I've been thinking on this for days, and I honestly have absolutely no ideas. I'm trying to create some form of intelligence that might work for a species that evolved as the perfect war machines (they evolved with so much competition for everything that they became perfect for combat). I can only think of pattern recognition based, like humans have (the reason we're so good at mathematics), are there any different forms of intelligence present in nature that I'm missing? Or is this just a dumb abstract question that would be dumb to answer as a human?

Edit: They've evolved for terrestrial combat, and most of their psychology is based around this fact.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "perfect for combat" is so broad it means nothing. Underwater combat requires different features than flying combat or mud combat, just so say something. Is a shark a good hunter? Yes in the ocean, absolutely lame in the Rocky Mountains forests... $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 5:20
  • $\begingroup$ I know that species. I call them "humans". And the things that make them so deadly are intelligence and adaptability. For war, the important things are tools, so the species that can produce the best tools, wins. A species that has great natural tools will still lose to a species without such tools but the capability of building even better ones. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 6:29
  • $\begingroup$ If I read your question correctly: you're asking what kind of intelligence would work for an intelligent species that evolved as perfect war machines. The simplest answer would be a type of intelligence similar to that of humans. The creatures might have their natural set of skills and abilities refined to make them better at combat. The idea that another kind of intelligence might be required is both interesting and challenging. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 7:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "What other kinds of intelligence are there?" feels like it could be an almost unbounded question; there is no good way to know whether an answer lists all of them. You may want to rephrase this to be more in terms of "what traits of intelligence would be beneficial to a creature that has evolved toward X?", for which it probably will be easier to judge how well a given answer answers the question. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 7:43
  • $\begingroup$ Also, all creatures tend to evolve in an environment of scarcity. There's scarcity of food, scarcity of territory, scarcity of mates, and so on. Each species adapts to this in a slightly different way, but remember that combat (or any other kind of actual fighting) is always risky; there's a great risk that while you may injure your opponent, your opponent also injures you. That's why so many "aggressive" behaviors tend to be ritualized, as a way of measuring up against an opponent without necessarily getting injured yourself. That's doubly important if you can't just go to the drop-in clinic. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 7:47

3 Answers 3


Daniel Kahneman identifies some 'heuristics' in human thinking that act as quick-fix solution makers when deep concentrated thought - the "system two" of our mind - would be too effortful. There is debate whether these heuristics are 'biases' (for example when the complexity of a political debate means your brain decides to side with the nicer looking politician) or 'fast and frugal' methods of decision making. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heuristics_in_judgment_and_decision-making

Some heuristics include

  • intensity matching (Janey has a 4.0 GPA... she probably has a 140 IQ)
  • anchoring adjustments (I have no idea how much this car is worth... but the initial offering was $3000 so I'll aim somewhere around that)
  • representativeness heuristic (Bill is a scientist and engineer and wears a helmet everyday... he's probably an astronaut!)

Clearly these can often be wrong - one of the most significant holes in human thinking is statistical awareness

  • Janey is more likely than most to get a high IQ but will likely regress to the mean (be closer to average).
  • The car may be worth nowhere near $3000 but you'll use that number as a yardstick even if it initially seemed ridiculous.
  • Bill seems like the ideal astronaut - but there are barely any proportional to the population as a whole - he's probably a talented engineer who cycles to work.

So the ability to look past immediate pattern-matching and biases and instinctively use statistical knowledge would be a great new 'area' of intelligence to have - as "even statisticians were not good intuitive statisticians" ("Belief in the law of small numbers")

Therefore your war species could resemble either the percentage-spouting droid K-2SO, with an ability to assess tactical scenarios coldly and efficiently, or an at least partial hive mind that can determine the likely behavior of an individual enemy from the enemy population, without getting caught up in biases.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi, welcome to Worldbuilding! I really like this answer as you get the point across about what would be useful and why. I do believe that this is an instinct even statisticians lack, but do you have a link to such a study (or studies)? Thanks $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 9:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 'Belief in the law of small numbers' is the study, the quote is from the first chapter of his book :) $\endgroup$
    – jMan
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 10:58

The question about possible types of intelligence is ridiculously complex, partly/fully philosophical, and way beyond the scope of a question or an answer thereof. We are also fundamentally quite limited in trying to think of possible ways to think, our approaches in artificial intelligence, for example, are merely trying to replicate the human way of thinking and seeing the world.

When it comes to a creature that has to combat members of the same species for all possible resources, it probably has developed physical characteristics suitable for it. They might be very fast and agile in order to make surprise attacks, or very strong, bulky and well protected to resist the attacks of others and slug the opponents with heavy blows.

All this is rather irrelevant to your question, as for the intelligence capabilities: your creature is probably quite stupid. Fighting is essentially very easy, and if you know you are going to fight for everything anyway, there is no need to develop intelligence. We, homo sapiens, are so "smart" because we had to become flexible, cunning and outsmart the opponent. Originally, some time ago though, we were actually prey to many animals. So at the same time, we had to develop skills to hide from a predator, but be an efficient predator at the same time. Simultaneously, we had to develop skills find food from bushes and trees; roots and fruits. These skills are more or less mutually exclusive, so acquiring them "increased" our capabilities. If there was only one way to find food, shelter and mating partner, namely fighting, we would have just become big, strong, stupid apes.

Another part of becoming smart, at least the way we know it, is to grow large brains. For a fighter, this has multiple problems. The brain is very fragile and would require protection in a fight, and would certainly be a target to the opponent. Secondly, big thinking power requires a lot of energy. A creature that spends most of its energy to fight for resources, would not have this surplus to grow big thinking organs. Lastly, at least in our understanding of intelligence, a big brain is not enough, but you need to train it (slowly learning things). This would mean that young baby creatures would have to take time learning from their "parents", which would, of course, be impossible if fights would occur constantly.


In response to "What makes intelligence."
I came across these when writing a report on the limits of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)


Tutorial's point provides a brief description on the different types of intelligences. It covers the different types of intelligences, such as (but not restricted to)

-Linguistics: The ability of speaking, communicating (with language) and recognising speach and speaking patterns

-Logical-mathematical: Understanding complex ideas and understanding relationships of objects or ideas

-Intra-personal: The understanding of emotions and intentions

-Interpersonal: Similar to Intra-personal, but recognising it amongst others.

Tutorials point then goes on to talk about what makes up intelligence, comprising of reasoning, learning, perception, problem solving and linguistics. It goes into greater depth than discussed here, and is a worthwile read of the entire document.

In addition, the first few pages of this report on AGI may help aswell:


This report (in the first few pages) states some things about what we should be aiming for when creating AGI, including some fundamental abilities that we humans posses. The most notable points include

-"General intelligence involves the ability to achieve a variety of goals, and carry out a variety of tasks, in a variety of different contexts and environments."

-"A generally intelligent system should be able to handle problems and situations quite different from those anticipated by its creators."

-"A generally intelligent system should be good at generalizing the knowledge it’s gained, so as to transfer this knowledge from one problem or context to others."

Points taken directly from the journal article.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding.SE! When you do have time, it would be much appreciated if you could go into more detail on the information in your links, as link-only answers tend to be discouraged here. I can understand, though; I don't always have time for proper answers myself. Anyway, I hope you enjoy your stay! $\endgroup$
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 9:03
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for doing some actual research, which the querent obviously didn't. I just want to note is that the most honest answer to the question "what is intelligence" is the old operational definition of artificial intelligence, that is, we say that a system exhibits intelligence if it is capable of performing tasks which, if performed by a human, would be said to require intelligence. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 9:35

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .