; rather, it may also be rooted in the same emotional and social complexity that is necessary for the development of HI. Thus, a major obstacle towards HI may not be solely the development of the required physical assets, but also to cope with harmful individual, social and environmental feedback intrinsically associated with this trait.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34
StatePublished - Jan 23 2020

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: I thank all colleagues and anonymous reviewers who have contributed to this manuscript through stimulating discussions, and by providing comments and counterarguments. I thank KAUST Research Support Services for editorial assistance (Virginia. A. Unkefer) and for figure design and preparation (Ivan Gromicho).


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