2018 / 27 August

The Wisest Cricket

The Wisest Cricket

“The Wisest Cricket” is a term used in jest (and absurdism) to refer to the human attempt to understand the universe and their place in it. The term is intended to refer to the absurdity of thinking that humans can ever acquire wisdom or genuine, complete information about the universe.

The logic behind the term is as follows:

  • There is a continuum of intelligence, from single-celled organisms on up to insects, then mammals, and so on
  • The continuum of intelligence is not theoretically limited to human intelligence, but could hypothetically extend beyond humans, and it has extended beyond a millions forms to reach homo sapiens
  • An insect (say, a cricket) has an extraordinarily limited conception of the natural world compared to homo sapiens (no knowledge of cells, of atoms, of molecules, of complex moral ideas, about how to develop language, or how to go to the moon, etc)
    • It follows that even the most transcendently intelligent cricket is only as smart as a cricket can be, and is still woefully limited to a tiny, tiny sphere of understanding (given its brain size and inherent capability)

If these points above are the case, then:

  • There could be a hypothetical superintelligence above humanity – and in the perspective of this superintelligence – humanity would have the astoundingly limited and feeble grasp of reality, one that would appear just as stunted and entirely ignorant of the actual workings of the universe as a cricket’s intelligence seems to humans
    • We are… like the cricket – a physical form with an extremely limited conception of the universe and our place in it

Below is an admittedly rough image of the relation between intelligence and actual worldly insight:

Continuum of Intelligence

The idea of “The Wisest Cricket” intends to question the idea that homo sapiens – in their present form – can ever achieve some kind of firm grounding of insight about the universe and our place in it.

It is a kind of playful (not intentionally insulting) mocking of human attempts of “certain” meaning, or certainty itself, such as:

  • The belief that we are certainly going to a benevolent and pleasant afterlife after we die
  • The belief that we are “one with the universe” in a way that makes us feel warm and loved, and at peace with life and death
  • The belief the somehow “everything will work out all right” – that there is a kind of cosmic plan which is moving towards peace and harmony
  • (Basically any idea that secures our safety or happiness in any way)

Absolutely none of those points above are certain, and they are examples of overconfidence by a cricket-equivalent intelligence (homo sapiens). It is clear that these beliefs can sometimes be pragmatically beneficial, and might help humans cope with existence, death, and uncertainty – but that doesn’t let us intellectually turn a blind eye to the fact that they can’t be verified.

There might be said, then, to be three possible paths for making meaning of existence as a human being:

  1. Relegate oneself to the unknowability of life. Being agnostic about everything in life is a very challenging task indeed, but it can be done. We might argue that Montaigne took this path, and lived reasonably well regardless.
  2. Gain worldly or divine “wisdom” that brings us peace and certainty. This is the path of “The Wisest Cricket” – remaining in a flawed and ignorant vessel, but attempting to assure oneself that the world is understood, despite our paltry cognitive ability.
  3. To extend or create post-intelligence in order to attempt to actually know the universe and “the good” itself. This could be done either by enhancing human cognition, or by creating an artificial superintelligence.

“The Wisest Cricket” idea posits that the universe (and “the moral good” itself) must be explored if it is to be known, and that while we may be grateful to have been born a relatively intelligent human being, we should accept the (relatively) cricket-like extent of our mental capabilities, and seek certainty and wisdom-seeking through a more intelligent vessel than a human cranium.

 

Header image credit: PxHere

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