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Old 09-22-2005, 04:45 AM
David Sklansky David Sklansky is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2002
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Default The Sklansky Chimpanzee Question

This one might really be original. In any case it is highly relevant so I'm back to naming things after me.

The following question is not purely theoretical or philosophical. It could, in principle, be answered perfectly. But it would take a long time.

Most people consider even the smartest animals not only dumber than us but different in other ways as well. Some say they have no soul. Some say they have no conscience, or consciousness, or the realization that they will die. They can't think abstractly. They have no morals. etc. etc.

Others speculate that the only differnces are intelligence and lack of language. Improve those problems and they could be similar to humans.

Koko the gorilla and Kanzai the chimpanzee are probably the closest animals to us. They are both smart and have a few hundred word vocabularly. But their vocal chords won't let them talk. Instead they use keyboards and computer screens. Meanwhile I believe they communicate this way mainly with humans. Perhaps they have also some dialogue with a few others of their species who have been trained similarly. Perhaps also they have done some experiments where the TRAINING of the language of a newbie chimpanzee was done by Kanzai.

Now supposed the worlds' scientists decided to embark on a mega year project where they somehow fitted every single chimpanzee at birth with a portable keyboard, an implanted screen and taught each chimp to the best of their abilies how to use them. Those chimps who could handle more words had more added to their computers. They also taught the chimps how to teach other chimps more words. (An alternative scenario would be to somehow surgically add a voiceboxes to each chimp and teach him to say, as well as understand, as many words as possible.)

As the scientists trained and kept close tabs on evey chimp, they also did the following.

1. Made the chimps environment less harsh so that food would be plentiful but not so plentiful that there was no reason to think.

2. Noticed which chimps were the very best at learning, communicating, and training.

3. Only let the cream of the crop have offspring.

4. Other actions that would enhance this project that I may not have thought of.

So the Sklansky Chimpanzee Question is whether such a project would ever result in a chimpanzee equal to an intelligent human, either in intelligence or the other attributes that people generally feel intelligent humans have, or both. (Specifically the project would be declared a success the first time a chimp registered for, and put a post on, the Two Plus Two Philosphy Forum). How long that would take is another good question. But the important question is whether it would happen at all. And what that would say about most religions if it could.
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