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Inky the octopus breaks out of New Zealand aquarium (nytimes.com)
346 points by jonathanehrlich on Apr 13, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 244 comments

A number of years ago I kept two octopuses in captivity and I always enjoy reading articles like this, I wish more people took an interest in them and I’m glad to see the audience at HN does.

They really are remarkable animals and unbelievably inquisitive. Trying to keep them from escaping, even from a relatively small 250 gallon tank was always a challenge and I can only imagine how difficult it is to retrofit the larger tanks they inhabit at public aquariums to be escape proof.

They two I kept were incredibly tactile in their curiosity and loved exploring my arms/hands whenever I put them into their tank. They would readily eat small crabs and shrimp right from my fingers and seemed to like playing tug of war, clinging to my hand with a few tentacles and them some of the heavier rocks with the others. Lego blocks, clear acrylic piping, small plastic toys would keep them busy for hours on end.

Many people don’t realize this but they are unfortunately (or fortunately for humans) remarkably short lived. Most species live only for 1-1.5 years and even the Giant Pacific Octopus usually only lives for 3-5 years. I would always jokingly remark to friends that if they had a longer life span on the order of a decade or more, they probably would have invented some kind of breathing apparatus and conquered land long ago. They would probably have a much more advanced space program by now as well.

remarkably short lived.

I suppose that also means they reproduce very quickly, which is a good thing in light of the other discussion here about sustainability of consuming them as food.

I believe in most, if not all, species of octopus the male dies after mating and the female dies shortly after the eggs in her care hatch. Also depending on the species, anywhere from 20,000-200,000 eggs will hatch and I've read that only around 1% will make it to adulthood.

In captivity octopuses are considered relatively difficult to keep due to their sensitivity to water quality. They have a fairly narrow band of acceptable levels of pH, ammonia, nitrite, and salinity. Copper is pretty much Kryptonite to an octopus. I’m unsure what the potential is for large scale changes in oceanic chemistry but I imagine it would be devastating to octopuses, along with overfishing.

I’m actually curious how serious a threat overfishing is. Seeing as how difficult they are to contain I wonder if most commercially available octopus are specifically fished for or are just a byproduct of some other fishing and whether this has a large affect on their populations.

> I’m unsure what the potential is for large scale changes in oceanic chemistry

We are down from pre-industrial 8.25 pH to 8.08, and no sign of slowing. Major changes are certain. I don't know if this means the water will dissolve more metals like Cu, but it seems possible.

Source: http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/file/Hawaii+Carbon+Dioxide+Time...

Thanks for the info, very interesting and troubling.

It's a rational conjecture that hunters tend to strive to continue winning the intelligence arms race over prey, and that technology tends (but not always) is an emergent property from this set of species.

It's also possibly to do with their lack of shell. While other molluscs have a shell to protect them Cephalopod do not, perhaps this forced the evolution of a more capable brain.

This. The cuttlefish (a relative) changes the color of it's skin and texture to hide from hunters/prey. If you have not seen this video, prepare to be amazed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmDTtkZlMwM

Also, the cuttlefish: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/camo/anat-nf.html

Interesting read, thanks.

A similar interesting octopus story not mentioned in the article:

A particular light in a German aquarium kept short-circuiting and no one could figure out why. Using camera surveillance it was finally discovered that every night, the octopus would climb to the edge of his tank and shoot a jet of water on the light, shorting it. It was speculated that the light had been bothering the octopus' nocturnal routine.


Their answer was to hang the light higher. No explanation for keeping the nightly illumination.

That article is depressing. They nonchalantly attribute the behaviour to boredom and belittling the creature like a child: "Otto is constantly craving for attention and always comes up with new stunts so we have realised we will have to keep more careful eye on him".

Let's not attribute any aspect of his behaviour to the crippling reality of captivity. Oh, no.

There is no more evidence for your theory than theirs. Neither can be proven. So "let's not attribute any aspect of his behaviour" to anything is the only correct response.

No evidence? You do know that light plays a significant role in circadian rhythms in most animals and can have dire effects on physiology, right?

So that is evidence that the light is motivating the octopus is it?

> It was speculated that the light was disrupting its nocturnal routine.

That seems to support the previous posters theory.

That's a theory buddy. The word "speculated" might clue you in. Maybe that is the case. It is plausible. Maybe he is 'craving for attention and coming up with stunts'. Also plausible. Unless you're a fucking octopus mind reader, you can't say for sure. We have no evidence either way. Which is what I am trying to explain to developer2, who seems to think he can attribute the octopus' behaviour to the "crippling reality of captivity". He can't. And in fact, humans are notoriously bad at doing this with animal psychology, we tend to anthropomorphize them.

Another (apocryphal?) octopus story: fish from an aquarium tank disappearing every night, and staff after installing cameras found the octopus crawling out of its tank and eating them. Hence, tanks at Monterey Aquarium are lined with Astroturf which resists octopi suckers.

Seems to be common experience from a number of different octopus keepers: https://www.tonmo.com/threads/midnight-tank-escapes-fact-or-...

That seems really mean - the octopus didn't like the light on during the night, when it was sleeping.

So let's move the light further away, but keep it on, because it suits us to keep it on when he's sleeping =(.

Poor little guy. sigh

It upsets me to no end that we find evidence such as this piece that cephalopods are actually (relatively speaking) remarkably more intelligent than common wisdom pertains[0], and yet the culinary abuse and harm (i.e. 'live sushi/sashimi') of these creatures continues.

[0] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cephalopod_intelligence

Are you against eating all animals or is there a cut off point of intelligence after which it stops being okay?

Most of what is/isn't acceptable to eat is based on history and popular socially accepted practices, not whether people think their prospective dinner is intelligent. Pigs are more intelligent than dogs yet the latter are not eaten in the western world and I wouldn't want to live in a world without the (delicious) former.

As a non-vegetarian (for now), my standpoint is that I/we should try as hard as possible to ensure that the sourcing of food is sustainable, humane and ethical for the animals involved. In the usual agricultural animals this is usually straightforward and easy as a consumer — think organically-fed, free-range chickens.

I agree with you that social norms (esp. in your dog/pig example) put irrational values on propensity to use certain animals for meat, when we use intelligence as a deciding factor. But my point was less about intelligence of an animal being the deciding factor of whether or not I eat it, but really about how my grief for that animal intensifies when I find out it has been mistreated, and especially when used in 'delicacy' cooking (my sushi example where the mistreatment of squid can be painful to watch).[0]

There's something inherently saddening in thinking that an animal who has the ability to 'escape' from its tank and slide down a drain pipe back into its habitat could be re-caught and sliced up into little bits in front of tourists. If we know it's that intelligent, then what is going through its mind? — Perhaps we should wait for better AI so we can run a neural net and figure it out! ...But would that be unethical, too?... Uh oh, I'm not going down this rabbit hole tonight. ;)

[0] — NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkAqdh_kLbs

So, if we're willing to grant that non-human animals are worthy of ethical consideration and accept that we don't need meat to be healthy or happy, how can slaughtering them for food be considered ethical?

