12 votes

Scientists Are Totally Rethinking Animal Cognition

10 comments

  1. [10]
    DonQuixote Link
    It seems consciousness has always had this mystical, non-scientific connotation. But even when they try, scientists and philosophers seem to project their own inner criteria of consciousness onto...

    These metaphysical accounts are in play because scientists have yet to furnish a satisfactory explanation of consciousness.

    It seems consciousness has always had this mystical, non-scientific connotation. But even when they try, scientists and philosophers seem to project their own inner criteria of consciousness onto both animals and machines.

    But birds have only rarely assembled verbal symbols into their own, original proto-sentences. And, of course, none has declared itself conscious.

    That’s too bad, because philosophers tend to regard such statements as the best possible evidence of another being’s consciousness, even among humans.

    Scientists have moved past this, with reflection tests and other criteria. But even as the target moves closer or further away, the fact seems to remain: Humans see themselves as the arbiters of consciousness, which means they see themselves as more discerning, more aware than other animals.

    Even more striking is that every person I've ever known feels qualified to determine emotionally whether a particular animal, say a pet dog, is conscious or not. Are they projecting onto the animals? Even with mechanical intelligence, we place the bar for consciousness at the human level, at the point where a human can't tell the difference.

    Sometimes I feel that we are going to keep insisting that machines aren't conscious until we wake up one day and realize we can't tell anymore. Maybe it has already happened. In any case it should be interesting.

    10 votes
    1. [9]
      Nitta Link Parent
      I've seen somewhere an arbitrary yet quite advanced criterium of consciousness: the ability to ask questions. And it's thought that only humans do that. We can lower the bar because humanizing...

      I've seen somewhere an arbitrary yet quite advanced criterium of consciousness: the ability to ask questions. And it's thought that only humans do that.

      We can lower the bar because humanizing pets is a big trend in society, but still the gap between humans and the bunch of the most advanced of other animals is incredible.

      3 votes
      1. [5]
        Gaywallet Link Parent
        Animals perform tests on the environment, to see what will happen when they do something in specific. Such as cats knocking things off of tables, or tool improvisation. Is that not fundamentally...

        the ability to ask questions. And it's thought that only humans do that.

        Animals perform tests on the environment, to see what will happen when they do something in specific. Such as cats knocking things off of tables, or tool improvisation. Is that not fundamentally asking a question?

        About the only thing we can prove humans do uniquely is have an advanced and complicated language.

        7 votes
        1. balooga Link Parent
          Honestly even whether language is "advanced" or "complicated" is open for debate. Watch a hive of ants or a flock of birds: There's a form of communication happening there that is efficient,...

          Honestly even whether language is "advanced" or "complicated" is open for debate. Watch a hive of ants or a flock of birds: There's a form of communication happening there that is efficient, instinctive, and silent. It doesn't look like human language but it's certainly not uncomplicated.

          6 votes
        2. [3]
          Nitta Link Parent
          Non human animals also haven't developed any comparable precision of movements. None of them can hit a far target with thrown objects consistently, not even speaking about drawing paintings, etc....

          Non human animals also haven't developed any comparable precision of movements. None of them can hit a far target with thrown objects consistently, not even speaking about drawing paintings, etc. And there should be much more abilities where humans are almost as far ahead of animals as those are ahead of plants.

          1 vote
          1. [2]
            CALICO Link Parent
            Part of that isn't so much intelligence or consciousness, but simply anatomy. A chimpanzee is strong as hell, but could never throw a fastball. Not because they lack the creativity to do so, but...

            Part of that isn't so much intelligence or consciousness, but simply anatomy. A chimpanzee is strong as hell, but could never throw a fastball. Not because they lack the creativity to do so, but because their skeletal structure, muscular, and ligaments simply don't enable them to do so.

            God only knows how clever an octopus really is, and what they could be capable of if they had hands at the ends of their tentacles. Or what poetry an elephant could be capable of if only their vocal chords enabled them to speak it.

            4 votes
            1. Nitta Link Parent
              Maybe the only way to know is to use neural interfaces when they are ready. Anyway, physical and cognitive abilities somewhat go hand in hand. Brain won't develop very well if there's no...

              Maybe the only way to know is to use neural interfaces when they are ready. Anyway, physical and cognitive abilities somewhat go hand in hand. Brain won't develop very well if there's no dexterious output to apply the product of mind to the world. Humans have this output, from a stone throw to Tildes.

              2 votes
      2. [3]
        teaearlgraycold Link Parent
        What about Alex the parrot, who asked what color he was?

        the ability to ask questions. And it's thought that only humans do that.

        What about Alex the parrot, who asked what color he was?

        1 vote
        1. frickindeal Link Parent
          As always, anecdotal and could be due to handler's influence. He also would tell the handler "I love you" and "I'll see you tomorrow." What words might the handler be using when saying goodnight...

          As always, anecdotal and could be due to handler's influence. He also would tell the handler "I love you" and "I'll see you tomorrow." What words might the handler be using when saying goodnight to the bird every day? "I love you," and "I'll see you tomorrow." It makes these cases more or less useless scientifically.

          5 votes
        2. Nitta Link Parent
          "What about" cases are inconsistent, and, even if legit, exceptional.

          "What about" cases are inconsistent, and, even if legit, exceptional.

          2 votes