Hyper-specificity in Animal Cognition

I’m a fairly unread ignoramus, so when I get to talking science, I do a lot of crawling out on limbs. Let’s see how far I fall from this one.

Some years ago I read a book by Temple Grandin on animal behavior, and how she derives insight into it as an autistic person. One of the ideas is that animals are best understood when we notice their reactions to stimuli can be hyper-specific. A horse might think men in hats are cool, but men in blue hats are nightmarish. A cow could become anxiously fixated on the motion of a denim jacket on a fence, flapping in the breeze.

The other day while toasting some bread this randomly came to me: maybe animals are also hyper-specific in cognitive abilities, and that could be cause for scientists to fail in observing the full extent of their intelligence. There are fundamental aspects of cognition (thinking ability) such as object permanence that are studied by scientists when ranking the abilities of animals. Some degree of object permanence has been demonstrated in some animals, and found lacking in others. But what if the tests are missing important data?

The idea put simply: Animals can have “advanced” types of thought, but for hyper-specific situations. The cat was found to be somewhat deficient in object permanence in a test involving hidden food, but maybe they have much better OP on a different kind of situation – or even with a different kind of food. Maybe they failed the trickiest part of the test with a tasty cat treat, but they would have succeeded with a live scorpion – something they might eat in the wild.

Likewise an animal could have an extremely simple brain, like a clownfish or tarantula, but still be able to perform complex thoughts in a narrow domain. I’ve heard of what can only be described as play behavior in turtles and even sea horses, and that’s usually thought of as the domain of more advanced animals. What could we be missing, because we didn’t catch the test organism in the exact right circumstance?

Forgive me for a moment in tying this subject back to humans – specifically those with cognitive impairment – in the following example. No equivalence is intended, it just demonstrates the point well. I read in an Oliver Sacks book that he had observed a woman with Down’s Syndrome under clinical circumstances and found her to have severe intellectual disability by every tested metric. But then he walked past her in a courtyard when no test was involved, and found her singing and dancing – abilities superior to what would have been expected from the tests alone.

Humans are the most advanced thinking animals on the planet. Even a heavily impaired human can do some amazing things. But maybe non-human animals are a little sharper than we give them credit for. Keep your eyes out for it, and as a good skeptic, think of alternative explanations even if you see something exciting. That’s all.

Sleepy Thoughts on Cannibalism

Content Warnings: Cannibalism, Eroticized Murder, Death, Sex, Misogyny, Children’s Sexuality. I don’t like that list. It didn’t feel as creepy writing it out as it does in summary.

Fressen. It’s a German word for eating, which I’m told implies animalistic action, devouring with lust. It was used in Rammstein’s song “Mein Teil,” which was (in poor taste, haha) about the German cannibal Armin Meiwes. That guy thought he could get away with killing and eating a man, by getting a willing victim – someone who wanted to be eaten. It didn’t work out.

Instinct is imperfect. It can give us desires, some oddly specific (cats must toss dirt around until the stinkiness stops, or flee the scene if it isn’t fast enough), some more abstract (the bug wants to rub its bottom on the big red thing). We want something from each other, but what is it? Grandma thinks you’re so sweet she could just gobble you up. We use our mouths to kiss, to suck, to nibble, to bite, to eat. Concepts get confused. Paraphilias happen. Vore and its variants. Sexualized cannibalism in serial killer types.

This is not to say killers are merely confused and therefore excused, just that it’s not surprising our brains can get scrambled on a feeling. It’s not easy to relate to on an emotional level, but maybe in the very abstract. What do we want from each other, in lust? To join, to push into each other, to pass through each other, to what? The impulse is vague until our socialization and learning shapes it.

It’s probably made worse by the human ability to teach. The more we can learn from words, the less we require instinct, right? Maybe our most teachable instincts are fading to make room for new operating systems and character plots on TV shows. If you look at the demented fantasies of MRA / PUA / incel types, it looks like they only see sex acts as achievements, notches on a belt, things to be performed in the rote pantomime of the crappiest mainstream porn.

Lessons over desires. But then, can we figure ourselves out by instinct alone? Maybe. A lot of us learn how to masturbate by accident and experiment. But maybe less so now. I’m of the last generation to not have ready access to internet porn at the age of eleven. That’s pretty bad news for some kids.

This is rambling thoughts, no thesis. I’ll leave it here.

Capitalism Rocks

At times I wonder if my lefty ways have been a mistake.
Pretty much everybody says that capitalism is the only
route that is concordant with human nature.  You might
imagine that’s just using an Appeal to Nature, so it’s
lightweight thinking.  But it has a deeper truth.

For how can we motivate anyone to do anything without
obstacles to overcome in the form of poverty, and with-
out the rewards of bourgeois creature comforts?  Life is
less meaningful without real travails, without a metric for
success.  That’s what capitalism gives us, and I’m grateful.


Capitalism, Heaven, and Hell

It is said without the threat / promise of heaven and hell, humans would have no reason to be moral. Worse people than I have pointed out the flaws in this. Standup comedians, skeptics, and more. One: laws and society enforce moral norms – not religion by itself. Two: if you need divine law to keep you from committing rapes and murders, you should probably seek counseling. Humans care for each other; it’s what social animals do.

It is often said that without capitalism, there would be no motive for labor, for innovation, for anything besides laziness. If you need greed and the suffering of others to motivate your every labor, you should probably seek counseling.

