If all species on our planet suddenly became equally intelligent, what would await us - peaceful coexistence or war?
In the film "Planet of the Apes" man finds himself in a world dominated by primates with high intelligence, who managed to enslave people.
Pierre Boulle, author of the book based on which this film was made, defined the genre of his classic work as "social fantasy".
Well, if you try to develop this fantasy and imagine that not only monkeys, but all animals on Earth will have an intelligence comparable to that of a human?
What happens if each of them suddenly wakes up as an intelligent and conscious being?
Will one species dominate all others, like humans, or will all these motley creatures be able to peacefully and civilly coexist with each other?
Even the very idea of conducting such an experiment may seem absurd, because it is impossible.
However, a deeper study of this topic can reveal interesting (and not always pleasant) facts about human nature and the role we played as a dominant species.
Unfortunately, the hypothetical answer to this question is not encouraging. "What is going to happen can be summed up in one word: chaos, " says Innes Cathill, a behavioral biologist at the University of Bristol. "Don't think intelligence is good."
"We would all kill each other, " says fellow evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar at Oxford University. "People have never been particularly interested in and peaceful with strangers."
Josep Call, a comparative psychologist at St Andrews University, agrees.
"Looking at the history of mankind, I doubt that we will be able to become friends, " he says. "Perhaps now we are not as cruel as we used to be, but look at what is happening in the world!"
Given how long humans have exterminated other species and themselves, there is no reason to believe that we or other sentient beings would behave differently.
Most likely, a new world war will break out. "We react very negatively and aggressively to strangers and to various threats, " says Cathill.
So who will win if this - universal intelligence - happens? Undoubtedly, many species will have no chance of survival.
So, for example, herbivores spend a lot of time on food, because a lot of plant food is needed to ensure life.
They simply will not have enough time to communicate, make tools, develop culture or participate in hostilities, so carnivores will have an advantage.
Sharks, dolphins and killer whales can also be ignored as they only live in the ocean. However, they can begin to share power underwater.
In addition, animals that are strongly attached to their habitat - swamps, jungle or desert - should be excluded from the list of potential winners.
At the same time, large predators like lions, tigers, bears, wolves, as well as massive non-carnivorous animals like elephants and rhinos could try to kill people, as happened in the movie "Jurassic Park".
In the short term, they are likely to pose the greatest threat to our dominance on Earth.
If we find ourselves in the savannah or forest without any means of protection, they will probably easily cope with us.
However, it is unlikely that the newly acquired intelligence will allow these animals to hold out for a long time - given the fact that humans have modern weapons and significantly outnumber them.
Subsequently, we will erase them from the face of the Earth (by the way, this is exactly what we are already doing in relation to many of them).
This is exactly what Alex Kachelnik, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Oxford, thinks. "It seems to me that in the end we will just destroy them. We will win."
However, having coped with the most formidable predators, we will face new competitors: our closest relatives, the primates.
As Cathill notes, we have reached our current level of development thanks in large part to new technologies. Given the fact that we have similar physiology with primates, they will be able to take advantage of these technologies.
Chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos and gorillas will be able to access our computers and turn our weapons against us. Moreover, orangutans are stronger and more agile, which gives them an additional advantage.
They can also quickly navigate and start developing unique technologies using human-created tools.
Nevertheless, their success in this matter will depend on whether they can take possession of the knowledge we have accumulated. They will have to learn how to use our technologies, effectively wage war, understand us - their enemies, and much more.
The key to their dominance will be the ability to use this knowledge for their own benefit, but they are unlikely to have time to do this before we exterminate them too.
"If they received all this knowledge, primates and humans would have an equal chance of winning, " says Call. "If not, they would not have become the dominant species, although they would have made a decent competitor."
Over time, the ability to quickly adapt to changing conditions and circumstances would become the most powerful weapon in the war for world domination.
And this is not surprising, because it was she who helped humanity to conquer the Earth. Despite the fact that the first people lived in a warm climate in flat areas, they soon began to populate regions with completely different conditions, from the highlands to the tundra.
In addition, the abundance of the species, as well as the ability to remain unnoticed, will play an important role.
All this indicates that bacteria and other microorganisms will inherit the Earth - although we can say that they already now to some extent own it.
Yes, bacteria do not have a nervous system, so the likelihood of their acquisition of intelligence is even more ephemeral than in the case of highly developed organisms - and given the fact that bacteria are present everywhere, this cannot but rejoice.
"Bacteria are everywhere, even within us, " says Call. "They would be very strong contenders."
"I wouldn't be surprised at the victory of a tiny creature, " Dunbar agrees. "I'm sure we would have fallen victim to a much more primitive form of life - bacteria and viruses."
"If humanity had to fight smart bacteria, especially the most aggressive, we would be finished, " says Call. "The problem is, we couldn't get rid of them all, because we need them to survive."
But even with the disappearance of mankind, the struggle of species on Earth will not stop. There is no reason to believe that any animal, having reached the human level of development, will not exploit other species and natural resources, as we did.
Moreover, intraspecific struggle can also flare up. "It is worth remembering that animals never act for the benefit of the entire species, " says Kachelnik. "Representatives of the same species will always compete with each other for advantages for their family or group."
Ultimately, this situation will not end well for almost everyone.
As species disappear, ecosystems will collapse, and only the hardiest will survive - bacteria, cockroaches and, possibly, rats. It is they who will inherit the Earth.
But even then, the earth will likely not be reigned with post-apocalyptic serenity. According to Cathill, the remaining species "will likely continue to push the planet into the abyss, as we do."
"I see no reason to think that other species will be more altruistic than us, " he says. "Equilibrium in nature exists only because of the balance of power."