30 March 2008

Is this conscious action?

In the below video (8:28), a visitor at a zoo records an elephant paint a picture, apparently a self-portrait of elephant with flower.

This begs the question to me: is the elephant aware of what she is painting? She definitely is deliberate about her actions, it's not just a case of putting random splotches on a paper that humans then interpret as a picture. But the question is whether she understands that it's a drawing of an elephant, or if to her it's a random pattern of lines that she has learned produces praise from the audience and treats from her keepers. If we saw creativity (that is, variations of the picture), that might lean me towards thinking it's conscious action with understanding, but then again elephants are remarkable creatures and perhaps she is capable of memorizing dozens of patterns that result in rewards.

Paintings are not, in my opinion, reliable Turing tests for animal intelligence.


Jenn of the Jungle said...

I don't know but that's cool.

The Prince of Centraxis said...

Obviously, blogs are not a good Turin Test for human intelligence or common sense either.
It's hard to admit that much-vaunted human intelligence may be as much an artefact of thumbs as brainmass - witness the walnut sized brains of the macroparrots, for instance - yet they're quite capable of higher order cognition - more capable than many humans.
See http://newilluminati.blog-city.com

Amber said...

I love this video - I want to see more as well to know if the Elephant creates from a place within herself or as you say, from praise and acknowledgment.

Either way, she draws a better elephant than I can. ;)

cube said...

I thought this was an April Fool's joke.

The Prince of Centraxis said...

You may note that elephants have also recently been shown to be able to master (simple) maths.

All animals are conscious, tho some are more conscious than others.

How can human apes EAT other animals in light of this knowledge? After all, meat eating is hardly necessary; it's merely an addiction, nothing more - an addiction to DEATH!
see http://hermetic.blog.com