A very enlightened friend of mine asked me, “What creates intelligence?” So, I asked myself, “At what point does a being become intelligent?” and I couldn’t help but think of the correlation of that question to another important question, “At what point does a being become self-aware?” Are they so different?
It is a commonly known fact that all human beings are driven by that which gives them pleasure and that which gives them pain. On some sort of level, when given the free will to do so, we pick pleasurable actions. Whether we take pleasure in knowing that what we are doing is moral, or just because it feels good (like eating a sweet dessert).
As soon as a being can determine the difference between pleasure and pain, they understand self-preservation. When a being experiences pain, they realize that they can be hurt; they don’t want to have the experience again. This, therefore, causes them to do whatever is possible to not experience pain. Oppositely, once a being experiences pleasure, they understand that this is a good feeling and want more. Understandably, pleasure and pain varies from being to being (whether it be human being or otherwise).
Because a being has an understanding (using the term loosely) of self-preservation, they understand that they are a single being that can be hurt, or even pleasured. This is the most basic level of self-awareness. They have a sense of “self” in that they interpret the effects of outside forces on their being.
This is an extremely important transition. At this point, the being has no “intelligence” because they can’t affect their surroundings in a way that heightens their pleasure and subdues their pain, but it is the beginning.
Therefore, based on this, I propose that intelligence is a threshold of self-awareness. Once a being becomes so self-aware that they can, in effect, have “control” over their surroundings and go against nature in a way that increases their pleasure, they are intelligent. Then as that being becomes even more self-aware, they become more intelligent.
Furthermore, intelligence is inevitably the ability to go against nature (in which nature is that which is what it is, without external force or control).
To sum up all that I’ve said: being able to differentiate between pleasure and pain brings a being to self-preservation, which brings them to self-awareness, which brings them to intelligence.
I envision this as an extreme gradient; a gradual change going from pleasure/pain discernment to intelligence, with no set points in between for each step.