Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.

Ethology's Anthropocentric Misassumption

180 views

Published on

In quest of understanding what is common to motile bilateral animal life, we need to abandon presumption of human as measuring stick.

Published in: Education
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

Ethology's Anthropocentric Misassumption

  1. 1. Where to for a science whose practice embodies an assumption that science fails to validate? Tony Smith Melbourne Emergence Meetup 10 March 2016
  2. 2. Colin Hales asked just that about the science/technology of Artificial General Intelligence and found no sensible answers, but this is unrelated …
  3. 3. ETHOLOGY
  4. 4. “the scientific and objective study of animal behaviour especially under natural conditions” Isn’t that at least a step in the right direction?
  5. 5. Genesis 1-28: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
  6. 6. Descartes Meditation 4: “I have a clear and distinct idea of myself as a thinking, non-extended thing, and a clear and distinct idea of body as an extended and non-thinking thing.”
  7. 7. B. F. Skinner saw conditioning he could demonstrate in animals underpinning human learning, adding that “a sequence of verbal stimuli can evoke an almost unlimited variety of complex responses” in humans. (quoting Wikipedia wording.)
  8. 8. So what is wrong?
  9. 9. Ethology, and related science, operates on an assumption that individual animal behaviour must be measured against individual human behaviour. This depends on a cultural assumption of human/verbal superiority which may be self-evident at the collective level but consistently fails as a null hypothesis at the level of individuals.
  10. 10. Tonight • Isolating the problematic (done) • Hopeful heresies that guide me • How common is our deep heritage? • Challenges flooding in • Communicating with aliens right here • Footnote about robots and businesses
  11. 11. Life’s Tracks Converge
  12. 12. Late in 2008, motivated by Great Cormorants nesting on ledge above summer campsite, acquired HD camera, chosen for its 14x telephoto zoom more than its movie function. Observing, photographing and videoing bird behaviour grabbed increasing time, initially including backyard tree, accelerated late 2013 by sub-$500 50x telephoto zoom.
  13. 13. This investigation is motivated in part by my horrified reaction to loud proposals for imposing momentarily fashionable human ethics on the natural world, confusing death and suffering.
  14. 14. Mature-age MSc History and Philosophy of Science Evolutionary Theory (John Collier) ‘Metaselection for Innovation’ & ‘Prosperity of the Sexiest’ (1993) Variation is less and less Random.
  15. 15. Those Heresies • Evidence trumps theory • Death is not a kind of suffering • Humans as means not ends • Varela et al: Embodied Mind • All power is in collective effects • We only get one shot at this
  16. 16. While there remain uncertainties and controversies, there is enough consensus of the broad sweep of evolutionary history to look further. This investigation focuses between the first mobile animals and homo sapiens sapiens breaking out, but remains informed by wider context.
  17. 17. Life ➔ Eukaryota ➔ Animalia Feeding on biologicals, zygote reproduction The bipolar neurons of Ctenophora may be ancestral to the axon-dendrite neurons of other animals. Us-them scale of “animal” For way too many, animal infers other than human Some cultures struggle to even count all mammals Many comfortable extending to birds and even to fish Bigger challenge to be inclusive of insects and snails plus all their relatives Conceptual barrier beyond those obviously mobile Versus scientific boundary at sperm + egg ➔ zygote Many are sessile, most of those & more filter feeders This investigation focuses on those that are mobile and at least somewhat familiar
  18. 18. The basic set of animal developmental biology goes back at least to an Ediacaran common ancestor with a network of neurons. Many ancestral capabilities are lost in some lines as they find a niche where they don’t use it so lose it, leaving early trees contentious.
  19. 19. Tools for making an animal Molecular shape fitting Soft cell membranes Fed by other life forms Mid-blastula transition Pluripotent stem cells Homeobox genes Structural plan integrity Motile at least sometime Sessile or spatially aware Neural feedback Reward mechanisms Learned behaviour Digestive tract et al
  20. 20. Tools for making an animal Molecular shape fitting Soft cell membranes Fed by other life forms Mid-blastula transition Pluripotent stem cells Homeobox genes Structural plan integrity Motile at least sometime Sessile or spatially aware Neural feedback Reward mechanisms Learned behaviour Digestive tract et al
