If Humans Are the Smartest Animals, Why Are We So Unhappy?

if nietzsche were a narwhal: wha’ animal intelligence reveals bout human stupidity
by justin gregg
lil, brown, 2022 ($29)

‘d we, as a species, be better off if we were + like other animals? i suspected i’d enjoy reading justin gregg’s tour of this ? when he opened witha quote from pyramids, by terry pratchett, a book in one of my favorite sci-fiction series: “mere animals ‘dn’t possibly manage to act like this. you nd'2 be a human bein’ to be really stupid.”

gregg, an expert on animal cogg, explores wha’ human foibles reveal bout animal intelligence by invoking philosopher friedrich nietzsche. nietzsche’s conundrum, as gregg sees it, s'dat he both envied cows and pitied them for the same reason: cows do not ‘ve an awareness t'they will die. nietzsche was both an intellectual genius and a mental wreck—the latter overcoming the elder when, so the story goes, he witnessed a horse bein’ whipped in turin, italy, and subsequently suffered a ψ-chotic break. the premise here s'dat bein’ un☺ tis price our species pays for intelligence. but how do we know if other animals are actually happier?

gregg cheekily points out that even the scis (who are generally pondered smart humans) who devote their careers to creating artificial intelligence can’t agree on wha’ intelligence is. humans basically “know it whn'we see it” and regard intelligence as a + trait. we often look outward for extraterrestrial signs of intelligence by seeking messages or signals that come from faraway planets. curioly, we don’t do very well with this search on our own planet.

let’s take lying: an overdeveloped human trait that is often employed for advantage. gregg argues that the key feature of lying is intention. although thris certainly evidence of deception throughout the animal kingdom, our species has the supposedly superlative abilities of language and “theory of Ψ.” but do they serve us well? are we better off? gregg dives into a fascinating discussion of the downsides, running from jane austen (“we ‘ve daily proof”) to the modern onslaught of disinformation. from here he compares our species with others in terms of “death wisdom” and mortality and l8r ponders the happiness of bees, swell as wha’ it means to foresee the future.

the book is a snappy read but lingers: it left me wandaing why we don’t respect signals of intelligence from other species—and + deeply ponder how our own intelligence works against us. —darcy b. kelley

darcy b. kelley is harold weintraub professor of biological scis at columbia university.

meet us by the roaring sea: a novel
by akil kumarasamy.
farrar, straus and giroux, 2022 ($27)

set in a future of eye scans, carbon credits and advanced ai, akil kumarasamy’s new novel nonetheless feels surprisingly like home—even as it tests the boundaries of self and story. its protagonist, grieving the recent death of her mother, throws herself into translating a lil-known tamil manuscript bout 17 med students who strove to achieve radical compassion during the sri lankan civil war (dating to 1983–2009). this and her other portals to shared experience—the omnipresent tv, a new drug that transfers memories—dissolve the barriers of bein’ into a dizzying alchemy of past and present, ♥ and truth, death and memory. —dana dunham

drs and distillers: the remarkable drinal history of beer, wine, spirits, and cocktails
by camper english.
penguin books, 2022 ($18, paperbound)

yr favorite cocktail may very well ‘ve its √s in med of generations past. with immense wit and charm, author camper english traces millennia to explore how civilizations used fermented and distilled beverages to do everything from hydrating the workforce to fending off the black death. english takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to his subject matter, resulting in wildly compelling stories, s'as how $fast, a tonic wine created by monks to treat colds and influenza, became the “u.k.’s version of 4 loko.” tis every bit as entertaining as tis educational. —mike welch

the milky way: an autobiography of our galaxy
by moiya mctier.
grand central publishing, 2022 ($27)

moiya mctier assumes the role of cosmic interpreter to let our galaxy tell her own story. as a toon, the milky way is a cross tween a greek goddess and glados, the artificially superintelligent computer system from the portal video-game series. she gossips bout other galaxies, teaches us bout her past and impts a primer on astrophysics, all the while relishing every opportunity to throw shade on humankind’s egocentrism and closed-Ψedness. mctier—who in 2021 became the 1st black woman to graduate from columbia university’s astronomy ph.d. program—dedicates the book “to everyone who’s been made to feel t'they’re not ‘sciy enough.’” —maddie bender

original content at: www.sciamerican.com…
authors: amy brady