Social Question

ETpro's avatar

Is there a single word that captures human level consciousness, sentience, sapience and self-awareness?

Asked by ETpro (34469points) July 29th, 2013

Numerous higher level mammals, birds and even invertebrates such as Cephalopods exhibit all of the above qualities at some level. Many are capable of learning by observation of others, even others that are not their own species. They fashion tools for uses that enhance their survival potential. Yet they clearly are not able to adapt to changes in their environment at anything like the level humans are. What do we call the true human intelligence that Strong AI is striving to match? Is there a word for it?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

42 Answers

ragingloli's avatar


gailcalled's avatar


SadieMartinPaul's avatar


Why are human beings capable of both great compassion and extreme cruelty?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Because we’re animals @SadieMartinPaul.

Rarebear's avatar


Coloma's avatar


zenvelo's avatar


SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@Dutchess_III Most animals I encounter are a heck of a lot nicer than mean people. And, our intellect and self-awareness should make us know better.

But, of course you’re right. There’s something primal in us that erupts under certain circumstances. It’s as if the good and the bad are always at war, with one side poised to win the next battle.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I take it you’ve never come face to face with a hungry tiger in the jungle @SadieMartinPaul!

ucme's avatar


SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@Dutchess_III Well, Martin, my three-legged cat, sort-of looks like a tiger, but our face time always goes quite well. He just purrs a lot!

Giraffes, elephants, and other large wild beasts are vegetarian. Very cool.

cazzie's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul except bears. Bears will just eat you. Especially polar bears. You know what they do when they come face to face to a human? They take their big white paws, and they bat their heads right off their necks, like a golf ball off a tee. Chillin’... ain’t it?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Stay away from bears @SadieMartinPaul. Even nice ones.

Dutchess_III's avatar

(Answering the question) ^^This.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@Dutchess_III and @cazzie. Here in the mid-Atlantic region, there are black bears in the countryside. Unless they’re threatened or fear that their babies are in danger, I don’t think they pay much attention to human beings? In fact, I believe that they avoid confronting people when possible.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Probably. Lots of animals avoid humans. But that has nothing to do with being “nice”!

cazzie's avatar


talljasperman's avatar


Dutchess_III's avatar


rojo's avatar

Is…......or Am…........No, Is is correct.

rojo's avatar

No dammit. Am is the correct word.

Sorry That is not the word, just what I am

Hey! Wait!?!?!?!

ETpro's avatar

Thanks everyone. There isn’t such a word, is there? Lots of animals are conscious, aware, sentient, etc. etc.

@SadieMartinPaul I looked all over Google and Bing for a copy of the video, but could not find it. I wanted to point you to a chance encounter between two of the more intelligent animals inhabiting Earth. One was a polar bear, floating on a small iceberg, in search of seals, sea lions and such. The other was an Orca that suddenly leaped out for the water, bit into the mid section of the bear, and cut the animal half in two.

@ucme Being cognizant for various things is certainly one aspect of human intelligence, but that isn’t a word that by itself implies human intelligence. Far from it, it generally applies to what some inept government agency or corporate safety department is supposed to be, but is not.

@SadieMartinPaul I wasn’t going to share it because it is so gory, but I did find this video in my search. There are plenty where a bear is the predator as well, but those are even gorier.

@flutherother & @cazzie Those are certainly behaviors enabled by our minds and rather unique to our species, although I think some other animals display these behaviors as well. But not the word I’m looking for.

@talljasperman If any of us are omniscient, we are keeping it well hidden. Very well hidden. :-)

@rojo Ha. Not the word I’m looking for, but a masterful display of its use. :-)

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Meet the bowerbird.

Pride was mentioned above. Isn’t it strange that as unique as the property is, and as proud of it as we humans are, we’ve never invented a precise word for it?

rojo's avatar

I guess it depends on what your definition of the work Is, is. Hmphhh.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

As much as I admire the bowerbird, and the narrators gift of personifying it to human proportions, I’m afraid I cannot reduce art and poetry to a mere mating ritual. The bowerbird instinct is genetically inherited, encompassing the entire gene pool. Not so with humans.

Where the bowerbird can choose colors and arrangements, for a specific purpose, they cannot chose to be or not to be beyond themselves. Humans can. Humans choose to be, or not to be artists.

Some birds sing instead of arranging flowers. There is no difference in their reasoning for it.

ETpro's avatar

@rojo If it works fo you, go with it. :-)

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I prefer the works of the great human masters. Your own work speaks volumes more to me than does that of the bowerbird. But art and poetry are by-products of human intelligence, not words for the intelligence itself.

