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Which is to Ape Which?

I don't know if it was just out of curiosity when psychologist Gordon G. Gallup, Jr. carried out the mirror self-recognition tests (MSR) in the early-1970s. On the other hand, if you look at this intriguing paper written by Takaaki Kaneko and Masaki Tomonaga of Primate Research Institute attached to Kyoto University, you can tell that they are seeking a clue to the mechanism of intellectual evolution.

In a recent post, I referred to the President of the United States as a Black Kenyan Monkey. At that time I feared I might be criticized by a monkey-rights group for my discriminatory use of the word "monkey." But on the contrary, an American visitor to my website lodged a protest, saying it wasn't the right thing to insult the leader of a nation this way. Although I still suspect it was an undeserved compliment, here in this post, I'll address these creatures that look more or less like humans as "WE," while referring to chimpanzees as "THEY."

I'm very sure that most of US will fail in MSR because it's now evident that WE have lost the life-size view of OURSELVES. WE tend to talk big while actually acting very small. I'm often inclined to ask US these questions: "Who the hell are you? Exactly where are you within this picture you are talking about. Or are you talking about someone else's problem? Then what makes it your business?"

In the video embedded here, the brainless BBC reporter underplays the significance of the findings by the Japanese researchers at PRI. But actually, the learning ability demonstrated by this particular chimp here was already counter-intuitive to most of US. There's absolutely no reason to prejudge THEY won't outdo US in other types of intelligence tests. Toyota's Partner Robots are a different story. These cyborgs are stupid simply because they all mirror their developers. But to US, chimps are not a mirror.

As these researchers admit, their studies on primates have only just begun. There are quite a number of things to look into before they could possibly unravel the mysteries about evolution. The following are some of them.

First and foremost, the researchers should try to find out THEIR ability to conceptualize. Unlike generalization all of US is so good at, conceptualization takes a sharp analytical mind. If chimps fail to pass this part of the exam, what the researchers call THEIR sense of self-agency doesn't mean anything more than it does with some of US who know no principle to which to commit themselves with professionalism. At the same time, the absence of the ability to abstract things hinders THEM from having a sense of purpose, which in turn disable THEM in many ways. Most importantly THEY can't identify the real issue from among many red herrings because now THEY can't internalize anything that is relevant to THEIR own lives.

According to, Voltaire once said, "Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers." If he had been a researcher at PRI, he would have said, "Let's call him just an ape rather than something closer to a human being if he is only good at answering the question we gave him."

Neither will THEY be able to prioritize tasks so as to optimize the tradeoff between selecting one and deselecting it.

Most importantly, THEY, WE, or any other "higher" animals in a certain condition are motivated by the "need of self-actualization" as American psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized, though a little too schematically. When you are motivated by something other than the instinct for survival, you don't need the snacks as "additional incentives" as the BBC reporter puts it.

Another aspect to be looked at is THEIR sociality. There's no communication where there is no dialectical exchange of feedback. As Jean-Paul Sartre observed, communication starts with the understanding that every one of US has his own self-awareness. So the question here is whether chimps are aware that THEY are all Being-for-others.

We already know THEIR learning curve is beyond OUR imagination. But this leaves US wondering how good THEY are at teaching. As a general rule, a teacher can't effectively share his idea with his student if he doesn't have this sense of being-for-others.

When it comes to languages as the tools for communication, I suspect THEY would outperform most of US, especially the Japanese and Americans, in learning a "foreign" language. Judging from THEIR super high-context screech which is very similar to contemporary Japanese and English, it would be a piece of cake for THEM to pick up either language. Especially I'm very sure chimps would by far outperform the Japanese if THEY were taught English in the right way.

Needless to say, communication is the only enabler of the synergy effect to be pursued through a coordinated action.

I am not an animal lover myself. Not that I hate animals. How can I hate them when I know they don't have the worst vice inherent to the human race which Sartre called mauvaise foi (self-deception)? THEY never lie. Sometimes chimps may have a dream like humans. But unlike most of US, when THEY wake up, THEY don't mix up the dream with reality.

