Monday, February 13, 2006

Animal Intelligence

I just finished reading The Octopus and the Orangutan: More True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity. People who enjoy thinking about evolution, artificial and natural intelligence, and consciousness will want to read this book. It is a quick read worth the price.

It reminded me of my own anecdote about animal intelligence. My Siamese cat Dodo (a.k.a. Scratch) used to try to get out by repeatedly jumping up and pawing at the front door handle. We had become accustomed to hearing the repeated twack and thump in the middle of the night as the cat tried over and over again. One night the twack-thump sequence was interrupted by the creak of the door. This aroused our curiosity. Sure enough, the door was open and the cat was gone.

The cat got in the habit of doing this on following nights. This posed a security problem for us as he consistently failed to close and lock the door behind him. We described the problem to our landlord and asked him to replace the lever handle with a twist handle or add a lock. Our landlord was incredulous and asked for a demonstration. We all turned and stared at the cat but it failed to perform.

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