Astrophysicists claim that “planetary intelligence” exists … But the Earth does not have it

(ORDO NEWS) — We tend to think of intelligence as something that characterizes only one person. But all sorts of collectives can be called intelligent – whether we are talking about social groups of people, enclaves of insects, or even about the mysterious behavior of slimy mold and viruses.

Is it possible to observe intelligence on a larger scale – perhaps on an entire planet? In a recently published paper, a team of space scientists explore this tantalizing question and come to some surprising conclusions about our own Earth.

“The open question is whether intelligence can function on a planetary scale, and if so, how the transition to planetary scale intelligence might occur and whether it has already happened or is in the near future,” the team writes.

They note that understanding this issue can help us manage the future of our planet; however, according to their own criteria, it looks like we haven’t reached that point yet.

“We don’t yet have the capacity for a collective response in the interests of the planet,” says astrophysicist Adam Frank of the University of Rochester.

“There is intelligence on Earth, but there is no planetary intelligence.”

According to the researchers, the emergence of technological intelligence on the planet – a common reference point in research on astrobiology – should perhaps be seen not as something that happens on the planet, but as something that happens to the planet.

In this interpretation, the evolution of planetary intelligence will be the acquisition and application of a collective body of knowledge operating in a complex system of different species simultaneously and harmoniously, which benefits or supports the entire biosphere.

Unfortunately – and this is obvious – people and the Earth have not yet reached this level.

According to Frank and his co-authors, we have only reached the third stage of their hypothetical timeline for the development of planetary intelligence.

At the first stage, characteristic of the very early Earth, life develops on a planet with an “immature biosphere”, but feedback loops between life and geophysical processes are not sufficient for the coevolution of various types of life.

At the second stage, the “mature biosphere” develops.

Further, the planet may become the third stage – the “immature technosphere” on which the Earth is currently located. At this stage, technological activity is developing on the planet, but it is not yet firmly integrated with other systems, such as the physical environment.

However, if these contradictions can be resolved, then the immature technosphere has a chance to develop to the last stage – the “mature technosphere”, where feedback loops between technological activity and other biogeochemical and biogeophysical states act synchronously, ensuring maximum stability and productivity of the entire system.

This idealized state is what the Earth should strive for, the researchers say.

“Planets develop through immature and mature stages, and planetary intelligence is an indicator of when you reach a mature planet,” Frank says.

“The million dollar question is to figure out what planetary intelligence looks like and what it means to us in practice, because we don’t yet know how to transition to a mature technosphere.”

According to the researchers, we are currently on the brink of an abyss where our collective actions clearly have global repercussions, but we are not yet in control of those repercussions.

If, in tandem with other forces on the planet, we can work out a balance so that these effects can be controlled, we will finally be able to evolve – as a planet – to the next level.

“The transition to planetary intelligence, as we have described here, will have the hallmark of intelligence operating on a planetary scale,” the researchers write in their paper.

“Such a planetary intelligence would be able to direct the future evolution of the Earth, acting in harmony with planetary systems and guided by a deep understanding of such systems.”

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