Forgive me, because this is probably better left to Cyborgology, but something amazing is happening here. In the video below, nesting swallows become trapped in a building when they add doors. The birds soon learn, though, that they can get the doors to automatically open by triggering the motion sensors. This is a story, obviously, of how smart birds are, but here’s what struck me: we often think about human technology as for humans. In this case, however, birds adapted the technology for their own very similar needs (to get in and out).
If the workers had installed an older human technology — plain old doors — the birds would have been out of luck because they don’t have thumbs and the strength to manipulate an environment built for humans. But motion activated doors make both thumbs and strength irrelevant, so now birds are our functional equals.
This is fascinating, yeah? Our technology has advanced to the point where we’re potentially undermining our own evolutionary advantages. I’m not putting a moral judgment on it. I think morality is firmly on the side of non-fitness based decisions (eh em, social Darwinism). If one wants to theorize the relationship between animals, technology, and what it means to be human, however, this looks like gold to me.
Okay Cyborgology, your turn.
Thanks to Reuben S. for the tip! Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Larry Charles Wilson — September 8, 2014
Another reminder of how little we know about the intelligence of the creatures who share this planet with us.
Hapax — September 8, 2014
I enjoyed the article, but for the love of Cthulhu, why link "social Darwinism" to the wikipedia page on "Eugenics"? It has its own page ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Darwinism ), and is something different. The alleged equivalence is a disingenuous argument put forth by creationists as a feeble attempt to discredit biological evolutionary science, and does not merit acknowledgment or reinforcement here.
Bill R — September 8, 2014
The emotional intelligence of animals is always impressive and it extends beyond that too. But when they start engineering the devices that allow those doors to open we're over!
AngryDoc — September 8, 2014
When my son was 16 months old, he figured out that if there was a "Wheelchair" symbol on a door, that was a good sign that there would be a red button to the side of the door. He would see the symbol, look for the button, and open the door! Creatures just figure things out.
Ricky — September 8, 2014
I, for one, welcome our new avian overlords.
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Last week’s links – Gil Rodman — September 23, 2014
[…] Birds who don’t need thumbs. […]