>In the usual agricultural animals this is usually straightforward and easy as a consumer — think organically-fed, free-range chickens.

I'd counter that it's incredibly not straight forward for consumers. In the US (which I'm the most familiar with), organic has no bearing on the treatment of the animal and qualifiers like "free-range" are either loosely defined or undefined with no third-party oversight. Top that off with ubiquitous practices that most people are surprised by (such as chickens reaching slaughter age in just 6 weeks), I think it's incredibly difficult for people to find products that they can confirm and agree with the ethics of.

    > how can slaughtering them
    > for food be considered
    > ethical
Humane slaughter that they don't see coming ... what's the issue? I would be more, rather than less, comforted to find out that one day I'll suddenly die painlessly, instantly and unawares, and am not too bothered if it's because someone plans to eat me

Even if that someday is an incredibly small fraction of your natural life? Even as little as 1/100 of what you could live if you were well cared for? I take it that's not what you meant by "one day".

If we accept that animals are worthy of moral consideration, then unnecessarily harming them is unequivocally immoral.

I think if I wasn't going to see it coming, it wouldn't bother me while I was alive, and I'm not the kind of person who believes something will bother me when I'm dead.

You're saying that if you knew someone was going to kill you sometime in the near future, as long as you wouldn't see it coming, it wouldn't bother you? I expect you're in the minority on that.

I believe your parent is arguing for a situation where they doesn't even know it'll be in the near future.

> how can slaughtering [animals] for food be considered ethical?

  Life begets life.
  Death is part of life.
  Where necessary, living requires killing.
  Where people cultivate The Golden Rule, life will get better and death will get fewer.

And when it is not necessary, it can't be considered ethical.

It is not required anymore. You can live fine without. So no.

I definitely believe humans can live very well without killing. Mushrooms, cannabis seed pomace, spirulina, beans with grains, etc provide great nutrient sources. Still, some people depend on hunting and farm animals now, and it will take a challenging cultural shift and some resources to bootstrap an economically advantageous and (here, commonly viewed) ethical lifestyle change. For myself, I eventually want to sustain dogs, so I hope fermentation\pre-digestion would allow them to live well with these nutrient sources, but as of now, I believe I will need to start them with farmed prey animals that lived well first.

Yes it is not easy currently but possible. Especially for humans: I can live off my garden mostly and I do eat eggs of my own chickens (most of which too old to lay). My dogs eat the leftovers of a bar in the village which is cheating but as humans we do not kill (Also not indirectly). I am not opposed to eating meat though but I am and against discrimenation as well; I cannot eat bacon if I cannot eat dog and my chickens are nice; I cannot spare them and eat others. So I abstain.

Animals eating pray is different; we humans however can choose and we do not need to. Even if I think if you (or someone else but not some bio factory) get up in the morning and chase your own boar, hang it and slaughter it then it is ok but buying some packet in the shop should at least give you pause.

Let me know how the dogfood works out that would be good.

Plants are living things too. You are killing them by eating them.

Sentience is where we draw the line. You're not replying to anyone who said "killing" is wrong. We're talking specifically about the slaughter of animals. Reducing it all down to just "life" is fallacious.

Define sentience?

The word originates from the Latin verb sentire, "to feel". Plants feel their environment. The Venus Fly Trap feels when an insect is on it, for example.

>Plants are sessile, highly sensitive organisms that actively compete for environmental resources both above and below the ground. They assess their surroundings, estimate how much energy they need for particular goals, and then realise the optimum variant. They take measures to control certain environmental resources. They perceive themselves and can distinguish between ‘self’ and ‘non-self’. They process and evaluate information and then modify their behaviour accordingly.

[1]Biocommunication of Plants, http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783642235238

[2] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plant_perception_(physiology...

A more valid argument is that the sound or sight of killing an animal is more off-putting than killing a plant, which is of course a purely subjective sentiment, hence the deeming of "right vs wrong" which is itself a purely subjective sentiment.

Plants don't feel their environment. They react to stimuli as all life does.

Sentience is defined as the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Since we have very little understanding of how consciousness works and how to test discern whether an entity is conscious or not, I realize this is a sticking point for a lot of people. But I think you'll agree that there's a very real difference between killing a plant and killing a member of your family. And that distinction applies to many animals as well.

Neuron count is fine for me.

Lobsters an wasps are having about the same neuron count, slightly more than mosquitos.

All food is killing. That mushroom that you pick dies earlier. Same for the lettuce, cabbage and carrots. Apparently there is a line somewhere near locomotion that says where to stop killing?

I see eating those as more akin to part of its sexual reproduction and continuation of life, like a bee taking nectar from a flower. As far as I understand it, Natural order works where a "food" matures, falls, and an "animal" eats it and passes its seeds through its digestive system. This process deposits the seeds in a fertilized position to grow its next generation. In a more poetic form, you can hear this in the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra[0,1] (Great Death-conquering Mantra), ~"...like a good gardener releases the cucumber from captivity (of its stem), free me from death but not from immortality."

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahamrityunjaya_Mantra#Literal...

1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1uj3_rW7Uc

That's true for fruits (in the botanical sense), not roots (carrots), fungi (mushrooms), or cabbage and lettuce. You're killing or injuring the organism and not helping perpetuate it in any way.

When a human harvests those organisms and replants their seeds among compost, it seems awfully similar to me. (Yes, I understand they each have some level of awareness similar to a mammal and bird. Here, we seem to focus on the meaning of killing. Perhaps our frame of reference which would call one yes and one no limits our ability to understand what happens in these processes.)

Tangent hidden in Mahamrityunjaya: If your unit of analysis of Life consists of one body of directly wired cells, then death for it would seem to occur when it stops nourishing itself or starts nourishing another body of directly wired cells. If on the other hand your unit of analysis for Life is Life, then replanting its seed is its continuation, afaict. This opens a paradox... If eating a head of lettuce seems fine while a new crop grows, then why not a head of cow while its calves grow too?

People can get trapped in their heads by paradoxes, so I like to go by my gut and my heart (don't worry, they're connected to my brain and they have a lot of neurons, see peripheral nervous system[0]) and econophysics[1](?linked document seems to have changed a lot). So, basically cold, hard calculation in a warm, soft body. If I can run my home on cow meat and feel good about it then bravo, but I can't for two reasons: 1) I love Life and want to maximize and respect it 2) eating cows is horrendously inefficient, for example you can get 6x as much meat from the same exact inputs of feed and water from meat rabbits.

