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Crows


 

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Yeah. I've always admired crows.

-tgs-

They are all sleek and black and cool looking.

I knew they were smart but, this is incredible and so interesting. I have to start looking at these talks more.

On the other hand, I'm not sure if I would be happy about spending 10 years on a project and deciding that a crow vending machine is the best way to illustrate crow usefulness (or am I missing something?) I'm sure there are better ways to prove their case....

Indeed. There has also been some recent work on crows suggesting that they also have some of the basic rudiments of a ToM (Theory of Mind: are capable of attributing and reasoning about (some) mental states). Vindicating these kinds of claims in comparative psychology is a tough business for a number of really complicated reasons, but if true, it would mean that higher order mental traits convergently evolved in animals with a vastly different neuroanatomy than humans (e.g., crows do not have a prefrontal cortex; mental state reasoning about others--as well as self-monitoring, interestingly enough--in humans is associated with hightened activation of a subregion of this area called the anterior cingulate cortex).

Any way, this suggests that crows are not only 'smart' in terms of sheer instrumental reasoning with objects but also that they have a great deal of social savoir faire (e.g., altering their food foraging strategies based on whether they think they're being observed).

I wish the scientist would have said a little bit more about the further applications which he mentioned at the end. Surely he knows what he's talking about, but from the perspective of a non-specialist like me it's very hard to see how the results of the vending machine set up can be extended to such social services as having crows pick up trash; perhaps I'm just not imaginitive enough to see an award structure for the other kinds of activities, as there is with the vending machines.

anterior cingulate cortex

sorry, that should say medial prefrontal cortex.

sorry, that should say medial prefrontal cortex.

I couldn't believe you made that mistake.

I would like to see a cost assessment on this enslaving crows project.

How much do I have to spend on cashews and vending machines to get these guys to pick up coins, or say poke out the eyes of potential intruders?

But seriously, to Adam's point I think that there are more applications with an animal this smart, its just that it gets more complicated to train them and perhaps the presence of a trainer that can identify the more complicated behavior.

But given the choice between spending all week training crows, vs one day of picking up trash, the more cost effective option seems like it would win out.

Now if they really teach one another, that has some huge potential.

perhaps I'm just not imaginitive enough to see an award structure for the other kinds of activities, as there is with the vending machines.

When he mentioned his coin operated vending machine I thought of something like a trash vending machine. Drop in a Doritos bag, get a snack.

I'm sure I wasn't alone in hearing Ray Bolger singing ("if I only had a brain...").

But the goofy associations faded as it went on, for this is the sort of thinking that will my kid's generation and the one after that a chance at growing old on a living planet.

Drop in a Doritos bag, get a snack.

How do you teach them to discriminate between things that are trash and things that aren't (e.g., rocks, twigs, dorito bags with dorito's, etc.)? The problem is that 'trash' is not a natural kind; what counts as trash is more or less a social convention.

Note that nickels are also like this but there is only one kind of thing in the world that satisfies that concept, namely, those that have the properties of nickels (shape, weight, color, inscriptions, etc.) By contrast, pretty much anything can, at least potentially, be garbage because there is no property or set of properties of an object that would necessarily entail it's counting as garbage. Garbage is what we treat as garbage. Or, as we say, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

So I would have liked to hear more about the extended applications.

This reminds me of B.F. Skinner's experiments of Operant Conditioning.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_ctJqjlrHA&feature=related

Wonderful clip. Thnk you for sharing it Norm.

These Ted talks are great. More interesting than 100 political gossip stories.

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Extended applications limited only by the imagination. Dream on.

Thanks, Norm. Anything from TED is worth a watch!

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I think he's got a secret plan to try and get rich off all that lose change that is around.

How do you teach them to discriminate between things that are trash and things that aren't

Cigarette butts would probably work.

I have to start looking at these talks more.

From TED 2007, I can recommend "Can we domesticate germs?" by Paul Ewald and "What's wrong with what we eat?" by Mark Bittman. If you use iTunes, there's a podcast you can subscribe to.

How do you teach them to discriminate between things that are trash and things that aren't

Cigarette butts would probably work.

The Crows are the easy part. It's building the vending machine that is hard.

Although I bet they would knock over ashtrays to get cigarette buts, defeating their own purpose.

I for one, welcome our crow overlords.

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