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Open Access Open Badges Perspective

The intelligence paradox; will ET get the metabolic syndrome? Lessons from and for Earth

Alistair V W Nunn1*, Geoffrey W Guy2 and Jimmy D Bell3

Author Affiliations

1 School of Pharmacy, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, Berks RG6 6AP, UK

2 GW pharmaceuticals, Porton Down, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP4 0JQ, UK

3 Metabolic and Molecular Imaging Group, MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital, London W12 0NN, UK

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Nutrition & Metabolism 2014, 11:34  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-11-34

Published: 29 July 2014


Mankind is facing an unprecedented health challenge in the current pandemic of obesity and diabetes. We propose that this is the inevitable (and predictable) consequence of the evolution of intelligence, which itself could be an expression of life being an information system driven by entropy. Because of its ability to make life more adaptable and robust, intelligence evolved as an efficient adaptive response to the stresses arising from an ever-changing environment. These adaptive responses are encapsulated by the epiphenomena of “hormesis”, a phenomenon we believe to be central to the evolution of intelligence and essential for the maintenance of optimal physiological function and health. Thus, as intelligence evolved, it would eventually reach a cognitive level with the ability to control its environment through technology and have the ability remove all stressors. In effect, it would act to remove the very hormetic factors that had driven its evolution. Mankind may have reached this point, creating an environmental utopia that has reduced the very stimuli necessary for optimal health and the evolution of intelligence – “the intelligence paradox”. One of the hallmarks of this paradox is of course the rising incidence in obesity, diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. This leads to the conclusion that wherever life evolves, here on earth or in another part of the galaxy, the “intelligence paradox” would be the inevitable side-effect of the evolution of intelligence. ET may not need to just “phone home” but may also need to “phone the local gym”. This suggests another possible reason to explain Fermi’s paradox; Enrico Fermi, the famous physicist, suggested in the 1950s that if extra-terrestrial intelligence was so prevalent, which was a common belief at the time, then where was it? Our suggestion is that if advanced life has got going elsewhere in our galaxy, it can’t afford to explore the galaxy because it has to pay its healthcare costs.

Intelligence; Obesity; Hormesis; Exercise; Metabolic syndrome; Type 2 diabetes; Environment; Aging; Mitochondria; Proton gradients; Evolution; Fermi paradox; Entropy