I came across this post today where the author talks about happiness and evolution. The author seems to have ambivalent feelings towards happiness. On the one hand, it helps them keep on living. On the other, not having happiness seems to be an evolutionarily good thing to the author.

The author seems to compare two extremes - the human experience, and that of a single-celled organism, and asks the question - “Do single-celled organisms experience happiness?”, and answers, “Maybe.”

What I wonder when reading such posts is, why do we disregard the large and varied group of organisms in between?

What about dolphins, which are known to be extremely intelligent and expressive animals and are known to use pufferfish to gain a high? What about when they foster relationships and become happy when they spend quality time with friends and family?

What about chimpanzees laughing at each other and getting surprised by amateur magicians performing for them? What about elephants displaying empathy and anger?

Forget all these wild ones, what about dogs displaying happiness by wagging their tails when they see their “dog parents” day after day?

Why did the author discount these amazing examples and go directly towards the single-celled organism or the computer program?

Please note - I’m not trying to attack the author, rather ask them this question - “should we disregard every other intelligent species because we feel special in some way since we’re humans?”

And I’ll answer it too - no, we shouldn’t. We should look at the myriad ways evolution allows for happiness and conclude that happiness and generally feeling good has a special place in our evolutionary path and we should accept it.

I also linked one other idea while reading this post. I came across this post yesterday where the author links to a Kurzgesagt video about the future of humans and charges that the video ignores transhumans and genetic engineering, which the author supposes will be very common in the future. In fact, the video acknowledges this too and says that from that point on, it’ll not talk about “humans” but “people”, encompassing all the varied “types” of humans that may exist.

While thinking about this, the thought came to me asking, “what about animals?”

While I accept that we’re on track to killing basically every non-human species of the animal kingdom, efforts are being made to store their DNA and get better at cloning them. Since intelligence seems to spring from both DNA and experience, it can be supposed that a lab-bred dolphin released into the wild may be as intelligent as it’s “natural” counterparts.

This means that there is a possibility that one day humans have the capability to travel far across the stars and also have enough animals on earth to carry some across.

Will they?

Can you expect a trans-planetary ship to have whales, dolphins, chimpanzees, and other animals on board? Or will they be considered too much of a liability?

Granted, they will completely depend on humans for their survival, specially if the planet on the other end is not properly habitable for them. But maybe there’s some undiscovered value in their intelligence which will prompt humans of the future to mandate having two dolphins on board every exoplanet bound ship?

They would certainly provide entertainment and company during long voyages. They might even be used as food via some specialized cloning system, or heck, just bred as cows and chickens are.

But maybe more than anything they’ll provide us with a sense of mission. Not just to spread humankind across the galaxy, but also other great species of planet earth. It may end up being a dire form of invasive genocide for any animals humans encounter on the host planet. This mistake has been made countless times before and will continue to be made by humans in the future.

But the question is whether we will respect their intelligence enough to want them with us, instead of leaving the animal kingdom on earth to always be stuck to one planet, never to travel the stars.


New Comment
6 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 2:37 AM

This seems to confuse "animals" as species or viable DNA varieties, and "animals" as individual creatures which may be moral patients.  There are zero individual creatures alive today which future colonists will bring with them (that includes humans).  There will likely be a tiny number of species (compared to the diversity on Earth) we'll bring, and a larger number of species we'll create or allow to come into being along the way.

While I accept that we’re on track to killing basically every non-human species of the animal kingdom

That's ludicrous.  There are over 20K species just of ants, and probably over 8 million distinct species of animal.  We probably are reducing overall biodiversity, and reducing the number of species by a bit in the non-human biomass of Earth, but that's so far from eradication it's not even useful as hyperbole.

Dagon, thank you for the reply! You’ve actually pointed out a lot of things which I didn’t think about. You’re right that I was only considering animals that have displayed some level of intelligence - dogs, dolphins, and the like. I did not consider animals that display colonial intelligence. I do hope such species are also considered which future humans make lists of non-human creatures to being along!

Your point about moral patients is interesting. I didn’t know that phrase, but it seems that all life on earth is a moral patient of humanity.

Climate Change certainly affects ants as it does other life. Why do you consider that climate change will not be an extinction level event after a point? “reducing the number of species by a bit” is certainly a worse hyperbole than mine.

Lastly, you seem very confident that some species will be brought along by future humans and “a larger number of species we'll create or allow to come into being along the way”. What makes you say that? Could you please explain?

Aggregation is weird, when talking about morality.  I don't know what you mean by "all life on earth" or "of humanity" in this context.  Which humans have what duty to exactly what?  Are you concerned with biodiversity, biomass, variety or quantity of mammalian brains, or something else?

I expect that climate change will be an extinction event for many plant and animal species, and climate change or not, all individuals will die eventually.  However, it won't overall destroy all life on earth - we'll engineer mitigations for large numbers of humans, and that will carry along with it large numbers of species and individual animals.  It'll be painful and expensive, but not permanent destruction of life.

Unless the rioting and civilizational fragility keeps us from mitigating it, and we nuke ourselves in the process.  That could set things back a few tens of millions of years.  

Huh, I never really thought about animal (and plant?) preservation as a goal in itself if humans become multiplanetary, and not just being human companions or convenience. I don't find this a clearcut idea. if we care about Earth's animals surviving a local apocalypse, shouldn't we care about everything alive in the universe surviving? Where do you draw the line?

Excellent point Shminux. The answer is Yes and No. For every situation, no matter how evolved you are, the answer would be some level of “Me First”, unless it’s trained out of you militaristically. So in this case, I would expect future humans to say that we care about the survival of Earth animals above the survival of exoplanet animals. That said, there would be a faction on earth and in space who would regard both earth animals and exoplanet animals to be equally important and worth saving.

The question is whether future humans will even bother trying to carry Earth animals with them or not?

Plant preservation might be a goal that’s beneficial to humans in a more direct way - gene modified plants that don’t consume any oxygen and only consume carbon dioxide and produce a lot of food and need less sun to do so would be extremely valuable in space. That would cause future humans to take plants with them.

>The question is whether future humans will even bother trying to carry Earth animals with them or not?

Of course we will bring our pets! I don't know about other animals though. If it's up to me, mosquitoes will get left behind, for one.