Alternative Perceptual Systems and Discovery of Basic Astronomical Phenomena


How we perceive the universe guides, and places limits on, how we discover natural laws.

Sheri Wells-Jensen

Cephalopod Behavior and Neurobiology: An Alternative Model for Intelligence

Understanding the fundamental constraints that shape the diversity of intelligent life on Earth will allow us to anticipate the possible forms that extraterrestrial intelligence might take. Since the nervous system first evolved, it has diverged and radiated into countless forms. Most familiar to us is the centralized nervous system of the vertebrates. Although highly morphologically conserved, this nervous system model has developed within a large range of complexity.

Dominic Sivitilli
David H. Gire

Cognitive Exaptations for Extraterrestrial Intelligence


All terrestrial organisms have evolved to solve concrete physical tasks such as finding constituent chemicals, energy sources, and shelter, and avoiding threats such as predators, parasites, and toxins.  However, only a few species have evolved cognitive mechanisms for dealing with more abstract information-processing challenges – analogous to human ‘general intelligence.’  The space of possible cognitive mechanisms that could support general intelligence might seem vast and unconstrained, making it hard to predict the likely psychology of ETIs.

Peter M. Todd

Sapiosexual Aliens: Why Sexual Selection for Mental Fitness Indicators Drives the Evolution of Most Extraterrestrial Intelligence


‘Sapiosexual’ people are sexually attracted to intelligence. I suspect that most intelligent aliens are sapiosexual too: their cognitive and communicative abilities evolved mostly for reproductive benefits through attracting mates, not just for practical survival benefits. 

Geoffrey Miller

Aliens Are Likely to Be Intelligent But Not Sentient: What Evolution of Cognition on Earth Tells Us about Extraterrestrial Intelligence


SETI – the search for extraterrestrial intelligence – is usually taken to mean the search for alien civilizations, alien people who are like us perhaps in their self-awareness and cognitive ability, but foreign in their biology because of their independent evolutionary origin. But what does this mean exactly? How would we recognize a foreign intelligence, and what is intelligence to begin with? And, assuming life exists on other planets, how likely it is to be intelligent? Biologists typically assume life self-replicates with inheritance, i.e., traits are passed on to offspring.

Anna Dornhaus