What Makes the Octopus and Its Consciousness So Extraordinary
A humbling inquiry into a tentacled intelligence so wonderfully different from our own.
By Maria Popova
“While stroking an octopus, it is easy to fall into reverie,” Sy Montgomery wrote in her breathtaking inquiry into how Earth’s most alien creature illuminates the wonders of consciousness. “To share such a moment of deep tranquility with another being, especially one as different from us as the octopus, is a humbling privilege… an uplink to universal consciousness.” And, as this little boy so touchingly reminds us, feeling empathy for a creature so vastly different from us is a supreme hallmark of our humanity. But what, exactly makes the octopus so extraordinary and enthralling?
That’s what the curiosity custodians at TED-Ed — who have previously examined what depression actually feels like, how the clouds got their names, why some people are left-handed, how melancholy enhances creativity, and why playing music benefits your brain more than any other activity — explore in this fascinating animated science film:
Studying how intelligence can arise along such a divergent evolutionary path can help us understand more about intelligence and consciousness in general — who knows what other forms of intelligent life are possible, or how they process the world around them.
For more on the singular scintillation of this marvelous creature and its consciousness, do treat yourself to Sy Montgomery’s bewitching The Soul of an Octopus.
Published February 15, 2016