Aside from THEIR perfect honesty, I know very little about THEM. Yet I am reasonably sure that some, if not all, of THEM will pass these tests. And that is enough to convince US that the average chimp is as smart as his human counterpart. You may say his brain weighs only 14 oz, 59-77% lighter than the human brain and the neurons in his brain are outnumbered by 20-56% by the brain cells of a human being. But so what? Just compare the simplest form of personal computer of the early-1980s against the old mainframe machine. And think about what the Internet has enabled US. WE have just developed the addictive habit to gather tons of information which is totally irrelevant to OUR lives. It can be that THEY know how to economize the use of the limited resource.

The last and most important test should address this question: Do THEY have the abilities to define THEIR own rules for the game to play, redefine them, and sometimes defy them? Let's pose this question differently: Can WE expect THEM to think and act creatively? WE already know that creativity is something WE can't expect from most of US who can't tell art from crap, for instance. This question brings us back to Henri Bergson's Creative Evolution once again.

Guess what, it will be a real challenge not for the chimps, but for the researchers at PRI to prepare themselves for the final exam in which to gauge THEIR creativity. They've got to be creative and inventive enough themselves in order to come up with the methodologies for their cross-sectional as well as longitudinal studies. In that sense, now it will be their turn to be subjected to the tests. At the same time some of US have to have their brains measured objectively and quantitatively because at this stage the researchers should select human samples as the yardsticks for comparison.

WE already know THEY outperformed US in the MSR tests. But that doesn't necessarily mean THEY will defeat US again in the final exam. As an impartial referee, I can't visualize chimps doing music in the way Hot Club of Cowtown does. Neither is it likely that THEY hold an exhilarating sporting event in a charming setting like Muirfield Golf Course in Scotland.

Eventually, in a tricky mirror room where you can't tell who mirrors whom, the PRI researchers will get one answer or another to the question over how close WE and THEY are. Even so it's hard to imagine one last sticking point for them will dissolve at the same time. Distance, or proximity, is a relative and un-vectorized measure. They will never know which is catching up with which. ·

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Which is to Ape Which?
Authored by: Diogenes on Monday, July 29 2013 @ 11:27 AM JST
My first thought when reading the introduction to the Kaneko report is: Who funded this idiotic study? It reminded me of a study done in the U.S. decades ago, where some university actually received a government grant to study the source of dust. Yes, dust.

The second thought that came to mind is: What is the purpose of this study? What is this study of chimps supposed to show? That chimps are like US, or that WE are like THEM? Is a secret chimp organization that demands the right to vote involved in this funding? I suppose the next step would be to train them to fling their dung at politicians as a form of protest for being excluded in the electoral process. Perhaps the "scientists" should give them tin cups to rattle across their cage bars, like we see in old American movies of prison riots.

There was a university that had a grant to attempt to make a gorilla learn language, even though it had no physical ability to speak. This hapless caged creature was named Nim Chimsky, after linguist Noam Chomsky. In this case, too, what is the point? Who gives money to such idiotic studies? Which "animal" is more ridiculous and idiotic, the primates or the humans? If given a chance to fund research on humans would these wild creatures do such a thing? I seriously doubt it, so therefore, which group is more foolish and ignorant? The answer is self evident.

It's possible that this research is actually supposed to show that the primate culture has physical and mental similarities and are very close to the human one. If that is "proven," then can this be transposed through an unconscious implication that justifies the immigration policies that Europe and North America are mirroring--the importation of cultures that are incompatible in the host countries? In general, for example, the people in Muslim cultures don't want to mix and assimilate with their host's culture. It doesn't take a scientist to see that in any large city, foreign cultures ghettoize themselves. Thus, we have Chinatown, Japantown, Little Italy, etc. However, these previous mentioned cultures have, in the case of North America, successfully assimilated into the culture here, and are essentially invisible. On the other hand, Muslims--with their burka wearing women, their practice of honor killings, death threats to apostates, fatwas, and other practices that are incompatible with the host cultures--are visible proof to anyone that they don't have any intention to assimilate.

Then, there is the mysterious case of Kaspar Hauser.

