If a planet like Earth can be “alive,” can it also have a mind of its own? A recent research paper explores this fascinating question.
A US team of scientists published a paper exploring just this question in the International Journal of Astrobiology. In the paper, they present the idea of “planetary intelligence,” which describes what they term as the collective knowledge and cognition of an entire planet.
They believe that the concept might actually help us deal with global issues, including climate change and even extraterrestrial life. The researchers point to evidence that underground networks of fungi can communicate to suggest that large-scale networks of life could form a vast invisible intelligence that profoundly alters the condition of the entire planet.
Humans are irrevocably changing the Earth’s environmental balance, but it may be able to adapt because it is an “intelligent entity”
One of the primary species driving that change at the moment are humans and because of the the climate and, to a greater extent, the plastic crisis, we may well be irrevocably changing the environmental balance.
“We don’t yet have the ability to communally respond in the best interests of the planet,” Adam Frank, professor of physics at the University of Rochester and coauthor of the paper, said in a press release on the article.
The researchers believe that such thought experiments can help humans understand their impact on the Earth and serve as a guide on how to improve it. Interestingly, they also believe that it could aid in the search for aliens as well.
“We’re saying the only technological civilizations we may ever see — the ones we should expect to see — are the ones that didn’t kill themselves, meaning they must have reached the stage of a true planetary intelligence,” Frank said.
“That’s the power of this line of inquiry,” he added. “It unites what we need to know to survive the climate crisis with what might happen on any planet where life and intelligence evolve.”