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. icon
    FormerAC (profile), 23 Feb 2011 @ 6:59am

    Re: 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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