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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  1. identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 23 Feb 2011 @ 6:03am

    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.

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