Thursday, February 16, 2006

lol Study: Dolphins Not So Intelligent On Land


Pointer to fresh Onion peeling:

Kobielus kollapsing into katatonic kondition of koughing and konvulsing from Onion-induced kackling:

First off, let me once again quote an excerpt from a recent blogpost, and then relate it to the insanely funny pretext of this Onion piece. First, me again:
  • “A [sentient being’s] perceived intelligence depends totally on context. Intelligence is primarily the capacity of a [being] to respond (continually, appropriately, effectively, articulately, and successfully) to various challenges (tests, tasks, and problems) that the world (fate, society, colleagues, teachers, friends, and adversaries) place in front of them. The evaluation of the success of a [sentient entity’s] ongoing/evolving responsiveness to the never-ending parade of new challenges is that [being’s] "intelligence." The [beings] doing that evaluation include the individual him/her/[it]self, plus the [being]’'s family/friends/colleagues/contemporaries/[aquarium/jailer/zookeepers], plus the [being]'s posterity (descendants/historians/etc.). The context for the "smart vs. stupid" determination, then, is the entire frame of reference that involves diverse challenges and different evaluators. Nobody is inherently smart or stupid--they must continually "prove" themselves as one or the other, and could just as easily (on their next challenge, in the eyes of their next self- or external-evaluation) flip-flop [or jump 10 feet into the air] toward [a dangled salmon held by an attractive blonde positioined at] either pole. The bottom line is that [beings squeak] smart things on some occasions on some topics, and stupid things on other occasions/topics….. The evaluator of a [being’'s intelligence may be particular individuals, or a community of individuals, or a particular individual deferring to the collective/received opinions of the community (contemporaneous/posterity).”

That said, this Onion slice made me cry tears of recognition:

  • “Despite their failures in the initial series of tests, the animals were given further opportunities to demonstrate their intelligence on land. The dolphins were unable to display novel behaviors, use a map to pinpoint their location on campus (spatial reasoning), or complete a simple obstacle course and wall climb….’Their learning curve was actually negative,’ Lindell said. ‘The more time we gave them to complete basic land-based tests, the more pitiful their efforts became, with many of them opting to bask in the sun rather than perform a simple task. In some cases," Lindell added, ‘the dolphins appeared to be looking directly into our eyes, as if pleading with us to help them perform better in these tests.’ Many scientists believe these findings may help to explain why dolphins, for all their vaunted intelligence, have never developed technology or agriculture, or harnessed the power of fire—skills still exclusively in the domain of Homo sapiens.”

All of which makes me want to point to the SETI folks and urge them to rename their initiative: Search for Extraterrestrial Anthropomorphism.

We’re always searching “others” for mirrors of our own “intelligence” (i.e., our own very particular human adaptation-conditioned responsiveness to situations, as expressed through our own very particular human brain, body, behaviors, and culture). When we don’t find those signs of “intelligence,” we declare others stupid.

You try navigating the briny murky deep night and day with just your smell, hearing, and kinesthetic senses. A life-or-death task we’re not adapted to. See how smart you appear.