One can legitimately question why Godfrey-Smith’s story about how nature—or creation—became aware of itself features a protagonist that is alien to the human species. It seems that it would make more sense to talk about nonhuman intelligence—which to a degree is a requirement for consciousness—by starting with mammals or at least birds. These animals are known to possess high levels of cognitive functioning exhibited in the form of learning, memory, and decision-making. But perhaps the octopus is smarter than we think. Certainly Other Minds makes a compelling case that this is so.
It is a wildly ambitious book, and even its 500 pages are probably half as many as a thorough telling of its story would require.… But a much longer book would have struggled to find a readership, and this is a book that needs to be read by people with a wide range of interests and disciplinary allegiances.