Friday, February 25, 2011

Philosopher Monkey and the Squirrel Revolt

"True knowledge exists in knowing you do not know."  
                                            -- Socrates

A recent report tells us that monkeys feel uncertainty and self-doubt. Once I thought about that conclusion, this animal-insight did not seem so surprising.  Self-doubt and uncertainty have to be key traits for survival. And, a little more self-doubt would benefit certain urban species such as squirrels, armadillos, and raccoons. When they reach the edge of a road, it would be great if they took an extra second to seriously ask themselves if they have what it takes to cross the road on this day, at this moment. Deer, on the other hand, need less self-doubt and a little more hutzpah. On the other hand, a common white-tail deer gives up too easily when it sees a car careening towards it. Laugh you holy white-tail, and jump out of the way.

Back to those monkeys... After the tests revealed monkey-hubris, the scientist commented,  "They seem to know when they don't know."  Philosopher monkeys indeed.

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