Which is the smartest kind in the world? You will immediately think of people, but the reality is much more complicated.
Truth is, there are animals that are much smarter than we think. One individual in particular, Frans de Waal, examines how much smarter they are in reality.
The primatologist at Emory University has a new book called “are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?“. And in it he gives hundreds of examples of surprising intelligence of these non-human species. Including many cases where other animals seem that they are smarter than us.
For example, chimpanzees can easily overwhelm people in memory of a set of numbers shown for a split second.
Octopuses can learn to open bottles of pills that have protection for children, while many people can’t even do that.
Dogs and horses can recognize sequences of body language that are unknown to us.
Many species can do something we can not even imagine. Bats fly in space using the rejection of sound objects, the birds discovered the complex mechanics of flying and landing.
In fact, the operating system is set to do what it should do, which makes comparison of intelligence rather meaningless.
“It is not fair to ask whether the squirrel can count to 10 when the counting is not what is intended for the squirrel’s life indeed. We can not compete with them in this task. I even forget where I parked the car, but that isn’t important, because our species don’t need that kind of memory for survival”- explains De Waal.
When people try to analyze cognition of animals, they tend to focus on the definition of human intelligence. This actually undermines the entire experiment.
Take, for example chimpanzees, who share 99% of their DNA with humans. De Waal describes a female named Kif that has learned to feed an adopted baby chimp with a bottle and remove the bottle when it should belch. It is even more impressive that whenever she was called upon in a separate dining, first she went to visit the alpha male, alpha wife and a few friends to give them a farewell kiss.
Dandy, a young male, was smart enough not to disclose a buried grapefruit to other chimpanzees, only to later return alone and to eat.
Chimpanzees show cognitive complexity almost at human level in these activities. And there are areas where their thoughts transcend human, such as short-term memory and some types of social consciousness.
According to de Waal, we are at the beginning of a new scientific era that will recognize the complexity of cognition in animals.
“Every week we learn something new, we heard that rats can not complain about their decisions. Ravens produce tools, octopuses can recognize human faces and specific neurons. We talk openly about culture in animals and their empathy and friendships. Nothing is beyond the limits anymore, not even the rationality that was once considered a trademark of humanity”– he added.
This step could come not only to better understand the world around us, but also appears a debate about animal rights.