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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.
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?"
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 -
- 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.
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.
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,
which the octopus could see, since the boxes were clear.
And the octopuses learned to unlock every single one of those boxes
to get to the crab.
But, because they're all different,
some octopuses used different techniques from others.
Gwenevere, for example was impetuous,
and she was in a real hurry one day to get to her crab.
So, instead of unlocking the boxes, which she knew how to do,
she crushed them.
She created a tiny crack, but she could flow her arm right inside there,
and withdraw the crab.
Not much later, Truman got the boxes.
He'd learned how to unlock them, but one day, he was particularly excited
because Bill Murphy, who's the keeper, put two different crabs in there,
and they started fighting.
So, what did he do? He didn't bother with the locks.
He flowed his entire body into the cube.
And what you got was an octopus in a box.
The fact that they play with toys and puzzles
shows that octopuses are so like us in very moving ways,
which is particularly shocking,
considering that three-fifths of their neurons are in their arms,
not in their brains.
But it makes it even more amazing,
the things that we share with these animals.
And this has been recognized in a document called
The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness
which says that humans are not unique.
A series of different neuroscientists worked on this to state
that humans aren't the only ones who have the neural substrate
necessary to generate consciousness.
They specifically mention octopuses in this document.
Well, at the New England Aquarium, I've had the joy
of meeting a number of octopuses,
and after Athena died of old age, I met her successor, Octavia.
And with Wilson Menashi, every Wednesday I would visit her,
for a year, and she knew us.
She would float to the top, look at us, play with us, touch us with her suckers,
until, after a year, she laid eggs, and everything changed.
They lay eggs at the end of their lives, and it's such an important event
that they don't leave those eggs.
They guard them, they fluff them, they clean them,
and they won't have anything to do with you.
She didn't even look at us.
We would feed her on the end of a grabber,
while her eggs were infertile.
And after ten months of tending these infertile eggs,
finally the eggs were disintegrating.
She was at the end of her life, she had an eye infection,
and Bill Murphy, her keeper, decided it was time to move her behind the scenes.
So, we asked a volunteer to try to urge her into a bucket,
so she could be moved, and she wouldn't go in.
But the minute she touched and tasted her old friend, her keeper, Bill,
even though he hadn't touched her in ten months,
she went right into that bucket, and was transferred to the new tank.
And the next Wednesday, Wilson and I went to visit her.
We had not touched her, she had not looked at us for ten months,
but the minute when we moved the top of the tank, up she came to greet us,
looking us in the face, and kissing us with her suckers.
She remembered us after all, even though she was old,
and she was tired, and she was near death.
I don't know what the octopuses think of me,
what I meant to them is not known to me,
but I can tell you what they meant to me.
I'm immensely greatful to them,
because they gave me the most wonderful gift:
a deeper understanding of what it means
to think, to feel, and to know.
Thank you.



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Max Lin 2016 年 1 月 6 日 に公開
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