Adventures in Everyday


Training Animals to Butcher Themselves?
March 27, 2008, 11:32 am
Filed under: academic, biology, dystopious, psychology, science

Fish Being Trained to Catch Themselves

Recently, scientists at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory have trained a particularly delicious fish species to swim into nets after hearing an underwater tone – Pavlovian style. Their goal is to train whole populations of fish and then release them into the open ocean to feed and grow. Before long, however, the same underwater tone will be emitted by commercial operations evoking a “return home” response in the hapless fish.

Mmm. Tastes like animal psychology.

What next?

Another example of useful animal psychology is the use of conditioned taste aversion in training wild wolves not to eat domestic sheep.

Here, wolves are fed sheep meat laced with a mild poison that makes them incredibly ill. The consequence? Sheep meat becomes extremely aversive to them and they will probably never eat it again or teach their young to hunt sheep.

Dolphins have been trained to locate underwater mines. Elephants have been useful in the Myanmar logging industry – uprooting and gathering logs. And B.F. Skinner trained pigeons to autonomously operate guided bombs towards specific classes of targets.

I see few limits to what animals can potentially be trained to do for us. Here is a list of jobs that I want animals to do for me some day:

  • I want animals to plant and harvest crops for me year round
  • I want animals to wash my car
  • I want dolphins to chase whole schools of fish into fishing nets
  • I want bats to carry incendiary bombs
  • I want animals to plant tree seeds around the world to combat deforestation
  • I want cats to feed their own selves, clean up their own messes, wake up only after their owners wake up, and stay the hell away from me
  • I want ants to clean my entire house and disinfect my kitchen

I could get carried away here. But you get the idea. We probably spend many times more money than we need to on very simple tasks that animals are born to perform.

More funding for psychological research I say!

I will end with a video about the late B.F. Skinner’s science-grounded hope to make the world a better place. It talks about his pigeon-guided bombs as well. Enjoy!

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

While most of this is great, much of it could also be easily abused I think….could be very bad indeed (like most things we create).

Comment by Jen

I’m tired of looking at this ugly fish every time I check your blog. You’re done school now, write something new and exciting.

Comment by Jen




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