- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 5836 KB
- Print Length: 281 pages
- Publisher: William Collins (9 March 2017)
- Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers (AU)
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01LXKA6FO
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Customer Reviews: 237 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #61,445 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
HarperCollins Publishers (AU)
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Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life Kindle Edition
|Length: 281 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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About the Author
Praise for Other Minds:
‘Entrancing and profound’ Financial Times
‘A superb, coruscating book’ Literary Review
‘Startlingly incisive … refreshing guidance’ New York Times
‘The beauty of Godfrey-Smith’s book lies in the clarity of his writing; his empathy, if you will. He takes us through those early stirrings in the seas of deep time, from bacteria that sense light and can taste, to cnidarian jellyfish, the first organisms to exhibit nervous systems, which he describes wonderfully.’ Philip Hoare, Guardian
‘Fascinating and often delightful … This book ingeniously blends philosophy and science to trace the epic journey from single-celled organisms of 3.8 billion years ago to the awakening and development of cephalopod consciousness.’ The Times
‘As poignant as anything you will read this year’ Mail on Sunday
‘In Other Minds, Peter Godfrey-Smith, a philosopher, skilfully combines science, philosophy and his experiences of swimming among these tentacled beasts to illuminate the origin and nature of consciousness.’ The Economist
‘A delight on so many levels’ Dive magazine
‘To investigate these astonishing animals with such empathy and rigour is achievement enough. To do so while casting light on the birth and nature of consciousness, as Peter Godfrey-Smith does here, is captivating.’ China Miéville, author of Kraken
‘I love this book, its masterful blend of natural history, philosophy, and wonder … It’s a captivating story, and Peter Godfrey-Smith brings it alive in vivid, elegant prose … A must-read for anyone interested in the evolution of the mind – ours and the very other, but equally sentient, minds of the cephalopods.’ Jennifer Ackerman, author of The Genius of Birds--This text refers to the hardcover edition.
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It's far more ethical & valuable to observe them in their own habitat. I enjoyed hearing about the insights that were gained by watching them in Octopolis.
Top international reviews
Secondly, 'Other Minds' is the kind of book destined to become a classic of its genre, as it has a tremendous - I would say life-changing - effect on the reader. This reader included; after reading about the startlingly high level of intelligence possessed by octopuses, I cannot ever see myself ordering octopus as food in a restaurant again. It just seems wrong; they are as characterful as dogs and cats, and I think it would simply be terrible to treat these amazing creatures as a foodstuff any longer. I do hope, given my love of bacon and chorizo, that Godfrey-Smith's next book is not on the topic of porcine intelligence...
And thirdly (for the sake of brevity - I could certainly go on in praise of this book), Godfrey-Smith makes a great case for the protection of the ocean environment. Overfishing and pollution have both taken their toll, and now that we understand how much intelligence - nay, sentience - is present in the depths, we owe it to our genetic relatives (by which I mean all species, in every shape and form) to do a better job of not destroying what life there is out there.
But how much do you know about octopuses (or, apparently, octopodes) and cephalopods in general?
The evolutionary tree and time scales are fascinating:
• 4,600 MYA: Earth formed
• 3,600 MYA: First single celled organism (perhaps earlier than this)
• 635 MYA, Ediacaran: Emergence first multicellular organisms and also the bilaterian body plan. Perhaps these animals also had simple light sensitive skin patches. Molluscs, the forbearers of cephalopods, split from rest of evolutionary tree during this period. ie common ancestor for humans and octopodes
• 542 MYA, Cambrian: explosion of body forms we see today
• 320 MYA: Bird and mammal common ancestor. A land dwelling lizard-like animal
• 164 MYA: First uncontroversial octopus fossil
• 6 MYA: Human and chimp common ancestor
• 1 MYA: Homo sapiens
Nervous systems developed independently (although from the same precursor protein), as did eyes. Whereas chordates (including us) have a centralised nervous system, cephalopods have a much more widely distributed nervous system: for instance their arms have enough "intelligence" to act semi-autonomously. Whereas there are many intelligent birds and mammals, cephalopods are the only intelligent molluscs. The common octopus has 500 million neurons, (similar to cats and dogs. This is four orders of magnitude greater than other molluscs ,a garden snail for instance has about 10,000 neurons.
