More On The Octopus

Here’s yet another article about octopus intelligence: “Just how smart is an octopus?“.

This time, though, (as opposed to several recent books and studies about the sentience of cephalopods) human exceptionalism is maintained:

But how far can cephalopods take their mental power? Are they capable of conscious thought? Godfrey-Smith treks through some rather testing philosophical and psychological terrain to conclude in the negative. While cephalopods are capable of exceptional complexity in their signalling, the machinery of interpretation is too limited. Humans, perhaps uniquely, have gained the ability to step outside ourselves, to think about our thoughts by means of an unstoppable internal monologue. While cephalopods can produce highly patterned signals, they can’t see their own skins, Godfrey-Smith argues, so he rules out the possibility of any internal monologue.

I wonder why it’s so difficult for us to imagine other animals imagining. If we were to learn that, in this instance, octopi have crossed some cognitive threshold, thereby allowing them to join the ranks of mammals or even of birds, how would we act differently? Or would we, at all?


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