Meat rabbit production seem like a very good investment right now and a potential focal point for planning my near-term food sources. They can also eat the grain stalks and inedible carrot leaves etc, and their poop works extremely well for compost. I want simply to figure out how to make the most of my available inputs, so if I can turn those green leaves into mushroom food instead and still grow enough grain while I use those stalks for construction projects etc, then great. We're talking about living here, so it's a matter of costs and benefits, right?.. what's Life worth?

(0): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peripheral_nervous_system

(1): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Econophysics

None of those foods have seeds. You're not going to get anything out of the compost except rot. You're not helping them reproduce. The only maybe exception is mushrooms, since when they get plucked up you might spread spores.

Mushrooms are the fruiting body of a much larger fungal complex. Many fungi use the fact that animals carry the mushrooms (and their spores) off to eat as a reproductive strategy.

Sentience is the line. Plucking a carrot out of the ground and slitting the throat of a cow can't be reasonably equated.

Let's assume a purely materialistic view of reality. In such a system all truths will be defined from nature.

1) Animals in nature kill each other all the time for food and sport. 2) All eating after a certain cell count for a creature requires death in some way. 3) Death is inevitable; life is not. 4) Force is the determinate factor for making something happen. 5) The universe does not care for life or death. It is merely a thing. It too will die taking all life within it with it.

Construct a moral set from those points (add more if necessary). I contend that you can't seat any ethics on it except might makes right. Anything other than that is merely a personal preference with no justification outside of the amount of force one can apply.

As a result I see no distinction between what is food and what is friend. It is merely personal preference. Sentience does not provide any actual force. It might cause your force to act, but it does not, in and of itself, mean anything.

To get out a head of it since it's been bandied about: cannibalism is impractical because it leads to the destruction of society when applied to the general population. I did not say it's wrong, for it is only death, which as we've seen is just part of nature. I say it makes commerce and society difficult if applied internally as well as outwardly. We, as a society, have a preference for this stability. We, as a group of actors, have the ability to force this view by our combined strength such as police and other law enforcement institutions.

Of course, you have a valid point. But what you're ultimately arguing against is any form of moral reasoning.

While I find the theoretical discussion of morality interesting, I'm far more driven by the practical discussions. People generally accept a moral axiom, explicitly or implicitly, something along the lines of "Harming other individuals unnecessarily is wrong". If that is the case, I'm going to argue for the consistent application of that principle, which is also where sentience enters the conversation. If they don't hold a similar moral axiom (which I've found is fairly rare), then I don't really have any ground to stand on in this debate. I'm certainly not equipped, if it's even possible, to make a moral argument from first principles.

> Let's assume a purely materialistic view of reality.

Why? What benefit does metaphysical materialism have to living a good life?

Also, that cow's ancestors made our lives possible. Someone had to sow those amber waves of grain, and they needed help. If a human would look at a life giving animal and immediately a knife or a meat grinder comes to mind, then both need help. Perhaps some animals could step up to it, hopefully of the human kind.

It's hard to escape the fact that, on average, our ethical circle has only expanded and not contracted. That animals should one day be inside this circle seems inevitable.

If ventures like Memphis Meats[0] (meat without the animals) get off the ground the whole matter could become a non-issue.


>It's hard to escape the fact that, on average, our ethical circle has only expanded and not contracted. That animals should one day be inside this circle seems inevitable.

I'd say it has mostly changed with added hypocrisy. The 20th century saw more bloodshed (and from supposedly developed western countries) than any other century in history. And the 21st is off to a good start, sarcastically speaking.

Don't confuse a local maxima with a global minima. On the whole, across centuries, violence is in decline. Pinker wrote an entire book on this[0]


>On the whole, across centuries, violence is in decline.

Have to read the book, but is it? Total numbers/percentages wise? I'm not so sold.

There's no reason we, as humans, have to eat animals to survive. There are animals which need it for their organisms to functions properly or they would die. Think difference of cats and dogs. Dogs can survive without meat but cats not so much. Humans can survive, but it's just missing marketing and educations and related mass production of alternatives that's still fueling farming of animals as an energy source. I'm not a vegetarian as I don't reject meat when it's on my plate, but I don't actively seek the meat.

I mean, if you hunt an animal for sport, then you better eat it as well, or just leave hunting to park rangers who do it for ecological reasons.

> dogs yet the latter are not eaten

Yes, it's a huge hypocrisy that we condemn those who eat dogs, but I like to think it's because dogs have been man's best friend for so long that we have an emotional attachment too strong to break.

Although not the OP, I have a fairly strong opinion on this. In order of importance everyone should

* Make their own decisions on what to eat.

* Understand the externalities, exogenous, and endogenous process and consequences of their decisions.

* Take full personal, civic, and environmental responsibility for those decisions.

Essentially, as long as people are forthright, honest, and accountable about what they eat, where it comes from, and the ecological footprints their choices implicate, then have at it, eat whatever.

Is this really how you feel taken to its logical extremes? Do you think humans should be allowed to eat other humans? Other live humans?

Eating is clearly a very personal thing, but it's silly to pretend that morality suddenly ceases applying.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donner_Party These people were not evil. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Butt_Naked probably is evil but at least he's trying to repent.

If we're going to try to come up with a system, mine is simply (borrowed[1]): I like beef and broccoli, mind your business. I readily admit this doesn't cover every corner case, but I don't think there can be a satisfactory system that does. Many things have to be determined by context and taste, and usually aren't even worth thinking about if you're not in a position of power and responsibility over the lives of others.

[1] http://genius.com/Immortal-technique-beef-and-broccoli-lyric...

What if it is the actual wish of the people involved?

What if a person whose fantasy was to kill and cook another person met a person who fantasy was to be killed and cooked? Then this happened. What penalty should ensue for the (well-fed) survivor?

And lest you think this is some weird hypothetical, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armin_Meiwes may enlighten you otherwise.

In this case it's a mental disorder or illness and I'd consider it manslaughter.

What about euthanasia?

Person A kills person B and B wants to be dead/killed.

Well, I'm controversial with some - it's still against the law in many jurisdictions so it's murder. But I consider euthanasia to be hugely unethical, so I'd consider it manslaughter.

What about meat grown in a lab, so no being had to die for it.

...what about human meat grown in a lab...?

as someone who considers themselves an animal-rights moderate, I am 100% OK with lab meat. No sentient beings suffering = no problem!

That will happen. There will be two aspects to it.

Firstly, the wealthy (and then the middle classes) will have meat prepared that is genetically identical to themselves, and will serve it to dinner guests.

Secondly, one will be able to buy celebrity meat at the supermarket. The future equivalent of a Tom Cruise burger, or a Scarlett Johansson steak.

