Get curated editors’ picks, peeks behind the scenes, film recommendations and more.
Over the past several decades, issues of animal rights have transformed from something of a niche cause to a mainstream concern in much of the world. It’s no coincidence that this increased consciousness has occurred amid a flurry of research detailing how nonhuman animals thrive, suffer, emote and process information in ways quite similar to humans. And it’s not just our primate cousins that seem to possess surprising levels of smarts – even small-brained creatures such as honeybees can count and grasp abstract concepts. Our rapidly evolving understanding of nonhuman animal intelligence poses myriad important questions for scientists, philosophers and lawmakers. For instance, to what extent should legal protections of ‘personhood’ apply to nonhuman animals? And can we ever hope to get past our own biases when assessing the minds of other beings?
As Marta Halina, a senior lecturer in philosophy of cognitive science at the University of Cambridge, explains in this latest instalment of Aeon’s In Sight series, these emerging ethical issues demand a new framework for helping us to better understand cognition in its many varieties and root out anthropocentrism. One potential tool, Halina says, is through creating something akin to a periodic table of elements for intelligence, guided by both qualitative and quantitative assessments. Through her work on a new initiative researching ‘the major shifts in computational organisation that allowed evolving brains to process information in new ways’, Halina hopes to help build a scientifically rigorous backbone for this proposed ‘periodic table’ of cognition.
This Video was made possible through the support of a grant to Aeon+Psyche from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this Video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation. Funders to Aeon+Psyche are not involved in editorial decision-making.
Interviewer: Sally Davies
Producer: Kellen Quinn
Cinematographer: Eva Kraljević
Editors: Chloe Abrahams, Eva Kraljević
Colourist: Natasha Nair
Illustrator: Ryan McAmis
How the Hindu myth of Annapurna, goddess of food, connects sustenance with spirituality
Computing and artificial intelligence
Who, exactly, authored this AI-generated spin on Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo?
Gender and identity
LGBTQ+ retirees celebrate their hard-earned self-acceptance at a belated prom night
Peering into the eerie world of plankton reveals a variety of vital creatures
Biography and memoir
Meet the Liverbirds! The bittersweet tale of Liverpool’s all-female answer to the Beatles
When crushes become crushing – how to know if you’re in a ‘limerent episode’
‘My people!’ A Trinidadian’s love letter to his island, just before its 1962 independence
A unique theatre performance explores what touch means in an age of lockdown
A Viking axe struck a Newfoundland tree in the year 1021. Here’s how scientists proved it