Books

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Books : reviews

Peter Godfrey-Smith.
Other Minds: the octopus and the evolution of intelligent life.
William Collins. 2016

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?

Otber Minds 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, it explores the incredible evolutionary journey of the cephalopods. But what kind of intelligence do they 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 oct0pus mind and on our own.