I asked because in every thread where I try to discuss animals, aliens or machines achieving whatever that magic mixture is that human brains uniquely (at least among sentients we know of) have, someone always chimes in with a rebuke that lots of animals have that too.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Ah but the same art and poetry is available for every race of human to pursue or reject. Likewise every race of human can create new forms of art poetry.

Flower arrangement is limited to one bird species, for one reason. Self expression is not the reason. Thus there is no art. But at least it has a reason, unlike a sunset more beautiful than any bowerbird arrangement. Just because it’s pretty, doesn’t make it poetic, or artful.

ETpro's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Well thanks for jumping in, but you seem to be intentionally missing the point of the question.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I never intentionally miss any point. But I do miss points. So I will re-read.

Thanks for letting me know I’m off track. It can be embarrassing. Sorry.

ETpro's avatar

^^^ I am actually looking for a single word that defines the breadth of human intelligence as distinct for intelligence that is currently exhibited by other earthly life forms or AIs.

My apologies if I did not word the OP or my direct response to you clearly enough to indicate what I was asking. To be clear, I am not asking for abilities that human intelligence potentiates. I am asking if there is a single English word for human intelligence that sets it apart from any other type of intelligence currently known on Earth.

ucme's avatar

@ETpro I have to assume that you ignored several other attempts here because they were so far off track it wasn’t worth the effort.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@ETpro We were only allowed one word. I chose “awareness” and now I shall expound. Of course all living things are aware, but, as far as I know, humans are the only ones who think outside of their own physical awareness, and try to encompass awareness of things they know nothing about. We try to be aware of things that may not even exist.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Dutchess_III I get what you’re saying. I thought Artistic and Poetic were closely related to Awareness, in that they are the tools which humans use to express “Awareness of things (phenomenon) that may not even exist”... as you say.

One might claim that is equal to a bird arranging flowers for an instinctual mating ritual, but I do not. I’m just not in sync with the question here apparently.

ETpro's avatar

@ucme You assume correctly.

@Dutchess_III As you noted, lots of life forms are aware. It’s not a single word, but I have heard aware of being aware applied to something that is uniquely human, but recent studies of animal intelligence and behavior show that numerous mammals possess that capacity to to some degree. Dolphins call each other by name, communicate and cooperatively hunt using communication to guide their action. It is looking like the invertebrate, the Humboldt squid, do the same using photo-luminescence to communicate. It is certainly true that they evolved to do that. But then, so did humans evolve to do what we do.

As with intelligence, consciousness, sentience, and sapience; we humans have awareness in a greater degree than other life forms on earth, but none of those mental properties are unique to us. @gailcalled‘s “humanness” uniquely defines us, but is not limited to our intellects. I’m really thinking that unless it’s some arcane and seldom used term in neuroscience or psychology, there is no such word.

I really like @Rarebear‘s “chocolate”. I’m sure that if @WillWorkForChocolate joins the thread, she will agree. I just don’t think many people would get my drift if I said she sure is very chocolate. I’m afraid they’d think I had in mind eating her rather than complimenting her intelligence, consciousness, sentience, awareness, and sapience all rolled up into one apparently nonexistent word. :-)

Blondesjon's avatar

I believe that ‘me’ is a completely viable answer. It is a description of our own uniqueness on one hand and a label that every single human being can apply to themselves on the other. Our survival and adaptability skills were honed on taking care of ‘me’ and society as a whole is based on ‘me’ not wanting to be alone and ‘me’ needing a set of rules to protect ‘me’ from everybody else.

‘Me’ is neither ego nor soul but a combination of both concepts that make our consciousness, sentience, sapience and self-awareness all our own.

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t know of a single word. It might make a difference whether you are thinking of it in, say, Zen terms, as opposed to neuroscience. I’ve read quite a few books in both fields and recall lots of descriptions and qualifiers but no encompassing term that an author didn’t have to define for use in context.

It might help if we knew what use you want to make of it. A person writing a scientifically based article for a popular magazine, for instance, would have utterly different intentions from someone who wanted to explore the history of the concept philosophically through etymology and usage over time. Talking about measurable performance on an IQ test and the ability to perform fuzzy logic and to recognize a whole from a small part of a pattern is a very different matter from talking about what exists in the human makeup that allows for meditation and an experience of enlightenment. Are we discussing what enables human beings to conceive and achieve feats of engineering and traverse space or what allows us to bring forth a Kant or Descartes or Buddha from among us? Is it the same thing or not?

The fact that none of us can come up with the term you want suggests that you would have to draw it from some narrow field that’s foreign to most of us, and hence that in using it you would have to explain it. There’s also the possibility that any narrow field presenting such a term might indeed be too narrow in scope to take in your full breadth of meaning.

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther