Placeholder Image

字幕表 動画を再生する

  • I'd like to tell you about someone I met in March, 2011.

  • Her name was Athena.

  • If she stood up, she would have been about five feet tall,

  • but she weighed only forty pounds.

  • She had a beak like a parrot, and venom like a snake,

  • and ink like an old-fashioned pen.

  • She could change color and shape,

  • and pour her boneless body through an opening the size of a walnut.

  • Athena was a giant Pacific octopus.

  • I met her at the New England Aquarium,

  • and her keeper pulled off the lid to her tank.

  • She turned red with excitement, and slid over to meet me,

  • and her eye swiveled in its socket and locked into mine.

  • I plunged my hands and arms into the 47-degree water,

  • and her eight arms came boiling up to meet mine.

  • Now, an octopus can taste with all its skin, including the eyelids,

  • but this sense is most exquisitely developed in the suckers.

  • And so, soon, I had the pleasure of having the skin of my hands and arms

  • covered with dozens of her beautiful, wide, strong suckers,

  • tasting me all at once.

  • Later, I realized that not everyone would like this.

  • (Laughter)

  • If a person had begun tasting me so early in our relationship,

  • I would have been alarmed. (Laughter)

  • And, boy, it was cold! And yes, it was slimy.

  • And then, there was the matter of all those hickeys to explain to my husband

  • when I got home. (Laughter)

  • But never was I for a moment afraid, and neither was Athena.

  • How did I know?

  • Because she'd let me touch her head,

  • and she hadn't let a stranger touch her head before.

  • And beneath my touch, her skin turned white,

  • the color, I later learned, of a relaxed octopus.

  • Well, I was elated,

  • because, despite all of the millions of years of evolution

  • that separated our lineage,

  • despite the fact that she was a marine invertebrate,

  • I felt very strongly that Athena was just as curious about me as I was about her.

  • Somehow, across half a billion years of evolution,

  • we had had a meeting of the minds.

  • Now, speaking about animals of any kind having a mind

  • makes some philosophers and scientists nervous.

  • But that's exactly what I want to talk with you about,

  • the overwhelming evidence that animals across a wide variety of species

  • do think, and feel, and experience consciousness.

  • Now, I'm not a scientist or philosopher. I'm a writer.

  • And I know what I've learned from interviews and from reading

  • and from fieldwork with animals, both captive and wild.

  • My first book talks a little about Jane Goodall's work.

  • She's very famous for her studies of chimpanzees at Gombe,

  • and today she's the most well-known scientist in the world.

  • But when she started out, no one wanted to publish her work,

  • because she named her study animals,

  • instead of numbering them like rocks.

  • But her findings were too important to be ignored,

  • and she found that chimpanzees not only have minds,

  • but that their minds are so like ours.

  • Chimpanzees solve problems.

  • They develop friendships. They use and make tools.

  • They even fashion little sticks with which to fish out termites from termite mounds.

  • They create sponges from leaves which they crumple,

  • and they can jam it into holes

  • and withdraw liquids that they want to get.

  • They even make clubs with which to hit other chimpanzees.

  • The fact that they use and make tools shows also

  • that chimps aren't just living in the eternal present.

  • They imagine a future,

  • and they also imagine the minds of other chimpanzees.

  • They form coalitions,

  • they deceive one another,

  • they even sneak off for illicit sex.

  • The fact that their minds are so like ours shouldn't really surprise us,

  • because we share 99% of our genetic material with a chimpanzee.

  • You can get a blood transfusion from a chimpanzee.

  • In fact, even look at chimpanzees and they might remind you,

  • every once in a while, of that guy you dated in college. (Laughter)

  • But what about animals that aren't so like us?

  • Why can't they have minds too?

  • Because their brains are too small?

  • Well, anything can be miniaturized. Look at computers.

  • They used to take up a whole room, and now they fit in your pocket.

  • Because they don't have language?

