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The Decision-Making of Pea Plants and Our Idea of Intelligence


Recent research that suggest pea plants have the ability to make complex decisions according to varying conditions. The study, by a joint team of Oxford University and Israel’s Tel-Hai College, indicates that pea plants would grow more roots in a pot that consistently offered a high level of nutrients. No surprises there. However, when given a choice between a pot that consistently offered low level of nutrients and one that offered varying levels, the pea plants showed a preference for the latter, taking a calculated risk. In other words, they went with the varying yields rather than the consistently low returns. This may not come entirely as a surprise to farmers or to people who have grown around plants. People who have grown up to old age near trees they planted in their youth can attest to a je ne sais quoi about vegetable life’s wisdom. Surely many would refrain from speaking to avoid being the target of taunts, but we much look forward to hearing more on this. At a time when our attention is so captivated by the advances of artificial intelligence, this experiment comes to remind of us of how little we still know about the life that surrounds. More importantly, it invites to reconsider what we have assumed “intelligence” to be.


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