2021i18, Monday: Eight legs. Nine brains. All good.

Again, a quick hit because I'm in court later this morning. But this one's for lovers of octopuses everywhere.

Someone is right on the internet/books to expand the mind: Not too long ago I highlighted Children of Ruin, by Adrian Tchaikovsky, as a book I was looking forward to. (Update: I’ve finished it. It was fantastic.) I do revile spoilers, but I’m really not giving anything much away when I say the book involves octopuses in a pretty big way.

I love octopuses. They’re gloriously weird (video embedded below, but linked here if you prefer that sort of thing), in comparison to us bipedal vertebrates who struggle with the idea of a creature with - in effect - brains in each leg. (That’s leg, not tentacle. Tentacles are feeding appendages with suckers only at their ends.) There’s a serious body of thought (encapsulated in the wonderful Other Minds, by Peter Godfrey-Smith) that postulates that they’re sentient - at least to some degree, assuming sentience is a matter of degree rather than a digital yes-no question - and that they’re therefore the closest thing we’ve yet encountered to a wholly alien intelligence. At least from our (perhaps limited) primate point of view.

(I now recall eating a tiny baby octopus, whole, served as an appetiser in Japan, with a fair degree of revulsion. It was 20-plus years ago, but still…)

And to make it even better, it turns out that at least two members of the Outer Temple family - one of this year’s pupils, and one of next year’s - are as fascinated by them as I am, if not more so. I can’t believe we’re alone in forming an informal cephalopod fan club. Who’s with us?

(If your taste in cephalopods stretches beyond the octopus, then security guru Bruce Schneier has, for years, put up a weekly Friday Squid Blogging post. Admittedly, sometimes - as here - it’s a recipe (ouch); and it’s also an excuse to provide a forum for his readers to chat about security issues. But it’s a lovely touch. Well worth a look.)