It's quite unfortunate that they didn't test this when both parrots' food holes are open. Nor did the "middleman parrot" appear to share its walnuts back the other way.
Then again, given that these are Ivy League parrots there is a solid chance at least one of them has read Das Kapital (and can repeat it back better than most students!)
But all jokes aside I think you should give these professionals a little more credit--they also factored that possibility into their experimental design and included tests for "useless" token transfers . While parrots would often transfer tokens to empty compartments (for when they knew their neighbor was missing and lacked tokens), these same parrots did not when there was a completely empty partition . Further even the article notes they didn't just hand out tokens automatically or willy-nilly, but were more or less willing depending on the bond.
Personally I think the most interesting thing about the study is not that non-mammalian animals have the capacity for altruism or prosocial behaviors, but that Blue Headed Macaws (despite being extremely intelligent as well) were not willing and the difference is that their general populations form smaller (though equally cohesive) flocks compared to AGPs.
EDIT: and the reason why they used tokens vs direct walnut transfer is that these birds were trained in a prior experiment (with an equally interesting premise) 
"Useless tokens"... there's another joke about NFTs in there somewhere.
Unlike the "altruistic" parrots, chimps are very aware when their neighbor gets a treat and they don't--and they get enraged!
We say "bye bye" to him whenever we leave the house.
Another one is the phrase "kom kom" (come here) whenever he is outside on his perch and we want him to come inside.
He then started using the phrase "kom kom" with my wife when he wants to be picked up by her.
This reminds me of the recent debate we were having here regarding the conclusion in the UK that lobsters are sentient beings and therefore should be treated with some minimal amount of consideration. A common argument made by those who argued they should not, or should not be placed into a similar category as octopuses, is that lobsters are neuronally less complex than other beings. But here we see that these birds, which also have fewer neurons than other animals we consider to be more “advanced”, are capable of remarkably complex behaviours that hint at an interior life we simply do not understand.
We’ve poured money into SETI to try and answer the anguished question, are we alone? Well, it seems that we aren’t, but we might be too stupid and self-absorbed to notice.
There was an episode of the second season of the new "Cosmos" where they looked at SETI.
One of the points of the episode was that we might be looking right at intelligent life and not even recognize it. We tend to only see intelligence when it comes from an individual organism with a brain. We tend to dismiss or not even consider other ways there might be intelligence and gave a couple examples from here on Earth.
One example was bees. A bee hive as a group exhibits intelligent-like behavior beyond what an individual bee is capable of.
Another example was forests. Underground in forests there is a vast network of mycelium linking the plants together. When something bad happens to a tree that gets communicated through the mycelium network to other trees and they react making changes to better cope with the threat. It operates very similarly to a nervous system for the whole forest, but much slower than animal nervous systems.
If most intelligence in the universe is hive minds or is big slow brains like planet-spanning mycelium networks we might completely overlook it.
Or intelligent life made up off entirely other principles(and with very different goals to survive), than what we know. Do we understand what is going on inside of jupiter? Or inside the sun? Maybe there is life, that starts to evolve at certain pressures and temperatures? Well, maybe not likely, but I am glad, that the self centered philosophy, that the sun and the whole universe all are moving around us humans who are on top of it all, fades a bit more. I mean, we clearly are awesome at technology and so far we have not seen much technology from any other species. But maybe very advanced life has no need for our tech anymore, so we would not spot it, by looking for it.
such as the zoo hypothesis:
I suppose an advanced civilization between planets or even stars might have migrated off radio signals though.
Sometimes the latter probably is more true.
By way of analogy... When I was a pup studying philosophy, we studied the "other minds problem." How do we know what others feel and experience? Are we sure they're not faking it? How well can we understand another's mind? It's an old problem, and the philosophical tradition of questions, answers and arguments are rather old and formulaic.
I think newer thinking, both scientific and philosophical, tends to reverse the "problem." We understand others by forming a mental model of them, narrated with feelings and experiences. This is a lot like we understand ourselves.
We really do understand ourselves much like we understand others. Same mechanisms, more or less, I think. Mental model of a person + constant narratives to explain choices, feelings and such.
You can either think of this as a solution to the "other minds problem" or a further problem.
We tend to not have mental models of others at all. Our brains run "flat" copies of ourselves and any deviation from that model, results in discomfort and categorization as either "inferior" or "superior" depending on visible outcome of actions. The effect of "genius" is, that seemingly stupid choices by others result in perceivable good outcomes, without us having a mental model to fill that gap.
So we do not have mental models for others- at all. We have a world filled with copies of ourselves and at best a zoe of heuristics and anecdata, were the "other" begins and ends.
The closest you get to having a real mental model- is a longterm relationship and getting to know that partner really well. And even then..
