08 April 2008

The world needs cat-sized keyboards ...

Many animals already know how to use human devices and tools. They learn by watching what we do. Some of them can even read. They can't use the devices and tools themselves only because we designed them for human hands and human sizes.

If we allowed other animals to use our tools without requiring them to evolve technology on their own, what sorts of things might they say or do?

10 comments:

Tania said...

My orange cat thinks he can type. That's why my keyboard is full of cat hair.

Michelle K said...

I do not want a cat sized keyboard.

Then I'll know precisely what the large cat is threatening when he's in Mister Pissy mode, and we'll learn precisely how vacuous the small cat is.

bakho said...

It'd be a nice thing if the elephant really could draw, but this looks like a textbook example of Pavlovian conditioning. You'd be surprised what they can train animals to do. Though, on the other hand, elephants are one of the smartest animals altogether (with the burial of their dead and stuff).

Buuuut...the elephant in that video drew a better pic than I ever could:D

Jim Wright said...

My Dog recently built a small anti-gravity device using nothing but sticks, slobber, and her rubber pull toy.

She can't draw worth a damn though.

Nathan said...

I mentioned the other day about having worked with an elephant before. They're really amazing animals. In spite of (or maybe because of) their massive size and weight, they're extremely aware of their surroundings. Somehow, they're able to avoid having their hind-feet(?) ever step anywhere they don't mean to and they avoid crushing stuff inadvertently.

That last was a stupid sentence, but I'm sticking by it.

Michelle K said...

That's because elephants are the BEST ANIMALS EVER.

Jeri said...

My dogs would love to plot world domination. Unfortunately, all three are Pinkies and there's no Brain in the bunch.

Anne C. said...

True, elephant's are totally awesome. Aren't they also one of the few animals that will act to benefit another animal at their own expense (not counting motherly actions)? Something like that?
This BBC article says something about self recognition, though it seems that not all elephants do.
Looking at the wikipedia article was starting to make me sad (talking about poaching, etc.) and thinking about a H. Rider Haggard description of an elephant hunt...
I'm going to go think about happy things now. Or work. That'll work too.

Anne C. said...

Duh, that would be elephants WITHOUT an apostophe...

Eric said...

I'm skeptical of the video for several reasons. But one of those reasons, actually, is that the elephant seems to be painting an elephant the way a human would see it, and I'm not convinced that's how an elephant would paint elephants if one were going to do so.

Elephants are remarkable creatures. They have the largest brains of any extant land species. I find that intriguing--even if we assume a good chunk of that brain mass is devoted to moving itself around, that doesn't rule out the possibility that those neural connections could be doing all sorts of other things. Much of the brainmeat we use for writing stories, painting pictures and inventing microchips is repurposed from parts that evolved to keep us from falling out of trees or to avoid being eaten by leopards.

Elephants, like Anne mentioned, appear to be capable of self-recognition. They've been observed engaging in what appears to be a sort of abstract self-recognition as well: e.g. wild elephants have been observed manipulating and passing around the found tusks of deceased elephants in a way that's at least evocative of a creature recognizing another like itself from a portion, much as we might react upon finding a human skull, say (obviously we have no idea what an elephant is actually thinking, so the most we can really say is that it's strikingly suggestive behavior). And there's some (debated) evidence that elephants may be able to engage in some form of representational thinking: while an elephant painting an elephant may be a bit much, there's more reputable evidence of captive elephants painting canvases red while in the presence of a red object, for instance.

Amazing critters, they are.