Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Beyond understanding

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment


Autism is often the subject of contentious and emotional debate, certainly because it manifests in the most vulnerable of humans — children.. also hard to pin down; as a “spectrum disorder” it can take extreme and disheartening forms and incur a devastating toll on families…Simon Baron-Cohen, for example, in his book “Mindblindness,” argues that the whole raison d’être of consciousness is to be able to read other people’s minds…we might have to concede that, given the way humans interact with one another, there is always a potential mystery concealed within the most elementary statement…And it is harder than you think it is going to be to eliminate, entirely, the residue of obscurity, the possibility of misunderstanding lurking at the core of every sentence…Consider, for example, Sartre’s classic one-liner, “Hell is other people.” Wouldn’t autism, with its inherent poverty of affective contact, go some way towards accounting for that? The fear of faces and the “gaze of the other” that Sartre analyzes are classic symptoms…Perhaps language can be seen as a car, a vehicle of some kind, designed to get you from A to B, carrying a certain amount of information, but apt to get stuck in jams or break down or crash; and which will therefore need fixing…This car mechanic conception of language is just the sort of thing high-functioning autistic types would come up with, my psychologist friend might say, because they understand “systems” better than they understand people. They are “(hyper-)systemizers” not “empathizers.” The point I am not exactly “driving” at but rather skidding into, and cannot seem to avoid, is this: indisputably, most car mechanics are men…



Macaque friendships

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment


human tendency to form close bonds with people other than kin may have primal roots…Macaque monkeys live in groups of 50 to 60, but “every male in the group has a few other males he interacts with more than others,”… Macaques that spent a lot of time within 1.5 meters of each other were considered friends…Males that groomed each other’s bodies frequently and for excessive periods of time were also considered friends…bonds can lead to the forming of coalitions, where a group of males might fight another male to improve rank and social status, the researchers found…It appears that, just as in humans, some friendships were long lasting whereas others broke up after a short time. Why this happens is still unclear…was previously known that female macaques form strong social bonds, but these bonds tend to be with kin. Females prefer to form close relationships with their mothers, sisters and daughters….


Growl distinction

The link above takes you to a video from New Scientist examining a dog’s interpretation of recorded growls as it approaches a food source.  Interesting to see the different reactions.

Comment from Capt Amerika: really interesting example of ‘alignment’ – even
without the multiple sensor inputs of the threatening visual input the
auditory signal has resolution of several types of qualia – tentative
growl, scared growl, and finally dominant protection growl associated
with protection of food

Chimp Language

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Story from NYTimes about verbal communication capabilities amongst primates.

Categories: Nature