Natural intelligence

Natural intelligence: it is becoming increasingly common to use an adjective that until recently had no need to be distinguished from anything else.

Do we really know what intelligence is?

According to the Treccani dictionary, intelligence is: “the set of psychic and mental abilities that enable man to think, to understand or explain facts or actions, to construct abstract models of reality, to understand and be understood by others, to judge, and at the same time to adapt to new situations and to modify the situation itself when it presents obstacles to adaptation”; a specific and permanent human ability that develops gradually from childhood onwards, “accompanied by awareness and self-awareness”.
If we look at the definitions, we find an indeterminate context. It is usually related to the description of the human capacity, excluding other creatures endowed with a superior sensory apparatus. For science, intelligence is the fruit of an organ, the brain, which produces thought, and this idea excludes a number of other worlds, such as the plant world, because they are not endowed with it.
Quoting the scientist Stefano Mancuso, the idea of intelligence should be more inclusive and defined as ‘the ability to solve problems’. The weight of life on Earth is 88.6 % plants, 0.3 % humans, mammals, fish, reptiles and birds, 1.2 % fungi and the rest are micro-organisms.  Since only 0.3% of the creatures that populate the planet have brains, Mancuso dismisses the thesis that 99.7% of nature is “stupid” as implausible.
The parameterisation of the concept of intelligence to the human being, as the standard of comparison, the measure to define intelligence, excludes the inclusion of other worlds which, without the characteristics of size, mobility and brain matter, solve problems and evolve. Plants have distributed throughout their bodies what animals have concentrated in their organs. They have an extreme distribution of competence, less efficiency, but an extraordinary capacity to resist. If we do not understand the difference and look at plants as “animals with a series of deficits”, we do not understand the extraordinary complexity of these living beings, which are extremely more sensitive than humans and equally capable of learning, having the ability to memorise. To understand this world, it is necessary to look at it through the lens of reason, because such a completely different life system is difficult to grasp by intuition.
Mancuso points out that “intelligence is having the ability to perceive and solve. Plants can do both”. We can therefore say that plants are intelligent beings, even more intelligent than humans in terms of their ability to solve problems. This is demonstrated by the moment in which we live, when our species risks serious consequences by destroying the environment in which it lives. Plants would never have done this…
So it makes sense to talk about natural intelligence and to try to give a voice to the Tuber magnatum Pico, the Alba White Truffle, which belongs to a species, the mushrooms, that has four times the weight of life on earth than the animal kingdom and human beings.
Over the last few editions of the International Alba White Truffle Fair, we have tried to make our contribution to the global debate on climate change and sustainability, starting from the evidence of what is happening in our territory, with consequences for the world of truffles and the plants that produce them, as well as for vineyards and hazelnut groves.
Aware of the need to take some practical initiatives to protect our species and ensure the future of the truffle, we have taken small and exemplary actions such as the care and maintenance of forests, the planting of new trees to ensure biodiversity and CO2 absorption.
If we succeed in achieving the objectives of protection, the natural intelligence of men and their dogs will be able to do the rest in truffle hunting and extraction, while passing on practices and knowledge that, starting with the care of the truffle environment, have been recognised by UNESCO as part of the intangible heritage of mankind.
The organisation of the International Truffle Fair in the hills of the Langhe Monferrato Roero, whose vineyard landscapes have also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, encourages us to think about protection and enhancement, and obliges us to listen to the messages sent by the natural intelligence of plants and the fruits of our nature, raising our awareness and urging us to take responsibility.
Every year we try to look at the present with an eye to the future, because we owe it to young people and future generations. We are living in a historical moment in which there is constant talk of artificial intelligence, which is the focus of the fears, enthusiasms and concerns of people and institutions.
We contrast AI with natural intelligence without being clear about the contours that define it and the species to which we ascribe it; we rely on algorithms, tools and mechanisms that delegate knowledge of bodies, plants and organisms. Rethinking the Earth, becoming aware of how “intelligent” it is, is a theme that has been explored in previous editions. It can help us to better understand artificial intelligence. AI needs to be historicised, it feeds on science, knowledge and natural intelligence, just as centuries of successive generations on a land have fed on practices, knowledge and experience to evolve.
During the nine weeks of the International Alba White Truffle Fair, we will explore the relationship between natural and artificial intelligence, examining the evolution of the latter and its potential applications. We will try to highlight the importance of knowledge and openness to all forms of intelligence in order to be able to cope with artificial intelligence.
It is the life cycle of living things that creates and nurtures artificial intelligence, not the other way around; it is an awareness of who we are and the importance of the natural environment around us that gives us the balance and serenity to handle a tool with incredible potential like AI without anxiety.
To quote Professor Mancuso again, only time will tell whether we were more or less intelligent than the plant world, better than other species in achieving the goal they all set for themselves: survival. All non-animal species have never put themselves at risk over millions of years, always knowing how to adapt to change.

Our wish is to have as much NATURAL INTELLIGENCE as possible.