The third one, "full personal, civic, and environmental responsibility for those decisions" would include criminal charges and jail-time for the decision to eat a human as it would constitute murder.

If someone said "I'm comfortable with the legal consequences of cannibalism and murder along with the possibility that the person may actually kill me before I get to them" and they actually are held to those postulations, including say, life-imprisonment AND they still want to do it all just so they can eat human for supper, then sure, go for it!

In that case, your first and third statements certainly seem in conflict. You don't actually believe in any practical sense that people should be able to make their own (unhindered) decision on what to eat if you're going to punish them for it and prevent them from doing it again.

It's about understanding the costs of the decisions and accepting them.

If you say "Well nobody would be ok with industrial slaughterhouses or a number of other things" I say, "yes, that's kinda the point here."

Why would we care if someone accepts the costs or not? I find our justice system to be incredibly flawed, but ultimately we jail people because we (as a society) don't want the action they committed to take place. The mentality you seem to be espousing seems to ignore that for... reasons?

So if we're willing to say a specific action is worth jailing someone for the rest of their life, why shouldn't we say "This action is not okay and we're going to do our best to prevent it"?

What you're describing is an extended version of the Problem of Evil. Also related is the moral and limitation of government itself (human chose to give up certain liberty for government).

Basically, free will (and the physical manifestation of it: liberty) is argued to be more important than the lack of evil. And you can't have realistic free will and liberty without accepting that bad things will happen.

No. I'm merely pointing out the absurdity of saying describing something as "okay" when it's anything but. The word has become meaningless in this conversation.

This is a philosophical difference. I think adults should be at liberty to shoot themselves in the foot.

I don't care if people understand the externalities as much as I want them to pay for the externalities.

I'm sorry, but this

>* Make their own decisions on what to eat.

is totally unacceptable when you're "making a decision" to enslave, torture, murder, and consume a sentient, feeling creature.

So eating human is OK? Killing humans in order to eat them is OK?

What some people are asking is if we should extend this to some other species, typically other apes (which share 90% of our genes etc...) and now animals with high intelligence (elephant, dolphin, octopus).

Our society has decided that there are a number of drastic consequences for cannibalism and murder. If someone honestly was ok with all of them including things like telling the persons' family and spending their life in jail for the cost of a meal, then that's fine.

Note that my conditions make people on the hook for everything - the treatment of the workers that prepared the food, the environmental impact of delivering it, the treatment of the animals constituting the food, the health effects of choosing what to eat ... all of that.

In what sense is it okay? What does "okay" mean? Responding to an action with a life prison sentence doesn't scream "okay".

Clearly. The point is nobody would do that.

I think that if someone was forced to have a pet pig for a while they'd probably stop eating pork or if they were forced to be a single mother living on minimum wage they'd probably fight on behalf of fast food workers.

My supposition is that people shouldn't voluntarily shroud themselves in ignorance for culinary delight but instead, should take full responsibility for all of their actions, at the dinner table and in all aspects of life.

>I think that if someone was forced to have a pet pig for a while they'd probably stop eating pork

Unfortunately, this is often not the case in my own experience. It certainly does for some people, but that course is by no means universal. And when the well-being of other thinking, feeling individuals is at stake, I'd rather not rely on this kind of approach.

This really worked in my experience.

In my family we often used to eat chicken and while eating them the only thing on mind was how it tasted and how it was cooked etc. Then my parents started rearing some chickens in their backyard. That changed everything. There were about 7 or 8 of them. As the chicks grew up, they could identify each of them and know about individual treats. They would call some of them by names and slowly their nature was becoming more evident. They still eat eggs but they eat chicken meat rarely at some social event. They cannot even think about killing one of the chickens that they have. Its just emotionally too painful for just food!

This really works i think. But you have to rear them in small numbers to get connected to animals and then observe the changes in your thinking. You may still have them for food but it would be a conscious decision which you would not take lightly, like considering it as some food lying around.

I definitely acknowledge it works sometimes. But it often does not. Even in your example, your family hasn't actually stopped eating chicken. So it really only proves my point. People continue to cling to their dissonance.

I actually have neighbors who treat their chickens like pets for several years then give them to someone to slaughter. They don't eat them but they're fine with other people eating them and they're fine with eating other chickens.

Small farm operations, including rearing a few animals for food, used to be the norm, and still is in some countries.

To offer a different perspective... I keep a handful dual purpose laying hens, primarily for eggs but after a few years when their egg production slows down I use them for soup. My kids come up with names for all of them and we enjoy interacting with them in different ways, but at the end of the day we all understand that the reason we keep them is for food. I don't get attached to them because I know that some day I'm going to be the one putting them down. I like knowing where my food comes from and being involved in the harvest. It would feel wasteful to me if I didn't eat the chickens.

I've worked in a slaughterhouse/processing facility, and I'm certainly not a vegetarian.

Yeah, I'm totally cool with that. Diversity is wonderful.

The thing I'm not ok with is people who pretend like they are the modern incarnation of St. Francis of Assisi while eating animals for every meal and having a bunch of leather goods.

Such people aren't saintly patrons of the animals and they should come to terms with it. It's really just about honesty.

> If someone honestly was ok with all of them for the cost of a human feast, then that's fine.

Would you sing the same tune if you were the one that they wanted to eat?

I would be violently opposed to it of course. As I hypothesize is every other animal to their own demise. Maybe there's a moral necessity to veganism.

This is a cop out...

Would you be ok with changing legislation so that it is ok to kill humans as long as it is to eat them.

This is what people are discussing here, should we legislate against killilling animals with "high intelligence" and those who share more genes with us than with any other animal, as long as it is for food?

No of course not.

The positions I outlined are my justification for my personal goals of radical sustainability and veganism.

I understand when people aren't like me so long as they are OK with the full duty cycle of their personal decisions

I am not trying to be snarky, and honestly don't know what you mean. Does "In order of importance" mean "from most to least important", or "from least to most important"? (Probably it's just my deficiency; I am so used to seeing 'increasing' or 'decreasing' that I don't know which one is implicitly meant.)

If I understand OP correctly, he was specifically concerned about eating them while they are still alive and made no judgement in their comment on eating them while they are already dead.

Most carnivores would probably agree that it's cruel to cut your bacon from a live pig, yet would eat bacon cut from a dead one.

Well, I'm certainly against eating all animals alive. Not a complicated issue.

What's your position on lions?

Lions are terrible people.

Being non-people, this is not surprising.

So it's more ethical for lions to eat other creatures alive than it is for people to eat other creatures alive. Got it!

I believe that people are not animals (and that computers are not people), both may be controversial beliefs for some but are rather widely shared.

In particular, nothing constitutes an ethical problem for animals, computers, plants, and other non-human entities, while some things are unethical for people.