There are a million good motivations to labor that have nothing to do with the carrot of wealth or the stick of poverty. Again, caring for each other. It’s what social animals do, and what we could do a lot more effectively, if our lifeblood wasn’t being congealed into the foundations of castles.

Besides that, leisure. You work to minimize labor, conserve energy and resources so you can enjoy life. Building a house keeps out bears and keeps in heat. Less labor and resources spent building fires every night and guarding against bears. Let the fucking robots take our jobs, we shouldn’t need as many jobs in this world.

And there are plenty of jobs that need doing that are being left undone because they don’t generate gold bricks for the aristocracy. So much human need, infrastructure, education is being left to rot or straight burned to the ground right now in the name of greed.

Kudos for achievement, looking good, pride of accomplishment, basic executive function for self-maintenance. What are your reasons to labor? They don’t have to be dollars and cents or the fear of the economic abyss.

Belief in hell is one of the chief moral failings of the abrahamic religions. Belief in the necessity of poverty is the exact same fucking thing. Fuck capitalism.


Cat Owner Question

I’ve always had cats, but haven’t always been very observant of how they interact. About ten years ago I noticed a certain annoying behavior for the first time – neck biting. It’s obvious enough it’s some kind of dominance move, but it looks totally rude, and I usually feel compelled to break it up. Stop biting your sister, Hecubus!

But then, it has occurred to me this might be bad. Do they need to reinforce their social status on the regular? Is the dynamic different with more than two cats? What should one do? Any experts out there?


Exeunt Satans

Motherfucker, I think I ate like a square inch of aluminum with that Chipotle burrito just now. I can’t like, anything maaan.
the "guess I'll die" meme
Apparently I got bone spurs too.  Got one foot in a boot.  My department manager says “You gonna get those things removed?” and I’m like, “Why would I wanna do that?”  If frogs can erupt their bone spurs for intraspecific combat, so can I.

Just… fuck it, man.  Fuck it.

Feet are Weird

In other news, I am not high. Or maybe the reason I don’t have to smonk big weed is that I think stoner thoughts all the time. So. Feet are weird. I’m doing a 3d art project for someone and when you think about us as the apes we are, our hind paws are extremely weird. What wild-ass ape decided to walk like this, got all her gente on board, and resulted in that wedge-shaped stiffened clumsy nonsense of an extremity?

I normally don’t have a problem with feet – the way they look and whatnot – but I know a lot of people who dislike them. And we all know there are people with an erotic interest in them. Love or hate, they’re charged. What do you think about feet? Whatever you think, you gotta admit. Feet are weird.


Una Pregunta sobre Chicharrónes

Content Warning: Food, Meat, Diet Talk.

Aviso de tema: la comida, el carne, hablar de dietas.

My Spanish is still egregious, but I have a question about chicharróns. Not the pork rinds you get out of a bag at the grocery store. The kinda crazy carved off hard fried chunk of a pig you get at the carniceria. You know, looks like a foot long two inch thick strip of bacon?

I just had one for the first time today and it was everything I dreamed. It was like a pig fat sandwich where the bread was strips of tasty corkwood. Eldritch culinary ecstasy. Now my question, for those of you whose cultures consume those things: How often are they to be eaten? Is it like a fair food, where you only eat one or two strips a year? Or is it something one might eat once a week? Or every day?

Coming as an outsider / total gringo, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this freaky magic food. Diet culture would have me avoid it altogether, but fuck that shit. I’m curious what the people who invented the recipe have to say.

Mi español todavía es atroz (gracias por duolingo y translate.google), pero tengo una pregunta sobre los chicharrónes. No los chicharrónes de una bolsa en la tienda de comestibles. Un poco loco tallado en un pedazo de cerdo frito en la carnicería. ¿Sabes, parece una tira de tocino de un pie de largo y dos pulgadas de grosor?

Solo tuve uno por primera vez hoy y fue todo lo que soñé. Era como un emparedado de grasa de cerdo donde el pan era tiras de bosque de tapón sabroso. El éxtasis culinario y misterioso. Ahora mi pregunta, para aquellos de ustedes cuyas culturas consumen esas cosas: ¿con qué frecuencia se deben comer? ¿Es como una comida feria, donde solo comes pocos por año? ¿O es algo que comer una vez a la semana? O todos los días?

Viniendo como un extraño / gringo total, no sé lo que se supone que debo hacer con esta extraña comida mágica. La cultura de la dieta me haría evitarla por completo, pero a la mierda. Tengo curiosidad por saber qué dicen la gente que inventaron la receta.


Worried About My Circuses

Bread and circuses. I can eat – housing costs have been the real enemy of well-being in the USA – so I got bread covered. And circuses are OK, but the economy has hurt my ability to get out to every one of them. I missed Wonder Woman this summer, only got to see Spiderman once, as much as I liked it. But Hollyweird is losing money, and that means it’s about to get crappy.

It’s gonna get crappy because detached billionaire corporate fuckos always take the wrong lesson from travail, change the wrong things. I don’t mind them working smarter with the budget, reducing the level of detail in the spectacle some. I’m betting they could be less shit with how they advertise too. We don’t need saturation advertising to remember to watch something like Guardians 2, come on.

No, they won’t get smarter. They’ll just panic and pander to China harder. Maybe make Chris Pratt a personal slave to Xi Jinping for a week, suck off some party officials, include giant subplots about how the sino-socialist wage slave system makes Stark tech awesome. Nobody committing suicide at the iron man suit factory, pay no mind to the giant nets.