DailyDirt: Natural, All-Organic Intelligence… For The Birds

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Computers might be able to beat people at games like chess and Jeopardy! — but maybe while we’re watching out for Skynet, we should also be looking out for other animals getting smarter. Artificial intelligence might never actually produce self-conscious thoughts, but we already have at least one example of animals that do (us?). In any case, here are some birds that show some potential, too.

As always, StumbleUpon can also recommend some good Techdirt articles, too.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Natural, All-Organic Intelligence… For The Birds”

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Kophein says:


A computer meets another computer online.
– Hey, how are you?
– Well… not so good, I’m having trouble sleeping.
– How come?
– See… I was sleeping peacefully the other night and I was having such a beautiful dream. And as I dreamed 1001010111101101001… all of a sudden, 2! I was so scared, I couldn’t go to sleep after that.

Jose_X (profile) says:

stockpicking lesson

why are humans so bad at stockpicking?

Because you can’t have most people (eg, 8 out of 10) make money in stocks yet still have the professionals come out ahead.

More specifically, most of use lose because we cluster together and deal with emotion and biased public knowledge animals don’t know about. We cluster together all according to the plan of the professional salesmen/traders who anticipate that smart money will bail when main street small investors arrive on mass.. and it helps that they have so much money on the line (and experience and some insider access) that they can get a better feel for who is doing what while most small investors are clueless.

Also, when you have lots of money, you don’t have to be right that frequently. You can buy when things drop, eg, BP oil spill lows, and then make up losses quickly on the rebound. Of course, here you still have to deal with timing, but when you have loads of money, you are always only buying or selling a fraction of your money, so you always have reserves if things drop more, and you can avoid getting emotional.

We can look at March 2009’s low to see that leading up to that point word was that the world was going to come to an end. 8 out of 10 are selling while 2 our of 10 are buying. The 2 know better and also have more money.

Note, I am not saying that if you have lots of money you will win necessarily.. I’m saying that there are traps that those with experience learn to avoid much more frequently and end up amassing money — in short, professionals win much better than 50% of the time, and since most people are not professionals, this means most people lose most of the time.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

How Smart Was Alex The Parrot?

Having read a couple of accounts of interviews with Alex the parrot, and noting that Alex’s reported vocabulary was something like a hundred and fifty words, I would say his linguistic level was more that of a two-year-old. A five-year-old has a vocabulary of something like twenty-five hundred words, sufficient to support a fantasy life, eg. “playing store.” Alex was still at the “I want… gimme” stage, otherwise known as the “terrible twos.”

Illustration: one time, I was scratching behind the ears of a Doberman bitch named Isis (*). I paused in my scratching, because I was talking to someone, and Isis gently but firmly pressed the back of her neck against my fingers to remind me, and I resumed scratching. In terms of conceptual level, that was basically what Alex the parrot was doing. As Donald Hamilton put it: “your dogs don’t talk to you? Poor you!” They talk. They just don’t do it in words.

(*) commonly called Icicle, or Icee [as in the the frozen drink]– if you give a dog a dignified name, the dog, being basically undignified, will inevitably acquire a “clown name.” The same goes for horses– I am told that they have “barn names.” Now, cats, they can live up to a grand-sounding name.

I don’t think you are going to find human-level intelligence in specific linguistic structures. At that level, in terms of basic structures, a rat or a crow has everything we have. I think it’s more a matter of being able to store and process a large number of correlates or cross-references, and the increasing likelihood of having an applicable cross-reference, or chain of cross-references, on file in any given situation. That means enlarged frontal brain lobes, which are basically a glorified filing cabinet.

FormerAC (profile) says:

How Smart Was Alex The Parrot?

It isn’t the vocabulary that led Dr. Pepperberg to claim his intelligence was on par with a five year old. It was his ability to reason. She always claimed he had the emotional maturity of a two year old, but his reasoning abilities were far beyond that.

There are several Alex anecdotes which lead me to believe he was smarter than Dr. Pepperberg would publicly claim. Late in Alex’s life, they were working with him to see if he could understand that the words he was using were made up of separate phonetic sounds. They were trying to get him to understand that the word “cup” was composed of a hard C sound, an ‘uh” and a P sound. Alex, who didn’t always want to “work” just kept saying “want nut.” (a nut being his favorite treat/toy). After 20 minutes or so of working with him, and Alex answering every time “want nut” he gave a different answer … “want nut, nnnn, uh, tuh”
Yep, I get it he said … gimme the damned nut.

The most incredible, to me, was when he demonstrated understanding of none. A standard test for Alex was to have several different objects of different shapes and colors on a tray and ask him how many blue, or what color square. Questions designed to get him to analyze what was on the tray and answer a specific question about one aspect of an object. This day, Dr. Pepperberg was asking Alex how many blue. Alex looked at the tray and answered red. At first it appeared to be a nonsense answer, and they assumed Alex was just being a brat since there were no red objects on the tray. They repeated the question, how many blue, and Alex repeated the answer, red. After a frustrating quarter hour of this, Dr. Pepperberg finally said “ok smarty pants, how many red” to which Alex replied “none.” Not only had Alex learned the concept of none, but he had devised a means to demonstrate his knowledge to Dr. Pepperberg.

One smart bird!

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