Which is More Intelligent? An iPhone Or A Plant? – Part 5

And The Winner Is……….

At the beginning of this series, I wondered if the impressive array of sensors in the new iPhone rendered it “smarter” than the average plant, at least when it came to sensing and responding to its surroundings.

A summary of my comparison is shown in the table below.


Briefly, the iPhone has at least one sensor – the magnetometer – that plants don’t have. (Despite all the reports of geomagnetic effects on plants over the years, few, if any, are truly repeatable, and, thus, credible. Please see here for more information.)

Also, one could argue that plants lack a true 3-axis gyroscope.

Therefore, it would appear that the iPhone has more types of sensors than plants.

However, when it come to light-sensors, plants clearly have the advantage. Most flowering plants have at least three different photoreceptors – phytochromes, cryptochromes, and phototropins. (And I’m not even counting pigments such as chlorophyll and carotenes.)

These photoreceptors work by affecting a complex array of biochemical and genetic pathways inside plant cells. Consequently, most plants have the ability to respond in very complex ways to even subtle changes in the quantity and quality of light in their environment.

Plants also have sensitive mechanical and gravity sensors that allow them to alter their development in response to these environmental cues. Again, by affecting complex cellular mechanisms, these gravi- and mechano-sensors are able to elicit sophisticated environmental responses by the plants.


marigold_twining.jpgThough the iPhone 4 may have a couple of environmental sensors lacking in plants, plants are much more intelligent than iPhones when it comes to how they respond to their surroundings. That is, plants display a much higher level of complexity in their responses to signals from their sensors.

Plants can not only alter their functions in response to light, for instance, but also can actually change their form to adapt to changes in their environment.

Therefore, though iPhones may be able to sense more things in their environment (magnetic “north”, for example), plants respond to their surroundings more intelligently.

(Even though most dogs have a better sense of smell than you do, and cats have better night vision, you’d probably not say that they are more intelligent than you are.)

Bottom line: Though they might not sense the environment in as many ways or as well as some inanimate objects, such as an iPhone, plants – as with most lifeforms – are much more intelligent when it comes to responding to changes in their environments.

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One Comment

  1. plants have sensors in almost every cell if it. iP has sensor at only corners 😛

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