You can't argue with a zombie

A funny and insightful philosophy article by Jaron Lanier about consciousness and the possibility of “zombies”, i.e. humans who act like the rest of us but who aren’t conscious.


Monkeys can do simple grammatical rules but not rules with hierarchial structure

“For example, the monkeys could master simple word structures, analogous to realising that “the” and “a” are always followed by another word. But they were unable to grasp phrase patterns analogous to “if… then…” constructions.”

(actually, in the study, the grammar that the monkeys could do was “A is always followed by B”, and what they couldn’t do was “Repeat A for some number of times, and then repeat B the same number of times”)

New Scientist article

Article in Science

Commentary in Science, with a list of some types of intelligence differences between humans and monkeys.

Language != intelligence? Patients who can't speak or produce language are still smart

BBC article

PNAS article

PNAS commentary

“The researchers made the discovery by studying three patients who were suffering from severe aphasia – they had lost the ability to understand, or produce, grammatically correct language.

For example, although they understood the words “lion”, “hunted” and “man”, they could not tell the difference between the sentences “The lion hunted the man” and “The man hunted the lion”.

But when they were presented with sums like 52 minus 11 and 11 minus 52, which were structured in a similar way, they had no problem. ”

The subjects could also still do arithmetic with expressions with parentheses.