Okay, What are the essential features of being human (as opposed, to say, a duck or a fungus)?
What is the most fundamental thing, if there is any, that marks the human from other life forms on the planet?
Now, I’m talking behviourally here.
Because to my mind, it’s an emergent quality arising from the increase in two things that are present in many other creatures, but to a lesser extent (mostly).
The first thing it emerges from is pattern recognition, itself a development of simple memory. Better devlopments of pattern recognition either arise form or entail ability for abstraction, prediction, and all other cool funky stuff. But as far as we can tell, lots of creatures do this stuff.
The next ingredient is novelty seeking; most lifeforms only do this out of necessity, as it brings with it a bundle of risk. But again, it’s not entirely unique, not even to primates, to seek new experiences where reqarding old experiences are available. In evoluitonary terms, it’s a risky strategy, but with potentially huge payoffs.
So, we have pattern recognition, we have novelty seeking, and at first sight they seem to be mutually exclusive. The first requires stability, it rewards fixed behaviours. Novelty seeking rewards avoidance of known patterns.
However, I believe that in primate, and expecially human, behaviour, we have unique and very succesful behavioural strategy which arises from finding pleasure in discovering new patterns.
Now, if this is true, if we get a similar pleasurable feedback from discovering a new pattern, a new confirmed relationship between two previously unrelated or only arbitrarily related things to that given by satisfaction of other drives, then this has a number of implications.
Firstly, it primes us for learning, for the acquisition of knowledge, and the relating of new knowledge ot existing knowledge. We’re frickin’ learning machines.
It also primes us to create patterns: art, stories, music, rhythm…
But, we are also pre-disposed to see pattern where there it may not exist, or, more fatally, to infer that pattern = meaning.
But that’s just my idea. Perhpas more later.