  • Well, you don't need language to think.

  • Despite what some linguists might tell you,

  • there are people out there thinking very, very well without words.

  • And one of them is my friend Temple Grandin.

  • I wrote a book about her for young readers.

  • She's quite famous. You may have heard of her.

  • She creates humane designs, including pens and even slaughterhouses

  • that are meant to ease the pain and fear of farm animals

  • that we use for milk, meat, and eggs.

  • She has authored a dozen books, she has written hundreds of articles,

  • she's a college professor, but because she has autism,

  • words did not come easily to her.

  • In fact, she didn't speak until she was aged six,

  • and to this day, she does not think in words.

  • She'll tell you, she thinks entirely in pictures.

  • So, you do not need language to think.

  • What about tool use? That was a Rubicon that supposedly animals couldn't cross.

  • Well, we know that Jane Goodall's chimps crossed that easily,

  • but in fact, lots of animals use tools.

  • My favorite is a kind of baboon called a mandrill.

  • He creates little q-tips from twigs,

  • which he uses to cleanse ears and toenails. I think that's great.

  • But let's leave our fellow mammals aside for a moment.

  • Let's talk about birds.

  • They're more closely related to dinosaurs than they are to human beings,

  • and yet, they are champion tool users.

  • There are some crows in Japan that you may have heard about.

  • They love to open nuts and get the tasty meats,

  • but sometimes, the nuts are too hard to crack.

  • So, here's what they're doing in Japan:

  • they fly to a traffic intersection, they wait till the light turns red,

  • and then, they put the nut down in front of the cars.

  • When the light turns green, they open the nuts for them.

  • And they're so smart that they actually wait till the light again turns red,

  • so they go pick up the nutmeats. How smart is that?

  • Every yardstick that we have tried to use to show

  • that, "Oh, animals can't think and we can" has come up short.

  • One is the mirror test.

  • This is supposed to test for self-awareness,

  • an important component of consciousness.

  • So, you look at the mirror, you recognize your reflexion,

  • and a chimp does too.

  • And we know this because, if you put a dot of paint on that chimp's head,

  • she'll look in the mirror and touch her own finger to her face,

  • but a gorilla won't. And why is that?

  • Not because they don't have self-awareness.

  • It's because for a gorilla to look into someone's face directly, that's a threat.

  • It's not that they don't have self-awareness.

  • It's because the gorilla is being polite.

  • Another Rubicon, of course, was language. People said only people have language.

  • Well, that's not really true. Just ask a parrot.

  • They might respond in plain English.

  • Now, it's true that parrots love to mimic sounds,

  • including the human voice.

  • There's one parrot I heard about, who liked to watch TV,

  • and all of a sudden, began incessantly asking:

  • "Does Hammacher Schlemmer have a toll-free number?"

  • (Laughter)

  • But there are other parrots who know and mean what they're saying,

  • and one of them was Alex, the African grey.

  • He lived with Dr. Irene Pepperberg, who was his trainer, and researcher.

  • She taught him more than 100 words,

  • but she did this not to prove that animals could use language,

  • but to use those words as a probe to look inside the mind of a bird,

  • see what he understood.

  • One thing he understood quite well was concepts of color and shape.

  • She would ask him, holding out a tray of objects, "What color, Alex?"

  • And he'd say, "Gr-een", or red, or whatever color it was.

  • She also learned that parrots can count, and add.

  • But some of the most exciting insights came when he spontaneously voiced

  • what was in his little birdy mind.

  • And one of those moments happened when she brought him home

  • from the laboratory for the first time to her house.

  • It was night, and he looked out her picture window,

  • and saw for the first time in his life an owl.

  • And he began to scream, "Wanna go back! Wanna go back!"

  • He wanted to go back to the lab because he knew, thanks to instincts

  • as old as the ancestors of parrots and the ancestors of owls,

  • that owls were dangerous predators.

