Will all species evolve into self-aware beings, given enough time & resources?

Can we take any species - say, poison ivy - and assume that it will evolve into a sentient species with a human-like IQ, if it has sufficient time and resources?

Meaning that high-IQ intelligence is an evolutionary “race” that humans happened to “win”, but other species are on their way?

If not, why not?

I don’t think there’s any reason to imagine that it is inevitable - sentience isn’t a goal of evolution, because evolution doesn’t have goals.

Correct. Also most biological organisms are physically impossible to develop sentience, even if you give them billions of years it still won’t happen for most of them.

There is also little evidence that sentience and intelligence are evolutionarily advantageous traits. Other than homo sapiens, most primate species are threatenes and are far from what can be called succesful (compare to most insects species, for example).

And single-celled organisms arguably are, and have always been, the most successful of all.

Well, “sentient” and “self-aware” are slippery terms, and we do not really even understand how human beings come to be conscious. On some current theories of consciousness, everything is a little bit conscious, even poison ivy, maybe even rocks, just not as fully and complexly conscious as we are. Other theorists think only humans with a human level of language can be conscious, yet others think it is just humans and “higher” animals (which usually seems to mean something like “vertebrates”), but the fact is we just don’t know.

What we do know, however, is that evolution is not a directional or goal-oriented process, so there is no reason to expect that other species will evolve towards greater intelligence or consciousness (if they don’t have it already). Heck, there is no guarantee that humans will not eventually evolve into a more stupid, less self-aware type of creature (see Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos). Plenty of relatively simple types of organism have evolved from ancestors that were rather more complex, and, very possibly, more intelligent than their descendants are now.

I do not know why you say that. I quite agree that there is no inevitability, or even likelihood, that other species will evolve “self awareness”. Evolution does not work like that. It is not directional. However, by the same token I do not see any physical impossibility here. If single celled organisms could evolve into sentient humans (and they did), why could not other current animals or plants do so? Sure plants don’t have a nervous system, but there is nothing to prevent them some sort of equivalent. It isn’t likely, but neither were we.

Bear in mind that “successful” is a human concept, and has no objective meaning.

In context, I think he means “numerous”.

The only “race” is survival, and you don’t need intelligence for that. Humans are very successful primates (meaning there are lots of us), but we’re hardly “winning”.

I thought that evolution is sort of goal-oriented, in the sense that successful reproductive strategies are favored.

Humans have shown that a high IQ is probably the best reproductive strategy of all - we can plunder all other species’ resources and put ourselves anywhere on the planet at will (including outer space!)

If we have to deal with a poison ivy creature with a human like IQ, that utterly changes the power dynamics on the planet. Maybe we’ll find out (in thousands of years) that after one species achieves a high IQ, that puts evolutionary pressure on other species to do the same thing.

“It would be an interesting strategy if X happened” is very different from “evolution will probably cause X to happen.” Life existed perfectly happily for hundreds of millions of years before human-level intelligence came along (as far as we can tell).

“High IQ is probably the best reproductive strategy of all” is not a factual statement. Big brains don’t spring up overnight and they aren’t free once they’re there; a lot of energy goes into creating and powering them, energy which could be spent on other things, or conserved. True, once you get to a certain point a species with big brains can exert unprecedented control over its environment, but getting to that point is nontrivial, and there are a million things that could cause marginally bigger brains to be selected against in a population. In other words, regardless of how effective human-level intelligence is for reproduction, that’s no guarantee that each step towards human-level intelligence will be selected for. As has been stated, evolution is not goal-oriented.

This also doesn’t even get into the double-edged part of intelligence, that being improving military technology (or, better ways to kill people). I don’t think it’s overstating things to say that nuclear proliferation poses an existential threat to our species—one nut with an ICBM can start a war that could eradicate all human beings. Whether that’s likely or not is up for debate, but it’s certainly possible, and it’s one possible solution for the Fermi paradox.

Bear in mind that “Bear in mind”, “that”, “concept”, "objective " and “meaning” are also just human concepts.

No, that’s not a goal.

Hardly. There are many more successful species than humans, and our experiment is in the early stages.

No, it doesn’t. If anything, it produces the opposite effect as we domesticate animals and they prove to be less intelligent than their undomesticated cousins. Well, I guess we could say “differently intelligent”, but it takes less intelligence for cow to munch grass in a protected field than for an Auroch to have to worry about predators.

Nitpick: Aurochs has an ‘s’ in both singular and plural form.

But no, the existance of humans has not increased the general pressure on other species to develop higher intelligence, (in individual cases it may have done so- I seem to recall a study showing that urban foxes performed better in intelligence tests than rural foxes, but that is no indication of an overall trend).

The organisms that have benefitted most from human population increase have been plants that we find palatable. How would increased intelligence possibly benefit wheat? How would it even develop?

Sorry - I didn’t mean that to be so snarky. What I meant is: loads of things are just human concepts, but here we are, humans, talking about them.

The success of the human species can’t be attributed to intelligence alone. Bipedalism and manual dexterity are important factors in our success and their contributions can’t be isolated. Dolphins and other marine mammals are arguably intelligent, but they lack human dexterity to manipulate the environment as we do.

Another thing to consider is that the success of Homo sapiens as a species was not an inevitability, as difficult as that may be for us to imagine from our current perspective. Anatomically modern humans appeared 200,000 years ago. Behavioral modernity is believed to have appeared 50,000 years ago. Yet, through the great majority of this period, humans were a minor species of hunter gatherers, existing only as small bands of nomadic groups. It was only with the development of agriculture 10,000 years ago that human population really began to grow and achieve “success” in the evolutionary sense. Of course, intelligence was a prerequisite for domestication of other species, but the late appearance of this practice (homo sapiens existed without agriculture for 95% of its history) suggests that intelligence is not a clearly advantageous adaptation.

Of course, this is not to say intelligence did not help our species survive. But the evidence generally suggests that intelligence by itself is not advantageous, and this in turn means that intelligence is not an evolutionary inevitability. Like I mentioned, intelligent species have not necessarily been successful. To the contrary, intelligent species such as non-human primates, dolphins, and elephants have been fairly unsuccessful in terms of the numbers that currently exist. Also, keep in mind that since the Homo genus appeared over 2 million years ago, our species is the only one that survived. Neanderthals, fairly intelligent in their own right, only survived until 20-30,000 years ago.

Investing energy into breeding, rather than brain development, may be a better evolutionary strategy.