In tribute to Santino, the 31-year-old chimp whose apparent ability to ?plan ahead? recently became food for thought in cognitive science circles, I?ve served up a few tasty morsels of monkey media below.
Here?s the back story: As an exhibit at Sweden?s Furuvik Zoo, Santino had apparently tired of his human voyeurs whom he assaulted with rocks. What?s salient, however, is that fact that Santino would stockpile his arsenal in advance of the attacks ? an act that, according to the Guradian UK, ?takes considerable cognitive skills, because it requires an animal to envisage future events it will have to deal with.?
Zoologists apparently uncovered hundreds of caches of stones prepared by Santino suggesting a veritable arms race against the damn dirty humans. Moreover, the chimp clearly appreciated the lethality of stones (some of which he would fashion from concrete pried from the floor of his pen) versus the improvised weaponry more often tossed by his primate brethren, such as shit.
?Forward planning like this is supposed to be uniquely human; it implies a consciousness that is very special, that you can close your eyes you can see this inner world,” remarked cognitive scientist Mathias Osvath, who authored a study on Santino and his warring ways. “We are not alone in the world within. There are other creatures who have this special consciousness that is said to be uniquely human.”
And what did Santino?s human captors do with their ?special consciousness? in anticipation of another simian assault from Santino? In a move analogous to that perpetrated against Randall Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo?s Nest, they put the monkey under the knife, but instead of a lobotomy, they went right for the, um, stones. Cogito ergo castrato.
The Words, Words, Words sketch from playwright David Ives? All in the Timing features three research monkeys tasked with writing Hamlet as per the infinite monkey theorem. Here?s a serviceable performance YouTubed by The Footlight Club of Massachusetts.
This American Life, Episode 350, Human Resources, Act Three, ?Almost Human Resources,? [43:28] Reporter Charles Siebert talks with Ira Glass about retirement homes for chimpanzees, which he studied for his upcoming tome ?Humanzee.?
An All Things Considered interview with James Lever, author of Me, Cheeta: My Life in Hollywood, published by HarperCollins Publishers.
Monkey?s Nephew, a short film I made in honor of our closest relatives.