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Most people are ignorant of the sapient/sentient distinction so I was using sentient as a catch all. However, I don't know if I entirely agree with your premise.
I think, in order to colonize space, a sentient computerized fungus would need to understand the 'meaning' of existence about as well as we do if it was indeed colonizing by means of starship rather than some natural process. It would need to be aware of what it was any why to understand that it needed to get off world, at least as minimally as we do.
And I mean, by the definition of an alien intelligence much, much more sapient than we are, we might hardly seem more aware of our surroundings and the meaning of our own existence than even an ordinary fungus...
>>of course there's going to be semanticsWell there's a difference between discussions on meaning have a semantic component and hiding behind mere semantics.
The two "mutually exclusive" statements you quote are by two different people, so the whole segment is irrelevant.
Anyway, you are conflating different definitions of the term 'meaning' which is why I think you are coming across problems. For example you are conflating the 'meaning' of meaning which is 'the sense of a term' where sun = bright fusion ball, and the 'meaning' of meaning which is 'the purpose or function of a thing' where sun = God.
My basic point is that while alien life certainly won't have exactly the same interpretations of what meaning means and what means what as we do, there will still be a need for 'meaning' in order to categorize their existence, and in broad strokes a lot of the things will be the same. Many of them will live around giant exploding fusion balls. Many of them will in their primitive stages conflate the idea of a unified sustaining ball of fired with a unified organizing external consciousness, and the influence of this idea will stretch far into their futures.
>>ants have symbolic comunicationAnimal communication is distinct from language. That's just a basic fact you should know and can look up. The key difference is that humans can invent new signs and signals, whereas all other animals have a fixed number of signs they can use, so they aren't arbitrarily symbolic and generative. Conflating the intelligence of ants and humans doesn't get you out of this bind either. You should study Hofstadter's system of categorizing the intelligence of systems by their level of recursiveness.
As a simple example, a toilet is an intelligent system. It 'knows' how much water it has in it, and maintains an internal equilibrium in order to keep that water level within a consistent range. A single cell is an intelligent system; it manages an internal environment to maintain homeostasis against an external environment. But we can measure just how much less information processing capacity a toilet or worm has than a cat or a human, in surprisingly precise terms. That they all may be classed as intelligent systems, yet that we are the only one of them has ever harped on about 'meaning' is unremarkable. We are the only one that talks about anything; yet they all have, for their own purposes and within their own scope, a utility for 'meaning.' The 'meaning of life' for a human may be to struggle to comprehend life as a limited biological organism containing an unlimited infinite subjective interiority in a constant search for meaning, and the 'meaning of life' for a toilet may be to fill with water to get shit in, and there's no contradiction in that.
>>Can the colony have a concept of meaning that the individual ant does not?It expresses a deeper meaning while having a shallower consciousness of it. The individual ant has sensation, pain, hunger, excitement, so it has a, very small, interior sense of its own life. There is 'something it is to be like' an ant. Yet the ant has no idea what it's really doing or why. It doesn't know why it makes the tunnels, it doesn't know why it carries the larvae, and it definitely doesn't understand that without all the other ants working together, it couldn't survive at all.
So in that sense it knows less than the colony, which has all kinds of knowledge -- it is reactive the geographic and climatic conditions, it is capable of responding…
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