So people are inherently more moral and far superior than animals then. What is your ethical basis for not eating them? Genuinely curious.

Firstly, it doesn't even need to have anything to do with "ethics", it's just ridiculous to argue that "lions eat their prey alive, hence I find it fine to do so." Lions will lick their balls in the presence of, well, pretty much any other organism. Do you suggest that we do the same?

I'm not saying that people are "inherently more moral" than animals, or "far superior", I'm saying that they're inherently people while animals inherently aren't people. A lion will never compare its own behavior to the behavior of a toad or an elephant or a human in order to judge its propriety, but you do this sort of thing, and you doing so is inherently human. A lion doesn't argue that it's superior to its prey and hence it's OK to eat it alive, but you do make this argument (or a different argument, the point is you're arguing about this on the Internet) and this is inherently a human thing.

You being a human makes it possible for me to ask you, why would you want to eat an animal alive, why not kill it first? What's in it for you? It's obviously painful for the animal and the vast majority of humans derive a certain degree of displeasure from observing the suffering of living organisms that they don't have a particular reason to harm. Perhaps the desire for philosophical consistency is the inherently human trait causing you to argue in favor of eating animals alive ("since most of us would kill an animal to save a human's life, it must also be OK to cause animals suffering for a near-zero gain or even just to derive pleasure from it, otherwise it's a slippery slope at the end of which we grant animals voting rights")?

I would not eat them alive either.

Some people too, eat foods that I don't enjoy eating (eg. eggs), but I don't have a problem with those people.

You can be personally against something without boycotting whole aspects of your life (lions, other people, Lambda conferences)

I would have no problem eating lion.

If you try eating alive lion, I'm quite sure, it will eat you.

Would you have a problem with the converse? ;)

Yea, I'd do my best to shoot it first.

Edit: then eat it


Agreed with everything up until your last sentiment. I assume it was hyperbole, but it's still a ridiculous notion that without this specific food item (that currently requires harming other sentient, intelligent individuals), that life would not be worth living.

> Agreed with everything up until your last sentiment. I assume it was hyperbole, but it's still a ridiculous notion that without this specific food item (that currently requires harming other sentient, intelligent individuals), that life would not be worth living.

I didn't say it wouldn't be worth living. I said that, given the choice, I'd rather live in a world with ham, bacon, and baby back ribs.

What if you could get the same delicious flavors artificially?

There is a cut off point as most people here would not eat humans (come on, how are human babies intelligent?) dolpins or dogs. Eating pigs just makes people hypocrites; people just ignore it and stuff it away as you need bacon and it is too annoying to face all this pesky stuff.

And 'would not want to live in a world without'? That is a strange remark on many levels; if pigs are deamed sentient tomorrow and hence offlimits like humans you go for suicide or become a criminal?

Pigs and almost every other animal humans eat are already deemed sentient. Bacon tho.

Are they? That makes people even weirder for doing what they do. Like said I am not against eating meat; if I known the animal was not tortured then I would eat it, completely by the way (brain and organs included). But buying some bacon in plastic from a factory where torture is the norm makes you rather a sick puppy if you know these animals are sentient. But I know people just don't want to think about it. Especially here it is strange: the HN reader is rich so can actually go to a farm and pay something more for well treated eggs and bacon. And yet...

Try serving people Dolphin or Chimp and you find quickly there is a line for most people.

Try serving them a pig with the head still attached, similar reaction, next day bacon for breakfast. Don't want to think about that real animal stuff, I doubt the line has much to do with the intelligence of the species.

I actually have had suckling pig; it still smells like bacon so people get over it pretty quickly. I also bet people don't consider pigs to be as smart as they are.

Ten minutes of animal cruelty involved in eating a live octopus doesn't phase me compared to the life-long animal cruelty most farm animals suffer.

The only reason it's more outrageous is because it's 'obvious,' I imagine. In the West, we like our animal cruelty to be kept strictly behind closed doors.

Maybe there's a way to chemically destroy part of their brain at birth, while using their body to grow meat tissue?

Some ethicist should come up with an electronic controller that keeps the chickens or whatever alive by stimulating neurons like the brain would, but which clearly has no consciousness attached.

Actually, this entire business of needing a whole chicken to make chicken meat seems inefficient. I wonder if there's a way to grow meat tissue like you would algae?

Is in-vitro human meat considered cannibalism? What if the meat is synthesized from your own DNA? Self-cannibalism? Not asking you directly, just throwing the thought tangent out there

Thank you. I've been wondering if something like this would become viable before 3d printing meat. I didn't know it was already a thing.

In-vitro meat is looking like a more viable option by the day. And it has the obvious moral ground.

Forget moral high ground. It's energy efficient. You don't have to feed whole animal and then cut away stuff you don't like or can't eat. Just grow the thing you need.

Plus you only need a couple of animals for breeding/cell harvest.

It also will have both a medical and commercial high ground.

If you don't have all of the nasty digestion bits of a bird, you lost a lot of the nasty disease bits.

If you only have the meat parts of the bird, you don't waste any growth resources on non-saleable parts of the bird.

In vitro meat would be great. Yet you still need to introduce a small number of pathogens to improve your fitness (your body needs to fight small battles all the time to keep in the top shape). Sanitized stuff brings you allergy and other fun, like inability to adapt to changing environment.

Should be solvable by frequently swapping out the cell sources for the breeding, using fresh samples from live farm animals (tested for harmful pathogens first, of course).

In-vitro meat has a huge environmental advantage as well.

> Some ethicist should come up with an electronic controller that keeps the chickens or whatever alive by stimulating neurons like the brain would, but which clearly has no consciousness attached.

We could call it a "brain".

There is a certain disturbing factor of enjoying the practice of actively harming another individual. But from a view of amount of harm done, you're absolutely right. The scale of our atrocities towards animals is enormous.

I believe in the West most people don't even want to think about it.

Seriously? I think people in the west generally care more about animal welfare than in the far east. The UK has the highest animal welfare standards in the world. Sure there are people, farmers and pet keepers that do not obey the law, but in the main animals are very well taken care of.

A large majority of Indians are vegetarians and the rest only eat fish, chicken or goat. Cows are holy and worshiped!

Euthanasing animals in India, or at least some parts, is illegal because they believe they can not kill animals, therefore many, if not most animals in India die terrible deaths in old age. I am not confident that chickens, goats, nor many other animals in India are well treated and have good quality of lives.

It certainly is not that case that just because you do not consume animals means you keep them in humane conditions.

Compared to whom? China? Where they kill endangered pangolins so they can grind-up their scales and sprinkle it on their dicks because some moron centuries ago said it was an aphrodisiac?

Get real.

He said most people, just looking at McDonald's popularity alone, maybe an indication of how interested most people are in understanding the sources of their food.

