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time

posted 16 Feb 2012, 04:20 by John Brown   [ updated 19 Feb 2012, 02:47 ]

The survival advantage gained by organisms with brains is the ability to exploit time. The ability to predict the future in terms of resources and dangers, and to act pre-emptively.

Clearly species that developed brains gained a significant survival advantage.

E.coli is a unicellular organism with the most simple of nervous systems. It is capable of sensing energy sources, nutrients and toxins, storing and evaluating the information and make a final decision keep swimming or roll (to alter direction).

Plants don’t need brains because they don’t move. Simple nervous systems connect sensory mechanisms directly to motor neurons. More complex brains are about exploiting time to take physical action. Brains are about using information from different times (seconds through years) to coordinate action. When brains compete in a Darwinian way it becomes about speed. Brains are about exploiting time, to take physical action, faster than the other brain.

If brains are about intelligence then this assumption leads to a natural definition.


Brains exist because the distribution of resources 
necessary for survival and the hazards that 
threaten survival vary in space and time. 
There would be little need for a nervous system in an immobile organism 
or an organism that lived in regular and predictable surroundings. 
In the chaotic natural world, the distribution and localisation 
of resources and hazards become more difficult to predict 
for larger spaces and longer spans of time.” 
Allman in Evolving Brains pg 2

"All brains …… receive a diverse array of inputs 
that must be combined in such a way as to produce 
a very much smaller set of behavioural outcomes” 
Allman in Evolving Brains pg 6

Dawkings in The Selfish Gene