  21. 21. Reid sees • Basic animal grounded very deep • Structural integrity • Phenotype plasticity • Behavioural change preceding • Historicity of saltations • Selection acting against innovation
  22. 22. Porifera
  23. 23. Cnidaria
  24. 24. Life ➔ Eukaryota ➔ Animalia Ctenophora (comb jellies) Poriphera (sponges) Cnidaria (jelly fish, corals, anemones) Deuterostomia Originally defined by anus-first development but membership increasingly determined by DNA Echinodermata (starfish, sea urchins, bilateral larvae) Chordata (fish, birds, mammals) Bilateria Mouth-first development Lophotrochozoa Bryozoa (Adeona cellulosa) Mollusca (snails, cephalopods: squid, octopus) Ecdysozoa Includes all that shed chitinous exoskeleton Arthropoda (crustaceans, spiders, insects) Protosomia
  25. 25. That was a gross oversimplification of the last 600 million years of evolutionary history Adeona cellulosa and unknown sea spider species on View Point reef face, Wye River
  26. 26. Echinodermata
  27. 27. Chordata
  28. 28. Curiosity
  29. 29. Network of neurons World changes Sensory change Muscle acts on world Basic Animal Mind Common heritage of at least Bilateria clade, lost by many in transition from larval to sessile.
  30. 30. Network of neurons World changes Sensory change Muscle acts on world Reflective curiosity Builds associations Basic Animal Mind Common heritage of at least Bilateria clade, lost by many in transition from larval to sessile.
  31. 31. • Life awakens with curiosity • curiosity that often means quick death • Sense of place, movement, territory • Identification of own kind, others • reproduction, nurture, fledging, grooming • Active feeding involves learned skills • Nest building, environmental manipulation • Selective attention & learning • sleep, dreams, (un)consciousness
  32. 32. Us and Them
  33. 33. Bulk Emergence
  34. 34. Basic Form & Function Highly Conserved
  35. 35. Adaptability
  36. 36. East Gondwana
  37. 37. Territorial
  38. 38. Safina demolishes anthropocentric framing of interspecies studies, the Mirror Test and Theory of Mind. Safina and Kaplan, like Reid before them, observe academic restraint. Kaplan justifies preferential interest in Australian birds on recent origins analysis, allowing local confirmation.
  39. 39. Fast Lane
  40. 40. Water Birds
  41. 41. Gisela Kaplan wrote an article that appeared in The Conversation on March 1 exploring the same subject. The comments section quickly filled with readers’ anecdotal observations. While my camera and a technique it elicited provide a rich window, often it is better put aside to just observe.
  42. 42. Parenting
  43. 43. Life ➔ Eukaryota ➔ Animalia Ctenophora (comb jellies) Poriphera (sponges) Cnidaria (jelly fish, corals, anemones) Deuterostomia Originally defined by anus-first development but membership increasingly determined by DNA Echinodermata (starfish, sea urchins, bilateral larvae) Chordata (fish, birds, mammals) Bilateria Mouth-first development Lophotrochozoa Bryozoa (Adeona cellulosa) Mollusca (snails, cephalopods: squid, octopus) Ecdysozoa Includes all that shed chitinous exoskeleton Arthropoda (crustaceans, spiders, insects) Protosomia
  44. 44. Mollusca
  45. 45. Snail Art
  46. 46. Fossilisation
  47. 47. Arthropoda
  48. 48. Insects provoke misassumptions that behavioural possibility must be fully specified in the DNA, with little room for adaptability, nor clear parental influence beyond eusocial chemistry. “Random” mutation of DNA producing viable behaviour change is absurd, more so seeing web-weaving spiders’ spatial competence. Reid’s view of selection as narrowing escapes this.
  49. 49. What to conclude & do about Ethology’s foundational error? Prioritise commonality not difference!
  50. 50. Alien Minds • Song & ritual performance c.f. conversation • Magpie song record six hours straight • Construction for living and for show • Infrasound reveals earthquakes & elephants • Dolphin sonar sees right through you • Verbal blindness makes humans the aliens
  51. 51. We worry about the distant prospect of Artificial General Intelligence and its embodied form: Autonomous Robots, as prospective aliens in our midst. Yet we sanctify a more alien kind of equally artificial creation: Business, granting it privileges of personhood without corresponding responsibility.
  52. 52. Where from here? • Biomimicry inspires architecture, materials • Time in bush & ocean with eyes wide open • Educate in nature & systems, less confined • 50%+ productive capacity to natural systems • Pay The Rent (2) for ecosystem services • Experimental animal interfaces to cyberspace
  53. 53. Questions?

×