The vast majority of seti is about combing through data from other projects. Basically zero telescope time is used for actually looking. Every candidate signal (ie BLC1) is discovered after the event. And zero telescopes are actively listening for repeat signals.
1. I agree that "poured" is an overstatement (and I support spending more!)
2. However, by "SETI" I did not mean NASA's SETI program but more broadly, programs and research with the goal of finding extraterrestrial life and then subsequently, extraterrestrial intelligence. Do the Mars rovers, for example, fit into this broader SETI category? It's debatable.
What I was really referring to, however, is our myopia when it comes to seeking evidence that we aren't alone. Imagine we did receive a radio transmission from outer space. How much money would we spend on understanding it, and the beings that sent it? I'd wager the sums would be vast.
Meanwhile, there are apparently only ten vaquitas (a species of porpoise) left in the world. Science was unaware of this species until 1958. We know cetaceans are incredibly intelligent, but what if vaquitas are far more intelligent than we suspect? I expect that what we don't know about them far outweighs what we do. What if they, or some other species we've either destroyed or almost destroyed, are the "aliens" we're looking for?
I know this seems like a stretch, but just how confident are we about this? If you look at what we've learned about animals in the past century, how much more might we learn in the next ten centuries? How much would we have learned had we not killed them?
I believe we consider more advanced what looks more like us (dog yes, insect no).
Poured is a gross overstatement.
For SETI to be safe, first we must ensure we are safe! And that requires funding, funding into the military, to test, and develop our weaponry, our soldiers, to ensure that when those alien hordes hear our signals, we are ready for them!!
You don't want to destroy us all, to give in to those evil, ungodly alien hordes, do you Mr President?
Military funding approved!
The differences between the meager number of neurons and simple layout in a lobster and the extremely large and complex nervous system of an octopus are in no way comparable to the differences in nervous system complexity between a human and a bird. A lobster literally can be understood. It's nervous system is that simple, only ~100,000 neurons in small groups (less than a fruit fly!). There is very little mystery in it's operation. It is feasibly enumberable, developmentally predictable, and it's parts are knowable in function. It is not conscious like a mammal, bird, or octopus is conscious.
Bird and human brains are of a similar order of complexity. Complex enough we can't even begin to hope to understand the functioning yet.
I do not see how you could know this, because consciousness and how it forms is exceptionally poorly understood. If in the past two years major breakthroughs have happened on this subject I would love to read about it. Perhaps you can point me in the right direction.
Since your response leans on "seems" and then deflecting to saying that the opposite of your claim should be proven (even though both are equally unknowable), I'm going to assume you don't have solid evidence one way or the other about it either.
Birds have more neurons than you think
We seriously underestimate other animals' intelligence, but until some other animal on earth puts a flag on the moon, it's safe to say that no other animal on Earth shares our unique brand of intelligence.
This doesn’t just apply to other species but also to other ways of being (“cultural intelligences”?) than our neoliberal, capitalist and technology-focused society. Our great technological achievements have been fatal for millions of other species and there is a strong possibility that they will be fatal for us as well. How intelligent is that?
I recognize that when we talk about “intelligence” in the context of the original article we mean something different than the more common sense meaning I used in my last paragraph. However it seems to me that the way we define intelligence is part of the problem. What’s a greater achievement, traveling to the moon or living for millions of years in harmony with the natural systems of the planet? Or who is happier, a blue whale or a Walmart employee?
Problem isn't how we define it, the definition we have is useful because it describes a very real qualitative difference between us and other animals. I think you nailed it on your first paragraph: the problem is the value judgment that goes along with that definition.
At least 1.5% by mass
About 3% of our body is nitrogen, about half of it comes from fertilizers made using Haber-Bosch process, an industrial chemical process that is unlike anything found in nature.
But if we count differently and consider agriculture in general as "something we've built up", then it is about 99.9%. It is estimated that the earth would support about 10 million hunter-gatherers, we are nearing 10 billion.
I'm going to echo here that this is categorically false. All government funding for SETI was canceled in 1993. So, unless you believe zero dollars is pouring money into SETI, this is misinformation.
Sentient lobsters are sentient lobsters, but another civilization could be anything!
Why, it could even be sentient lobsters.
(Apologies to Family Guy.)
I wonder if the same could be done with Corvidae.
Possibly. Food sharing is a huge part of socialising and pairing for corvids. For a lot of species the breeding season is started with food begging and sharing.
These people obviously have never been around a parrot. I have an umbrella cockatoo and have been around parrots since I was a teenager and I am absolutely fascinated with them. First they eat a lot more than people think by far, and their intelligence is so misunderstood and underrated.
I've also seen similar studies and traits done with Corvidae (Crows/Ravens) which they show similar behavior and traits. Corvidae will work as a group to get everyone fed and will stand lookout and help each other with tools according to some recent studies.
