For a long time we all thought the apex of primate behaviour was bareknuckle boxing with Clint Eastwood in the Seventies. Well, some scientists in the Japanese city of Inuyama have somehow managed to surpass even that, with a little experiment I like to call ‘Any which way you can…a chimp can do better’.
The game that they’re playing involves some crazy levels of numerical character recognition, arrangement, speedy recall and nerves of chimpy steel. Watch them do it a couple of times and you begin to wonder if Kevin Trudeau of Mega Memory fame wasn’t a man after all, just a shaved-down chimp in a suit with a highly evolved sense of marketing (and as it turns out, fraud).
To a large degree the chimps are self-taught. The scientists couldn’t explain it to them, they didn’t have any instructions that they could read and when they started, YouTube tutorials hadn’t even been invented. They achieved this level of ability through pure trial and error and peanuts. Lots of peanuts.
But what’s truly amazing is not that they learned how to do it or that they can do it so much better than humans could, but that they manage to keep their cool through the entire process. The beeping alone would have had me throwing my feces pretty early on in the process. And then probably once again, in celebration, after I’d mastered it.
Once you finish just marvelling at the cognitive abilities of chimps, you have to ask yourself what all of this is in aid of.
Possibility 1: The Glass-Half-Empty View
This is all secretly funded by a car company or similar multinational manufacturing conglomerate. These are the early stages of training primates to do all of our manufacturing, a job they will perform perfectly, better than us, and literally for peanuts. This doesn’t just create a chimpanzee slave class that will one day rise up and enslave us all, but it also puts all humans out of manufacturing jobs. Sadface.
The Glass-Half-Full View
Some time in the not too distant future when humans manage to wipe themselves out, chimps are more than ready to take over. Give them a few million years of evolution and who knows what they’ll be capable of. Happy face.
Either way, apparently the scientists later tried to get Ai and Ayumi to do Sudoku, but they felt it was pointless and preferred doing crosswords anyway.