According to seafood watch, market squid are at the very least sustainable [0]. Squid and octopus are different I believe, but calamari is squid if I'm not mistaken.

As for Octopus, it appears a bit more iffy [1].

As for intelligence, that's secondary to sustainability for my eating habits at this point.

[0] - http://www.neaq.org/conservation_and_research/projects/fishe...

[1] - http://seafood.edf.org/octopus#bmb=1

there's good reason to suspect that a lot of calamari is pig asshole: http://www.dallasobserver.com/restaurants/npr-claims-pig-rec...

Considering the article is only a few paragraphs, and right in the middle of the article it states "dining on pork bung at your favorite Italian restaurant is improbable (most hog bung is exported to Asia)". I don't see how you have any factual support for the statement "a lot".

In fact, there isn't even anecdotal evidence listed.

Apologies, the correct link is the This American Life episode linked in the story I linked, but that episode appears to have been pulled offline. Here's a transcript: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/484/t...

If I started thinking about it too much, I'd probably become a vegetarian. So I refrain from thinking about the topic, which probably isn't a great idea, because then I remember all of the moral atrocities committed in the 1800s under the name of "not thinking about it too much" or "that's just the way it is".

Think about vegetable rights before you become a vegetarian.

What will my bunny eat when you eat all the carrots?

Idea that intellect should be a measure of if is okay to kill or other use a species is extremely flawed in my opinion.

What else do you want to use?

Sentience - I really don't see any other sensible qualifier for moral consideration.

Sentience is central to the philosophy of animal rights, because sentience is necessary for the ability to suffer, and thus is held to confer certain rights.

That said, in my opinion, as it relates to optimal ecosystems, sentience at best might be a consideration.

Impact, contribution, etc. to an ecosystem would be a more natural measure.

Humans have a pretty horrible impact on, and contribution to, the ecosystem. Can I kill them? /s

Does that actually matter in and of itself beyond how it affects sentient individuals?

Yes, a health ecosystem requires non-sentient live for a number of reasons including that non-sentient is the source of genetically different sentient live. Diversity is critical for ecosystems.

How you determine something is sentient or not? That's a tough one.

That's not the sentience we're talking about. From the article: >This is a non-standard usage of the word "sentience"...


Impact, contribution, etc. to an ecosystem.

The current bar is just anything not in the genus Homo and would likely extend to any 'humanoid' species.

A wolf doesn't really care about the relative intelligence of the rabbits it kills, but has a natural kinship between other wolves or wolf-like creatures which more-or-less extends to, "I wont kill you for food unless I'm starving."

Wolves are irrelevant here. If we're talking about the morality of the way we treat animals, it's a logical fallacy to try to use wolf behavior to justify our own (and something I'm sure would never occur in any other discussion of morality).

it's a logical fallacy to try to use wolf behavior to justify our own

Human society tends to operate on that logical fallacy. The badness/awfulness of others is taken to justify "extreme measures" from our own side. (And I would agree that this is wrong.)

Absolutely. All the more reason to point it out.

Wolves are extremely opportunistic carnivores, and will, given the opportunity, eat another wolf.

That aside, unclear how wolves relate to the topic.

Generally speaking, most life on Earth doesn't even eat other living organisms, but the naturally left remains of living organisms.

We all know what you meant to say, but plants are living organisms.

This is why using selective terms for the type of dietary intake is scientifically useful. Carnivores that eat other carnivores (on a preferential basis) are rare. Typically herbivores are eaten by omnivores or carnivores. The only real moralities involved in these distinctions relate to energy efficiency and likelihood of diseases being a concern. Of course self awareness (sentience) is an additional layer of consideration on top of the evolutionary pressures.

Just to be clear, I'm referring to detritus as the primary source of nutrition for living organisms.

Learn more about detritus here:


If by generally speaking you mean micro-organisms, then sure. I cannot think of any animals (mammals, fish, etc) that do not eat living organisms.

Try most of them?

Name just one. If you think it's most of them, name a few. I will explain it to you then.

its better than basing it on how cute the animal is.

Serious question: why?

The higher an animal's intelligence the easier it is for us to emphasize with. Most humans don't like the idea of being eaten alive.

Expanding this idea to machines is very easy. It is ok to treat a machine like a slave that is only capable of moving an object from point a to point b? How about a machine that has a self-aware AI?

Well self-awareness doesn't have a direct correlation with intelligence. I agree that it generally comes down to what/who we can easily empathize with, but I would argue it sentience matters more in that respect (as well as providing a more logical basis for what entities we should actually be concerned about).

I believe the moral fault there would be in the creation of a machine with a self-aware AI but a 'body' that is not worthy of that intelligence.

To put that another way; a limited body should have a limited intelligence by design.

Assuming that's true, why is it better simply because it's easier to empathize?

To me, morality is based upon a goal and the causal means by which we may have relation to that goal. For many, the goal is approximately similar, i.e., for humanity to prosper. I also think that morality becomes productive when consensus is achieved, even if it's approximate consensus.

I don't understand why eating smart animals like cows or pigs has a substantive relationship to human prosperity, except with respect to ecological reasons. If the argument is about sustainability, then I think a lot of people can get into that discussion. But if the argument stems from the idea that we should simply feel bad for killing smart cows and pigs, then I don't understand.

I would also say that under my definition of morality, goals are more important than means. Therefore, just as I would think it bad to let a human starve or be eaten in a forest, by extension, if we were to regard "smart animal" prosperity as the goal, then we would also think it morally negligent to simply throw up our hands and say "the wild took its course with that one!".

So what is your moral premise?

(killing smart animals like cows or pigs) => (mediating factors) => (? moral outcome you're attempting to build consensus on ?)

How about these premises: 1. Happiness/pleasure ought to be increased. 2. Suffering ought to be decreased. 3. The type of being experiencing these is immaterial. Why stop at humans?

That is nice until you observe what actually happens in the raw nature itself - I had a "joy" observing two crows killing a sparrow with the utmost cruelty, prolonging its suffering as much as they could, and then leaving it there without "eating" it.

We simply have to transcend nature if we want to feel good about ourselves. Maybe once we master technology, we can reprogram the mess of this Universe (at some point we will be dealing with pure computer science instead of physics, which will be just a consequence of some mathematical structures and algorithms running on top of them). I never understood why so many humans worship nature - nature is broken, it's like a fairly balanced pathological system, showing some wonders (Moon-Earth distance allowing total eclipses) as well as atrocities (basically all what is nasty about life itself).

This won't be seriously entertained by most people until their standard of living is better than the octopus. Hungry people don't have the time or energy to worry about how smart their meal is. Only religion ever seems to make a dent in dietary habits in the 3rd world.