My take away with animals is too often we as humans are too arrogant to understand other species are way smarter then we give them credit for. Of course, we also have to be careful not to anthropomorphize either which can also be hard because of our own viewpoints.
- Complex tools
- Visual art
- Religion and mythology
And a whole bunch of other things.
1- Language: https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2019/river-dolphins-surpr...
2- Complex tools: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tool_use_by_animals
3- Symbolism: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080610212404.h...
4- Visual Art: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowerbird
5- Music: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoomusicology#Music_produced_b...
6- Religion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_behavior_in_animals
2. I said "complex tools", not "tools". Yes animals use rocks to crack things. Do they build spears, clothes, pots, pulleys, ships, buildings, bridges, computers? I don't think so.
3. Quite a limited study, but I admit it's interesting, thanks.
4. Building a shiny nest has a functional purpose of signalling sexual desirability to potential mates by building a big decorated nest. There is no evidence any animal has a sense of aesthetics as such.
5. Birdsong has a functional purpose of communication and sexual mate-finding. There is no evidence any animal has a sense of aesthetics as such.
6. First sentence of your link: "There is no evidence that any non-human animals believe in God or gods, pray, worship, have any notion of metaphysics, create artifacts with ritual significance, or many other behaviours typical of human significance, or many other behaviours typical of human religion."
Regarding the points you make, imagine if there were a evolutionary algorithm that learned to interact with animals such that it can "teach" animals to use certain things to their advantage, and evolve with them. Yes the algorithm has the true intelligence, but these critters have learned themselves to interact with such a device. Now apply this algorithm for generations and make the interaction with such an algorithm part of their nature. I am confident that you'd be suprised how far complex behaviour could go when provided the right stimuli.
Mind you that humanity was a simpleton organism a couple of millenia ago compared to what the modern era human are now. It took millions of years for us to reach this pivoting point where one is able to create the things you mention. I think you attribute a lot of the seeming intelligence humanity has that is learned over cultural habbits, than is intrinsically present. Sure you might argue that culture is part of intelligence.
It is the only way to have such a stance. The more you know, the more you empathise.
As a counterexample:
That you can understand ...
Is there is a patch of land, the bank will get more money if some persons cut the trees and grow corn or palms or whatever, instead of having some ants doing some subsistence farming of fungus.
The current way things are going, in more and more jurisdictions NGOs and Indigenous tribes can act on the behalf of nature itself in the legal system. It may not be a perfect solution, but it's the best we have until animals can learn to correspond with humans in some way.
I think this is the first time I've seen a novel stance on rights while reading comments on HN. I can't tell whether or not you are serious, but I very much hope that you are.
> why not just stick with feeding the locals? At least those are free to decide to visit you or not.
This is almost never a good idea (for any animal). Assuming you're feeding them the right type of food (bread is terrible for ducks for example), you're training the animals to rely on humans for food. This both makes it more difficult for them to survive on their own should you stop feeding them, but for some of the potentially aggressive ones (like geese) will become comfortable approaching humans, even the humans who do not want to be near them.
I've read your stance on animal rescue places and I generally agree - most aren't good or are glorified zoos. But I do think there's genuine ones that are helpful, and I think between those and rescues where you can give the animal direct attention are the best ways to humanely assist animals who would otherwise die in the wild.
My problem is with the traders and terrible owners who only use them as a show piece. A good owner should be providing ample enrichment and attention
> I can't imagine that anyone in love with birds is capable of putting them in a cage or on a leash.
Because sometimes there isn't a choice. Birds born into captivity do not re-hab well. Rescues (as is mine) are generally not able to live in the wild if they were just 'released', so someone has to take care of them.
> Sure you might think you treat him well, you pet him every now and then and provide it with some food and care, but is that truly an improvement?
Yes. It is. Over the fifteen Rottweilers, the aggressive man-handling, the forced breeding (even though he hadn't even hit puberty, thus why the breeder no longer wanted him) and the absolutely terrible living conditions he was in - yes, my place of living is a huge improvement.
Further, good bird owners do way more than "just pet him every now and then". You need to give them undivided attention for at least two hours a day. You need to look at every single poop they make around you because it's the first warning sign of health problems. If they're happy, they're generally content where they are.
There's a lot that you're missing here, I think, even though I agree with the overall message. Please don't dillute bird ownership to PETA-esque FUD.
> Is it better to provide a golden cage than to roam freely?
Sometimes, yes. Just like all animal conservancy. If we didn't care to give them better lives than what they had before, then we'd just put them all down wouldn't we? That's what PETA wants, anyway.
> I sure do hope that it will become a world wide taboo to hold birds as pets.
