Towards Octopolis


Towards Octopolis


Remember Paul, the fortune telling octopus, who successfully predicted World Cup winners? Sure he was gifted, but no-one ever accused him of being intelligent. He just sort of knew the winners, he didn’t sit down and study the teams form. Gifted, but not bright, that was the popular assessment, a sort of cephalopod idiot-savant.

In fact, the octopus is considered by science to be the most intelligent of the invertebrates, an intelligence oft intuited by those that gaze deep into the cephalopod’s large, unblinking eyes. But it is an intelligence that has something of the Uncanny to it, something alien to humanity.

It is therefore perhaps not surprising that recent studies have revealed an astounding fact about the octopuses brain, that it is indeed cast in a profoundly alien design. For the Octopus is possessed of a radically de-centralised brain, with neurons scattered throughout the length of its entire body, from tippy-top to tentacle tip. Its structure has been described as “ladder-like”.

Questions accordingly arise..

Does this radically deconstructed brain mean that the octopus consciousness lacks cohesiveness? What does it feel like to be an octopus? Does an octopus have a sense of self-esteem?

Does it have the capacity for subjective experience,

some sort of subtle, shifting sentience?

Science at least has proved they feel Pain.

Is Suffering a sign of Consciousness

or just a set of chemical indicators of a stress response?

We co-evolved with dogs, and understand their ways, but our ancestors and the octopus’s went their separate ways a long time ago, our common forefather some primitive mollusc swimming in the Cambrian shallows. Now to confront the question of cephalopod consciousness is to stand on the edge of an abyss and contemplate the Other. Like some alien from an unknown world or creature from another Dimension it seems, the intelligent octopus . Certainly it inhabits a different Element to us at least, Water to our Air. In each others world we drown, what understanding can there be? Humanity explores the heavens, while the octopus plumbs the darkest depths. We have fire, they have clouds of ink and hydraulic propulsion..

No wonder old H.P. Lovecraft was tormented by visions of Cthulhu, the hideous Elder God with his face full of tentacles squirming in an eldritch mass. In his dark house at R’lyeh beneath the waves, does dead Cthulhu lie dreaming still?

But does the different structure of the diffused cephalopod brain necessarily mean that it would think in a different fashion? Recent studies on the plasticity of the human brain would perhaps indicate this not to be the case. For it has been shown that the human brain when traumatised has the ability to massively rewire itself. With training it has been shown that almost any part of the brain can be made to do the work of absent or damaged portions. “Its all cortex” remarked one scientest about the brains ability to rewire itself. What this means is that the basic shape or physical structure of the brain is not essential to how it functions. By way of analogy, computers, like brains, are wired in a hundred thousand different ways, but they all function essentially the same. So it should be for brains. A neuron is a neuron no matter where its located, and if you get a bunch of them working together you soon get the value added effect called Personality. And anyone who doesn’t think members of other species have personalities, hasn’t been paying attention.

Perhaps one day when the Human Time has passed, the Octopus will have its turn to rule the Earth from beneath the waves. And they shall raise a shining city, with many towers, and it shall be called Octopolis the Great!

Bow down ye mighty,

and despair!

Here endeth the meditation.


More information on the fascinating Cephalopods can be found at;




The Reverend hellfire is a practising Performance Poet

and an ordained minister of various shadowy cults.



~ by reverendhellfire on April 17, 2011.

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