How does hunger necessitate eating live animals? And isn't octopus relatively expensive, anyways?

I'm not talking specifically about eating them while alive, which is a relatively rare practice anyway. Their torment as by-catch and just in general seems more ubiquitous to me. Eating them alive is gruesome, but frankly a lot closer to what an octopus can expect in nature. Being put in solitary in a tiny box though? Being held in a tank in terrible conditions, and then brutally dispatched?

That's all too common.

Japan is not the third world.

Isn't eating live animals a luxurious thing in some regions of Asia?

I'm not really worried about rare luxuries. You're talking about a ubiquitous foodstuff the world over, and we treat it like it's no smarter than a clam. It's variously treated as bycatch to suffer and die in nets, trapped as 'pets' or exhibits (and I think long-term confinement has to be hell for intelligent beings), and eaten the good old fashioned way, by sticking them in a pot.

Focusing on a particular way of killing them that strikes humans as gruesome doesn't interest me as much as the global treatment of them.

I actually I don't think eating a live octopus is done (at least a fully grown one) since the suction force of its cups(?) continues quite some time after it's death and can be quite dangerous if it sticks to your throat.

Eating live shrimp is a thing though.

This is a practice with sushi and certain fish, I don't know if it occurs with octopus though. I say this merely to confirm a fact, I am qualifying no judgement here.

If so, that's seriously fucked up subcultural brainwashing.

So are you saying each lifeform should only eat what is dumber than it?

As the sibling comment points out, we're getting into ethics which obviously only applies to those who are capable to ethical reasoning.

Personally, I see far better attributes as being measures of whether we should harm other individuals (sentience should be the qualifier), but I can see how intelligence may make its way into these conversations.

I doubt the commenter means that, since the word "should" implies ethical reasoning which is presumably not a capability of most non-humans.

That would at least make camping a lot safer...

Relatively speaking? I think Cephalopods are smarter than humans, with their life span of 3 - 5 years their cognitive intelligence I think meets or exceeds most toddlers.

They decide to die by starvation after laying eggs and the majority of the babies are killed while they are defenseless.

With any organization and cognition that they don't have to die at this point in their life, they could perhaps take over the ocean.

Many countries ban certain types of research (e.g. pain-inducing) on cephalopods because of their intelligence.

Actually, most of the animals we eat are intelligent and certainly share similar traits of self-consciousness as humans. Mammals certainly, but even fishes.

EDIT: And I know this does not justify anything, but "intelligent" animals in the wilderness also eat each others all the time. If we were to find out that they "get" that the other species they eat are also intelligent and have feelings, then why wouldn't it be acceptable for humans to do the same?

> ... I know this does not justify anything

> ... wouldn't it be acceptable for humans to do the same?

Edit: Re-reading your comment, I think this isn't a charitable interpretation. I'll assume that you don't think cruelty in nature justifies human cruelty unless the animals are knowingly cruel.

I still don't agree with you however. I don't think it's acceptable to wrong someone/an animal just because they knowingly wronged someone else/a different animal.

Octopi also eat octopus. Probably because they are delicious.

They are still brilliant.

I agree, it's disgusting but this goes for most animals though.

I really enjoy reading octopus, but will not do so any longer.

Unfortunately nature sucks. One of the main philosophical questions of the past was why humans' internal moral code goes against what happens in the nature?

We need to eat to survive. Animals/plants/bacteria etc. need to eat as well. Why is killing/damaging plants more acceptable than killing/damaging animals? Why do we want to kill viruses that are eating our bodies? How many insects did you kill on the way to work today and didn't even notice? Simply no good answers :-( Hence cyberspace vs meatspace etc.

I am totally okay with you being not happy with eating things live. But I will suggest that you be careful with basing it on intelligence. That framing opens up weird things like "Maybe it is okay to eat mentally retarded humans."

I agree but cheer up. One day you and I will provide sustenance for a whole range of lower order organisms - one way or another.

That will not involve a whole lot of suffering that can be prevented.

...you must not expect to die in the US healthcare system.~

>Inky is not the first octopus to attract the spotlight. In the summer of 2010, Paul, an octopus in Germany, gained worldwide attention when he appeared to correctly pick the winning team in all seven of Germany’s games at the World Cup in South Africa — a feat that inspired a song. He has been immortalized in Oberhausen, Germany, with a six-foot plastic replica of him clutching a soccer ball.

To me, this cheapens the article. There are readers who are going to think that the octopus actually predicted those wins, when any thoughtfully rational observer would understand that it was merely a lucky happenstance.

Yeah, your basic octopus scam where you get a bunch of octupi and have them predict results from sports games, and advertise the results of the one that has managed to "predict" the most results.

Nope, it and only it was seriously followed by tabloids and reputable newspapers alike at least from the second match on.

Sure, it was chance. But not a "pick a winner in hindsight" scam.

Gimlet Media did a really fun story talking about Paul in the context of superpredictors. https://gimletmedia.com/episode/58-earth-pony/

Yeah that was totally unnecessary in an article otherwise promoting the lesser-known intelligence of octopi.

> “He managed to make his way to one of the drain holes that go back to the ocean, and off he went,” Mr. Yarrall said. “Didn’t even leave us a message.”

Yes he did - the message was 'I don't want to live in a glass box'

In 2016, Inky Dufresne escaped from Shawtank Prison. All they found of him was a muddy set of prison clothes, a bar of soap, and an old rock hammer, damn near worn down to the nub.

The linked video is amazing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yHIsQhVxGM

And here's a "tool using" octopus - carring a coconut shell to hide in. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DoWdHOtlrk

Kind-of off topic I guess, but we were just visiting an aquarium in Seaside OR a couple weeks ago, and they famously have an octopus in the tank, with no top on it that you can stand next to and watch it swim around.

While we were there, it was dancing for us, speeding across the tank like I'd never seen. He really looked like he'd love to be free. So the question had to be asked, "What if he wants to get out?"

The aquarium attendant told us something in the vein of, if he gets out, he gets out. If he wants to be free, he will get free.

I thought that was an interesting answer, though I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I can tell you that if it tried to get free while I was there, I'd probably get the heck out of the aquarium. It resembled an alien, and I'm afraid of most giant things from the sea.

I wonder if Inky knew that the drain hole led to the ocean, or if it was a just a lucky break.

It was a dark, tight space, which octopuses enjoy. He may have entered it simply because it seemed more comfortable than where he was.

Are they certain Inky isn't still in there?


> The aquarium’s manager, Rob Yarrall, told Radio New Zealand that employees had searched the aquarium’s pipes after discovering Inky’s trail, to no avail.

Do octopi have a sense of smell? Maybe it/he/she could sense it in some way, or just noticed that when water flowed in the room, it all went down that drain. "I'll go where the water goes!"