Let's instead put the taboo on _trading_ birds, first. That's the biggest problem. Many birds are ripped out of the wild and sold, usually illegally. These birds not only develop severe depression, but they're often horrible 'pets' as they were not brought up in captivity.
Lastly, birds brought into captivity often have no idea that a life other than their own exists. They're not 'missing out' on anything they're otherwise aware of. In fact, many owners take their birds out to free-fly quite often.
> If you're such an avid bird enthousiast, why not just stick with feeding the locals?
This isn't really a fair comparison, sorry. It's also not applicable in most places in the world - parrots generally come from a few specific places.
What I learned from this rabbit is that absolute adores the great food and the amount of pets that he gets, but also how frequently alone he is, or how extremely social this creature is. My life carries on after his pets, but he is just stuck there to wait till either of us is back.
I certainly do not underestimate the amount of care that parrot owners provide to their parrot. I think it might be even more than we do for our rabbit. However, I think the parrot, or any other social animal, would be most happy when flying or running around and socializing with his peers. There are simply some things that even the best "owners" are able to provide.
To go into your arguments:
>Because sometimes there isn't a choice. Birds born into captivity do not re-hab well. Rescues (as is mine) are generally not able to live in the wild if they were just 'released', so someone has to take care of them.
I agree, that is the same situation I have with my rabbi. In these instances I'd say that it is what it is, but to let the pool of pets continue to grow would be a bad thing. A law against the procreation of pets would prevent that, albeit very slowly as this might just take couple of decades till most animals in captivity would perish, as you know parrots can grow over 100.
Like you say, the undivided attention we provide to our pets, but can you also provide him a social dynamic environment like he'd have if he'd be in the wild with his peers? Escaping for his life, fighting for a wife, eagerly searching for food throughout the day. None of that I believe as that is nigh impossible to provide as pet owner. Aviary's are even more horrid as they now still not have the space they'd really need. I have yet to come across one where you can't find a plucked bird (from NL).
>Sometimes, yes. Just like all animal conservancy. If we didn't care to give them better lives than what they had before, then we'd just put them all down wouldn't we? That's what PETA wants, anyway.
I am rather cynical about most animal conservancy programs, as they'd barrely ever get put back in nature and seem most often a front for growing zoos. But for all that do, I think that's great and acceptable, to certain extent.
>Lastly, birds brought into captivity often have no idea that a life other than their own exists. They're not 'missing out' on anything they're otherwise aware of. In fact, many owners take their birds out to free-fly quite often.
I agree for a large part with your arguments here, but not entirely on the not knowing of missing out. Most animals have natural tendencies to express and just do. Some are known, but most are not. Thus I think it's presumptuous to say that a bird doesn't know what it misses
>This isn't really a fair comparison, sorry. It's also not applicable in most places in the world - parrots generally come from a few specific places.
I think it is: Why do people introduce animals in surroundings that do not belong there? If you love your parrot so much, you'd provide him with the best he can possible get, which more than not is whatever surrounding that they're used to. E.g. no polar bears in the desert, and a parrot in a surround that is comparably hot / cold.
Why not stick with authentic, natural originations? I fell in love with magpies and crows and keep them as guards of my rabbit, through some feeding processes. It is truly amazing to see the interaction between the rabbit, and the magpies. I can definitely recommend you to read into magpies. They're possible even more interesting than parrots. Just fall in love with whatever you have around you. Nature is amazing enough as is, and the most boring and simple critters will definitely keep suprising you. You don't need a cage around it. Besides, don't you find observing the natural behaviour even more interesting?
(I have neither, I’m genuinely asking, not playing “gotcha”)
Some of these were because it was an ill-treated dog.
Most of the time, however, it is just circumstance. Last weekend, I was jogging on a forest path, rounded a corner and suprised a dog whose owners probably considered it a well-behaved pet-- and the owners looked liked 'responsible members of society' (i.e. not trying to prove they were tough).
The dog was off-leash.
Because both I and the dog were caught off-guard, this immediately turned into an aggressive situation. The dog was threatening to attack me, and the owners had a very hard time getting it to back down-- it wasn't responding to their voice commands, it kept barking and lunging at me.
long story short, from my perspective, any domestic animal weighing above 4kg should always be on a leash when out of the house, as a matter of public safety.
Thankfully, the local government for far north QLD (my state) is now looking into banning outdoor off-leash cats the same way they do dogs, for exactly this reason. They're too destructive here unfortunately :(
Yes, of course it is. That is why a lot of people are nostalgic for their childhood, even though legally and in practice children are slaves to their parents. They have agency only insofar as their parents allow it.
Just extend the above experiment with such tracking and I'd think you can reach the same conclusion as this article had, but then with farrrr more comfortable ethics?