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.
“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”)
“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.
“…a difference in concentration of a single molecule across the tip of an axon can measurably impact the direction in which the axons grow”
“…they’re learning things from each other and they’re passing it on to other whales…”
“…different pods of whales can have distinctly different sets of behaviors and languages even though they share territory.”