  • And he was telling us about this ancient instinct in the English language,

  • which he had learned at a 21st-century university laboratory.

  • Pretty amazing stuff.

  • Well, what about those animals that don't speak to us in English?

  • I want to talk to you about how I got an insight into the mind of a creature

  • that most people don't even think of as having a mind: an electric eel.

  • Now, I've met electric eels in the Amazon, where they live wild, they're fish.

  • But the one I want to talk to you about today

  • lives at the New England Aquarium.

  • You should go. You would love this exhibit.

  • You'd love the whole aquarium, but particularly the eels are great.

  • Not only are they, as you can see, very attractive animals -

  • (Laughter)

  • - but they've got this great exhibit where you can actually see

  • the eel using his shocking powers.

  • So, what they've done is they've set up a voltmeter

  • which goes off and flashes when the eel is using his electricity

  • to locate and then stun prey.

  • So, I was watching this eel with Scott Dowd,

  • the senior aquarist for the freshwater gallery,

  • and the eel was just sitting on the bottom of the tank.

  • He had a blank expression on his face, and Scott confirmed that this electric eel

  • was catching some serious disease.

  • You can probably tell that Scott and I are pretty avid fish watchers,

  • because we're standing there in rapt attention,

  • watching an electric eel to sleep. (Laughter)

  • But that's when it happened: the voltmeter suddenly went off.

  • I said to Scott, "What's happening? I thought he was asleep."

  • And Scott said, "He is asleep."

  • And we looked at each other, and we knew right then the eel was dreaming.

  • We've all seen our pets dream: your dog's paws will twitch,

  • or your cat's ears will move, and maybe the cat is chasing a mouse,

  • and maybe the dog is dreaming of chasing a ball.

  • But what do you think electric eels dream about?

  • Catching and stunning prey.

  • Now, I don't know for sure, but I would venture to guess

  • that the eel on exhibit, who they called Mittens,

  • probably has slightly different dreams from the eel behind the scenes,

  • who lives by Scott's desk.

  • And that's because they have very different personalities.

  • Thor, the one behind the scenes, is actually much more outgoing;

  • once quite literally, when it jumped out of its tank,

  • with bad consequences to the fish living in the adjacent tank.

  • (Laughter)

  • But there hasn't been a lot of work done on fish personality.

  • Interestingly though, there has been work done, a lot of it and intriguing,

  • on octopus personality,

  • and the person who has done the most of that is Dr. Jeniffer Mather.

  • And I had the great joy and the privilege of working with her

  • in a team of octopus experts, this summer, off Maria, which is in French Polynesia,

  • studying wild octopuses there, the Pacific day octopus.

  • Among the things that we did in our studies

  • was administer personality tests to wild octopuses.

  • But already aquarists know well

  • that octopuses have quite distinct personalities,

  • and this is often reflected in their names.

  • In Seattle Aquarium, they had one named Emily Dickinson,

  • because she was so shy she never came out.

  • They eventually had to release her into the Sound.

  • And then, there was Leisure Suit Larry,

  • the octopus whose arms were always all over you,

  • and you'd peel one off and two more would come on. (Laughter).

  • Then, there was Lucretia MacEvil,

  • and she was constantly dismantling everything in her tank.

  • Octopuses actually really enjoy manipulating objects,

  • so much so that there's actually

  • an octopus enrichment handbook for aquaria,

  • to help you keep your octopus occupied.

  • (Laughter)

  • They suggest that you give them Mr. Potato Head to play with,

  • the same toys your child might play with at home, or LEGOs.

  • But at the New England Aquarium, we had, happily, an engineer and inventor

  • from the Arthur D. Little Corporation.

  • That's what we needed to come up with a design interesting enough

  • to occupy the intellect of our octopuses.

  • And what Wilson Menashi designed was a series of boxes,

  • and you'd put one inside the other, inside the other,

  • and each box had a different lock.

  • Inside the first box, you had a crab,