In that vein, how often do octopi get out of the water (except when being brought out by humans)? And, are they aware of "water" vs "not-water"?

I already lmgtfy.com'ed all of these... just adding to the discussion.

Scents do not travel back up a drain pipe, and I doubt that sounds or other effects do, either.

And while a lost human might reason about following a river to civilization, I don't think there are similar drains in the ocean. If it made that connection, I am seriously impressed! While that's a well known tactic for explorers, many lost humans don't know it and don't figure it out!

My leading guess, though, is that he observed workers pouring other ocean things, probably including some tasty octopus food, down the drain.

> Scents do not travel back up a drain pipe, and I doubt that sounds or other effects do, either.

Properly engineered drains are, especially if they have traps. You must hang around different drains than I.

Good question. Not sure if there's an answer. This wouldn't be a story for us to read if he'd simply been recaptured.

Just because something has complex self-preservation behaviors does not mean that thing is displaying consciousness. Complex behaviors are witnessed in insects and microscopic organisms, yet they have nothing like a brain.

What's more, we're computer scientists. If anyone should be aware that something can seem intelligent without sentience it should be us. Who here hasn't explored chat bots or game AI mechanics? Yet these inventions are remarkably simple compared with even the most basic of evolution's creations.

Are venus fly traps sentient because they catch food in their "mouths"? Of course not. Our knee-jerk reaction to equate behavior with sentience illustrates just how bad we humans are of seeing reality without an anthropomorphic lense.

It is far more likely that human beings became unusual because of our sentience, not that animals remain base in spite of theirs.

There's no evidence yet that humans are sentient either. It's all wild speculation. Many complex behaviors observed in humans have been reproduced with very simple algorithms.

The simple difference being that we are humans, and can easily extrapolate to the rest of our species from ourselves.

As for other animals, I'm not so convinced that the same extrapolation stands.

I'm currently reading The Soul of an Octopus and it's really joy inspiring. Part pop-science, part memoir, part inter-species romance. If you just come in for science you'll be annoyed by Clever Hans effect and confirmation bias, but that's all pop science writing on animal intelligence.


if anyone’s interested in a science fiction take, Steven Baxter’s “Manifold: Time” has a subplot involving intelligence-enhanced cephalopods. It’s one of my favorite hard sci-fi reads…

Thanks for the recommendation, that looks really interesting. I'm always on the look out for interesting hard(er) scifi.

it's behavior like this that caused me to no longer be able to eat octopus, which was one of my favorite foods. but after learning that they are capable of planning and puzzle-solving... i felt guilty after every trip to the sushi place.

Amazing. Most humans couldnt come up with an escape plan like this.

It's possible he exhibiting long term goal oriented planning here.

Have we considered octopi might actually be more intelligent than humans?

Wouldn't it be funny if in the future we figured out how to communicate with them and they ended up solving our hardest problems or making breakthroughs in physics and math?

Octopi aren't more intelligent than humans, because intelligence in humans is partly external.

We're fairly dumb as feral individuals, but give us a herd memory for science and math and we can fly to the moon.

Octopi not only don't live very long, they're also aggressively solitary. So they have the usual smart-animal problem of starting life as a blank slate with a few baked-in instincts and no way to learn from previous generations.

The blank slate cycle has been repeating for millions of years, so they're unlikely to change now.

If they did, we'd be in trouble.

What if we shared all of our knowledge with them to fix the blank slate problem?

But you're right. A single human with no knowledge is not very intelligent. It's disconcerting if you think about it.

Sometimes I feel we are precariously positioned at the tip of human achievement. I think we're lucky that the earth is abundant in resources to make up for our mistakes.

But what if they CAN fly to the moon but have decided not to because they realise it's a very big mistake ...

Or just biding their time. "So long, and thanks for all the fish."

The mice got there first.

Wasn't the plan just "Squeeze through a gap, then slide down a pipe"? I'd hope that most humans could come up with that.

Well, there brains can handle 8 arms all moving independently and with many control points in each arm all acting with out pattern. Can humans do that?

Before we jump on the intelligent octopus bandwagon, lets realize that intelligence in one area does not mean they are intelligent or some how superior in another. Qualification and acceptance in society transcends beyond intelligence.

My understanding is that octopus arms are semi-autonomous and borderline 'intelligent' on their own. Each one is equipped with a sophisticated nervous system and can process a wide swath of sensory inputs. Severed octopus arms have been shown to behave as though they are connected to the intact octopus's brain. [1]

[1] http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/octopus-chronicles/even-...

Humans can tell where their appendages are without looking at them and can use this ability to form mental images of objects by touch.

The cost of being able to manipulate 8 arms is octopus arms don't provide a lot of feedback to the brain and handle a lot of things reflexively.

Great article until they conflated stupid human sports superstition with cephalopod intelligence.

Why is this news story everywhere?! Hacker News, Google News, newspapers, facebook feeds, ... it's like it's following me everywhere I go!

Is there some secret octopus cabal out there that's advancing the secret octopus news agenda?

I'm noticing a lot of Reddit posts showing up here that don't seem all too related to tech. Perhaps Hacker News is just growing to that size where it starts to get off topic sometimes.

Supposedly octopuses have a my h more distributed neural system. Most of their neurons are in their tentacles (we also have neurons in our body, but mostly the brain). I'd love to see an fMRI.

Not to sound too negative, but I kind of feel like the timing of this story is suspect. It seems to be on the heels of numerous articles [1][2][3] from Pixar talking about their new character, which is an octopus, escaping and rescuing Dory the fish.

FWIW, I am a huge fan of cephalopods and have a large octopus tattoo enshrining my admiration for the animal. They certainly are highly intelligent, so the story isn't impossible.

[1] http://zap2it.com/2016/04/finding-dory-director-hank-septopu...

[2] http://www.awn.com/animationworld/ultimate-sidekick-finally-...

[3] http://article.wn.com/view/2016/04/07/8216finding_dory_8217s...

But the story doesn't even mention Pixar or Finding Dory? Is this some sort of new ultra low-frequency subliminal advertising? Or are you just being a little paranoid? You're the one who brought it up, maybe you're the one working for Pixar.

Well, I could be for sure. The new Pixar has a story has a central character that is an escape artists octopus. Certainly could be coincidental.

Offtopic (sorry) - why is it that I can't read this short article in full in one screen on a 4k monitor? And why is it that when I move my mouse around, I get about 10 different places where a mini dialogue pops up? Somebody needs to make a new internet.

The proper agency has been notified, please stand by for wish fulfillment.

Dang, last time I worked with one of those agencies, they never got back to me. Still hopeful! ;)

I am looking for a big enough crack in my cubicle wall to escape too!

The bit with the jailbreaking octopus from Finding Dory comes to mind.

Octodad anyone?

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