There is an interesting discussion on the purpose of a nervous system. In simple animals it allows animals to do two things: respond to the environment (move toward food or away from pain), and to coordinate the animal's body. Looking after four feet whilst fleeing a predator is no mean feat. With larger brains animals can start to plan their actions, coordinate within a pack, and solve problems set by animal behaviourists.
Godfrey-Smith then attempts to make inroads into consciousness and self awareness. Without, I feel, much success.
Birds and mammals also demonstrate parallel evolution. Our common ancestor was probably a land reptile that roamed before the dinosaurs. Yet both us (as mammals) and birds have skin covering, are warm blooded, and have developed a level of intelligence. Although anatomically our brains are similar, birds and primates use their brains differently. A raven, as well as having a large brain for its weight, also uses that brain efficiently. The result is a surprisingly clever animal.
Why do cephalopods generate such fascinating skin colour displays? Especially as they're apparently colour blind, and they are not social.
Another interesting puzzle that Godfrey-Smith raises but doesn't entirely address: octopuses and cephalopods have comparatively large brains, yet only live for a couple of years. Why do they need such large brains for such a short life span? However the associated discussion on the evolutionary theories of senescence.
The book ends with a polemic on habitat destruction, which is fair enough but off-topic.
So despite the book's shortcomings, I learnt a lot. Hence a hearty 4 out 5.
His passion for octopuses also shines through and contributes to the readability of the book. The only reason it doesn't get five stars from me is that the prose is a tad try. Nevertheless, he does a great job of distilling complex concepts for the lay reader, and the book reads like a breeze, making it worthwhile for anyone with an interest in these kinds of subjects.
Basically octopus and co are kind of smart and seem to show some social behaviours (compared to other sea life not mammals).
There weren’t enough examples of these animals doing cool things, I actually left the book concluding they are much less intelligent than I initially thought.
Whilst you do get some chapters that touch upon this topic, they are interspersed with overly wordy, slightly dry and spurious chapters on philosophy of language etc. This made a fascinating topic for a book one that was more of a slog to get through than needs be.
The difference in style between chapters was marked, the chapters on actual octopus behaviour flowed easily along and we're fascinating and accessible. The more philosophical chapters had denser sentence structure and felt almost turgid at times.
This is a real shame as there is a lot in the book to pique your interest and to add new information and avenues of thought. If you are willing to stick with it through the more dry chapters then the payoff is worthwhile. It just depends on your tolerance and willingness to do so.
In the printed book, endnotes are referenced by the page numbers and the phrases/sentences to which notes refer. For example, the very first note is added to a sentence, 'The history of animals has the shape of a tree.' on page 6. The author doesn't use note numbers in the main text, so the reader won't notice the notes to the main text unless they regularly check the notes section. This isn't necessarily a problem; it keeps the main text clutter-free (unlike some authors, who like to add a note every few lines). But these notes are not hyperlinked in the Kindle edition, so looking for a note is a tiresome affair. With the printed book, you can keep one finger in the notes section, but you can't do that with Kindle. I wouldn't have bothered writhing this if the notes only contained bibliographical data and specialised information, but they are interesting, descriptive notes.
I couldn't have possibly read it and enjoyed it on Kindle. As you will probably have guessed, I bought the printed book as well. The reason I am still giving five stars is because I didn't want my gripe about the technical issue to affect the review rating, which should be about the content of the book, which is brilliant.
The book is well written in good American. It is easy to follow, and entertaining. On the question of consciousness, as usual I was left coming out by that same door wherein I went.
Written by a philosopher, the writing is really accessible and really engages the reader: unlike a lot of scientists’ approach to this subject. It dives deep into the world of the evolution of large brains and intelligence and how they have evolved along completely different evolutionary paths.
It also explores the world and habits of cephalopods, particularly octopuses, but a fair bit about cuttlefish as well. These really are the most incredible creatures.
Well worth a read.