Lately I have been deluged with links to a site called Science Vibe. It purports to be a hip way to get people to understand science. It is anything but. It is exactly the problem with what people think is science. Vague generalizations, quotes taken wildly out of context, all festooned with a combination of fabrications and repeatedly debunked nonsense. One article quoted a scientist I know well. He had written a piece as an introduction to a brand of scientific study. It was well written, clear, and fun. At one point he said something like “Under no circumstances should anyone think blah blah blah.” Science Vibe quickly had an article stating “Prominent Scientist Claims Blah Blah Blah!!!!” I am not providing links here for two reasons. One, I loathe giving them any additional viewers. And, two, what I said about my buddy applies to several scientists and I see no reason to single him out. Nor would he want me to.
So let’s move on to some real science.
Back in 2015 I wrote about how several tribes of monkeys had entered the Stone Age.
According to a fascinating report from Collin Barras of the BBC, archeologists in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia, have been digging up crude stone tools that date back thousands of years — tools that were fashioned by non-human primates.
Which means something kind of extraordinary:
“The tools are crude. A chimpanzee or monkey stone hammer is hardly a work of art to rival the beauty of an ancient human hand axe. But that’s not the point. These primates have developed a culture that makes routine use of a stone-based technology. That means they have entered the Stone Age.”
That’s right: We now how pretty solid evidence to suggest that at least some chimps are now firmly in the Stone Age.
That’s both cool and frightening. But, for them to take the next steps, such as creating fire, domesticating animals, creating pottery, and so on, they need to learn non-linear thinking. They need to be able to extrapolate possibilities out of unknowns. Or, to put it in more basic terms, they need to be able to win at Rock, Paper, Scissors.
I know how stupid that sounds but I ask you to step back and think about it. Dr. Jie Gao certainly did.
Chimpanzees of all ages and all sexes can learn the simple circular relationship between the three different hand signals used in the well-known game rock-paper-scissors. Even though it might take them longer, they are indeed able to learn the game as well as a young child. Jie Gao of Kyoto University in Japan and Peking University in China is lead author of a study in the journal Primates, which is the official journal of the Japan Monkey Centre, and is published by Springer. The research compares the ability of chimpanzees and children to learn the rock-paper-scissors game.
Gao’s research team wanted to find out whether chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) can grasp extended patterns. They used the rock-paper-scissors game, a popular children’s game in which the hand signal for “paper” always beats “rock,” while “rock” trumps “scissors,” and “scissors” defeats “paper.” The relationship between the signals are non-linear and must be understood within the context of how the pairs are grouped. Learning such transverse patterns requires enhanced mental capacity and it is useful when forming complex relationship networks, solving problems, or updating what you already know about a subject.
Seven chimpanzees of different ages and sexes living in the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University were part of the experiment. They sat in a booth housing a computer-based touchscreen and were trained to choose the stronger of two options (based on the rules of the game) they saw on screen. They first learnt the paper-rock sequence, then the rock-scissors one and finally the scissors-paper combination. Once they knew how the pairs fitted together, all the different pairs were randomly presented to them on screen. Five of the seven chimpanzees completed the training after an average of 307 sessions.
The findings show that chimpanzees can learn the circular pattern at the heart of the game. However, it took them significantly longer to learn the third scissors-paper pair than it did to grasp the others, which indicates that they had difficulty finalizing the circular nature of the pattern.
There is one other point to be made here. Rock, Paper, Scissors requires a working knowledge of the three components and all the societal background each entails. There are no direct parallels in simian life. That means they learned something completely alien to them and then learned how to manipulate, and control, the variables.
Since we consider the typical four year old human to be sentient, if developing, there is no way we can deny the same status to these monkeys.
Since male fertility rates are rapidly plummeting in Western Civilization, I think it’s only polite that we help our replacements get a feel for things before we go.
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