Hauser showed up one day on a street in Nuremberg, Germany with a note. He could only say the phrases, "I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was" and "Horse! Horse!" After spending the first sixteen years of his life in a dungeon with no human contact, Hauser was released in the town square. What this article doesn't tell us is that for several months after he emerged from his dungeon, he had the amazing ability to tell if someone was watching him from behind, as far away as 200 meters. Eventually, he lost this ability. A case like this and this unique ability would be worthy of a research grant. If Hauser was able to have this ability, what does that say about the potential of the rest of us? Hauser's case is likely the tip of a very large iceberg of skills lost through the mists of time and not deemed worthy of a university grant. Yet, these chimp "researchers" will have praise heaped on them in their industry journals, and we will hear about this "breakthrough" study on the 6:00 pm news.

Welcome to the funny farm.
Which is to Ape Which?
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Monday, July 29 2013 @ 01:20 PM JST

Your response to my post, and/or the studies on chimps, is very interesting in many ways.

Let me first respond from the grants angle.

Yes, this Kyoto University is getting generous grants, of course from taxpayers’ money, because the school is (considered) one of the best higher learning institutes primarily funded by the government. That means the university has already owed me something, Maybe in the near future, it will have owed me my life. But needless to say, it has never paid me a dividend. And so what? This is exactly what a nation-state is all about. Japan is no exception. Of course I’ll appreciate it very much if you show me one example where Obama has appropriated to a project which isn’t stupid.

I think basically government’s grants have nothing to do with the stupidity of a research.

My second point is that a researcher, or one who thinks is a researcher, has the right to choose his subject. If he wants to study chimps, let him work on chimps. If he wants to study free energy, let him indulge in it. The reason he is given this freedom is because anyone whose occupation is R&D, or anything else for that matter, is (supposed to be) looking for a question, not an answer to a given question, as I always maintain. So we are not in a position to tell the researchers at PRI what subject to work on. And if you are interested in knowing the outcome of their studies, that is great. Otherwise, that is that.

I wrote this post simply because intellectual evolution/devolution is the only thing I’m concerned about these days. As I previously wrote, it will make a big difference to my last glimpse of the world whether its residents are heading for an advanced stage of evolution or quickly degenerating. I don’t know which creature is smarter, the chimp or the human. Neither do I care a bit about the answer. But evolution or devolution can only be measured by a relative yardstick. God would proclaim you are smart and I am stupid. But I suspect neither of us is god. So the only reliable method to answer this question is the comparison of one against the other.

I just took up the chimp. Maybe I thought it was a small dividend from my hard-earned money robbed by the government. Otherwise, it could have been a worm, or even a fungus.

Yu Yamamoto
Which is to Ape Which?
Authored by: samwidge on Tuesday, July 30 2013 @ 10:55 AM JST

The Voltaire statement, "Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers," is an excellent one. My own twist on this is that an answer is a small gift but a question is a huge gift because it can bring a trillion answers and every one of those answers may be right.

I cannot credit or discredit the "intelligence" or capabilities of chimpanzees. Each animal is different and each has different capabilities. The planet and all upon it are doomed. The only animal I know of that just might have a way out is mankind. And that is a slim hope.

As far as a chimp's remarkable ability to select numbers in correct order is concerned, please consider the highly trained pianist who just as quickly makes far more complex selections of entire strings of full chords and melody notes all without sheet music. Such people do this complex work without advance practice and they sometimes do it with nothing more than a brief handshake to introduce themselves to the musicians with whom they will play. Jazz is wonderful that way.

And I am humbled by all of this. If I had that mysterious ability to decide what is stupid or idiotic, then I would be a powerful man. The next question is, What would I do with all that power?

You speak of, " a tricky mirror room where you can't tell who mirrors whom... " That is profound and the statement speaks volumes.

Keep up the good work of making me think.
Which is to Ape Which?
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Tuesday, July 30 2013 @ 11:35 PM JST

Exactly, music is one of the things THEY can't do. For US, this is a good news. But a bad news is: in reality only a small number of US do music. I'm sure it's a piece of cake to train THEM to ape AKB48.

Equally important, THEY never lie - not at least the way WE do. THEY have a sense of we-ness, but unlike US, THEY never say, "Look at that charming lady on the tree. Let's feel proud of her because she shows WE are a charming species.”

Yu Yamamoto