Friday, October 3, 2014

There are easier ways to solve the maze...

"Look, we just want the mice
to get into a good school."

So this is either a really awesome idea or a really terrible idea. Here, check out this article from Go on, check it out. With me? No? Why don't I save us both some time and just sum it up: some MIT geniuses/lunatics genetically modified some mice in an effort enhance their ability to learn, which I guess is either a problem with the mice or with the expectations scientists are putting on them. Anyway, they did it by screwing with their genes until they produced the human form of a protein called Foxp2. Cool, right? Yeah, sure, people still die of cancer and AIDS, but hey, smarter mice!

It apparently worked because the super-mice were able to solve a maze faster than their non-super colleagues. The experiment however, raises some, you know, questions...
Questions like: if they wanted to solve the maze so badly, why didn't the
scientists just use their superior height and look at the maze from above?
I think it's safe to say that the
polar bears are going to be pissed...
Ethical questions. Like, if we can just ensmarten animals to a human-level of intelligence, should we? Should notn't we? And by that I mean, if animal sapience is just a genetic switch-flip away, what kind of jerks are we if we leave them to languish in stupid town while we continue to pet and/or eat them? Shouldn't they have a say? And once uplifted (it's a sci-fi thing), aren't they kind of well, people? Up until now we could be totally dicks to animals and the environment and no one said a thing. Well, other people did, but we never listen to us. What's it going to be like, suddenly sharing the planet with other species who can talk back? 

We're kind of terrible at getting along with our own species. We can't seem to go a decade without trying to wipe an entire people off the planet, so how long do you suppose it will be before we turn on our neighbors in The Republic of Gazelle, or The United Moose Emirates?
"Sure, the humans put down the Great Pig Uprising, but what
we did afterwards proved who the real animals were..."

-Quote from Ken Burns'
The Porcine War
Can we, as a species, claim to be evolved
when we keep giving Kirk Cameron airtime?
Look, I'm all for animals. I'm even sometimes a vegetarian, riding high on moral superiority until low iron makes me reach for a burger. But do we really want to mess with evolution in this way? Who are we to say that the mice in that lab are unintelligent? Maybe they're exactly as smart as mice need to be. It's not as if their natural habitat is full of right-angle mazes and cheese. And besides is human-like intelligence really all that great? I mean, didn't we invent war, slavery, industrial pollution, intolerance, homophobia, sexism and not one, but two Human Centipede movies?  

I guess the point is, shouldn't we get better at treating each other like people before we start thinking about inviting the other animals to the sentience party?
On the other hand, it'll be amusing to watch the Evangelicals
absolutely lose their shit over hot human-on-chimp action.

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