Welcome to Clip from Spiral logo

Interactive video lesson plan for: Michio Kaku on the Evolution of Intelligence

Activity overview:

Dr. Michio Kaku returns to Big Think studios to discuss his latest book, The Future of the Mind (http://goo.gl/1mcGeb). Here he explains the evolution of human intelligence.

Don't miss new Big Think videos!  Subscribe by clicking here: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5

Transcipt - Some people think that intelligence is the crowning achievement of evolution. Well if that's true there should be more intelligent creatures on the planet Earth. But to the best of our knowledge we're the only ones. The dinosaurs were on the Earth for roughly 200 million years and to the best of our knowledge not a single dinosaur became intelligent. We humans, modern humans, had been on the Earth for roughly a hundred thousand years. Only a tiny fraction of the 4.5 billion years that the Earth has been around. So you come to the rather astounding conclusion that intelligence is not really necessary. That Mother Nature has done perfectly well with non-intelligent creatures for millions of years and that we as intelligent creatures are the new kid on the block.

And so then you begin to wonder how did we become intelligent? What separated us from the animals? Well there are basically three ingredients -- at least three that help to propel us to become intelligent. One is the opposable thumb. You need a tentacle, a claw, an opposable thumb in order to manipulate the environment. So that's one of the ingredients of intelligence -- to be able to change the world around you.

Second is eyesight. But the eyesight of a predator. We have eyes to the front of our face, not to the side of our face and why? Animals with eyes to the front of their face are predators -- lions, tigers and foxes. Animals with eyes to the side of their face are prey and they are not as intelligent -- like a rabbit. We say dumb bunny and smart as a fox. And there's a reason for that. Because the fox is a predator. It has to learn how to ambush. It has to learn how to have stealth, camouflage. It has to psych out the enemy and anticipate the motion of the enemy that is its prey. If you're a dumb bunny all you have to do is run. And the third basic ingredient is language because you have to be able to communicate your knowledge to the next generation.

And to the best of our knowledge animals do not communicate knowledge to their offspring other than by simply communicating certain primitive motions. There's no book. There's no language. There's no culture by which animals can communicate their knowledge to the next generation. And so we think that's how the brain evolved. We have an opposable thumb, we have a language of maybe five to ten thousand words. And we have eyesight that is stereo eyesight -- the eyesight of a predator. And predators seem to be smarter than prey. Then you ask another question. How many animals on the Earth satisfy these three basic ingredients. And then you come to the astounding conclusion -- the answer is almost none. So perhaps there's a reason why we became intelligent and the other animals did not. They did not have the basic ingredients that would one day propel us to become intelligent.

Then the next question asked in Planet of the Apes and asked in any number of science fiction movies is can you accentuate intelligence. Can you take an ape and make the ape intelligent. Well, believe it or not the answer could be yes. We are 98.5 percent genetically equivalent to a chimpanzee. Only a handful of genes separate us from the chimps and yet we live twice as long and we have thousands of words in our vocabulary. Chimps can have maybe just a few hundred. And we've isolated many of those genes that separate us from the chimpanzees. For example the ASP gene governs the size of the crane, cranial capacity so that by monkeying with just one gene you can literally double the size of the brain case and the brain itself.

And so in the future -- not today but in the future we may use gene therapy to begin the process of making perhaps a chimpanzee intelligent. We know the genes that'll increase the size of the brain. We've isolated now the genes that give you manual dexterity by which you can make tools. We have found the genes which give you the ability to articulate thousands of words. And so it may be possible to tinker with the genome of a chimpanzee so that they have a larger brain case, they have better manual dexterity and they have the ability to articulate a larger vocabulary. But then what do you get? You get a primate that looks very similar to a human. And so my personal attitude is why bother. We already have humans, just look outside the door.

So why bother to manipulate a chimpanzee because as you make a chimpanzee more and more intelligent it becomes more and more humanlike with a vocabulary, with vocal chords, with manual dexterity, with a larger brain case and a spine to support a larger brain case. That's called a human.

Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Dillon Fitton

Tagged under: Big Think,BigThink,BigThink.,Education,Educational,Lifelong Learning,EDU,Michio Kaku (Author),Brain,Behavior,Intelligence,Evolution,Darwin,Dinosaurs,Biology,Mind,Psychology,Consciousness,Opposable Thumb,Vision,Predator,Homo sapiens

Clip makes it super easy to turn any public video into a formative assessment activity in your classroom.

Add multiple choice quizzes, questions and browse hundreds of approved, video lesson ideas for Clip

Make YouTube one of your teaching aids - Works perfectly with lesson micro-teaching plans

Play this activity

1. Students enter a simple code

2. You play the video

3. The students comment

4. You review and reflect

* Whiteboard required for teacher-paced activities

Share on:

Share Michio Kaku on the Evolution of Intelligence on Google+ Share Michio Kaku on the Evolution of Intelligence on Twitter Share Michio Kaku on the Evolution of Intelligence on Facebook Pin Michio Kaku on the Evolution of Intelligence Email Michio Kaku on the Evolution of Intelligence

Ready to see what else Spiral logo can do?

With four apps, each designed around existing classroom activities, Spiral gives you the power to do formative assessment with anything you teach.


Carry out a quickfire formative assessment to see what the whole class is thinking


Create interactive presentations to spark creativity in class

Team Up

Student teams can create and share collaborative presentations from linked devices


Turn any public video into a live chat with questions and quizzes

1000s of teachers use Spiral to deliver awesome, engaging activities that capture students' understanding during lessons.

Now it's your turn Sign up

Spiral Reviews by Teachers and Digital Learning Coaches

Review of Spiral by teacher: Kathryn Laster @kklaster

Tried out the canvas response option on @SpiralEducation & it's so awesome! Add text or drawings AND annotate an image! #R10tech

Review of Spiral by teacher: Room 220 Math Stars @3rdgradeBCE

Using @SpiralEducation in class for math review. Student approved! Thumbs up! Thanks.

Review of Spiral by teacher: Miss Ord @ordmiss

Absolutely amazing collaboration from year 10 today. 100% engagement and constant smiles from all #lovetsla #spiral

Review of Spiral by teacher: Adam J. Stryker @strykerstennis

Students show better Interpersonal Writing skills than Speaking via @SpiralEducation Great #data #langchat folks!

Review of Spiral by teacher: Dr Ayla Göl @iladylayla

A good tool for supporting active #learning.

Review of Spiral by teacher: Brett Erenberg @BrettErenberg

The Team Up app is unlike anything I have ever seen. You left NOTHING out! So impressed!

Get the Clip Chrome Extension & Create Video Lessons in Seconds

Add Clip to Chrome