Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Lizard Brain


My previous post concerning the play-habits of our cold-blooded carbon-based brethren received the Chris Bateman treatment over at Only a Game.

I wonder if perhaps I could simply throw out questions and have him write proper posts for this blog.

But I suppose I will try and hold up my end of the conversation.

Also, why would social structures and nurture behaviour be prerequisites for play? Whilst many theories of play provide social benefits to play, there are plenty (including play as learning) which do not.

I'm not sure social structures and nurturing would be mandatory for play, only that play seems much more recognizable and common in those situations.

And social animals seem more inclined to play/learn -- even across species. Which calls to mind certain experiments which squirrels perform upon humans.

Which makes me curious -- what if a dog with a litter of puppies were familiarized with a young iguana? Would the iguana take on behavioral characteristics of the dogs? Would they take on characteristics of the iguana?


Following a tangent, I'm inclined to agree with Chris' assertion "I'm not greatly convinced that the human brain is a step up at all."

It has been asserted that the human brain is more complex than other brains, misrepresenting, in my opinion, the notion of complexity.

Dolphin brains, for example, have large portions dedicated to 3-d imaging, for very solid reasons -- echolocation provides them with a virtual map of their environs (and possibly, according to Dr. Lilly, resulting in communication that more resembles a vivid hallucination than what we know as speech).

It seems more clear to compare brains in terms of structure -- density, cell type, possible function, chemical interaction, etc. -- rather than a bizarre valuation of one being a step up (though perhaps if there is supporting evidence in the evolutionary record one could use the term "a step forward").


I'm going to delve into this a little more when I get the time.

Which will probably be close to never. But maybe sooner.

I'm finishing up with a somewhat related excerpt from a post I almost wrote. Yes, it has come to the point where I quote from unfinished drafts only marginally relevant to the topic at hand.



Albert Einstein said, "All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree."

Many studies exist which show that animals engage in behaviors that people might call play. Some of these behaviors definitely fit certain patterns to the extent that we could even call them games; There are loose and shifting rules, discernible goals and boundaries for social interaction.

When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, for example, contains numerous descriptions of these complex behaviors.

These games may seem like the way to pass idle time (and how many times have I heard that videogames are a 'waste of time'?), but they teach useful skills and, almost as importantly, develop the ability to deal with spontaneous experiences.

This, in fact, appears as a side-effect that seems most-often overlooked when discussing games of any type -- Behaviors learned are not simply direct translations of the metaphors, but tangential, perpendicular or even unconnected skills.

Playing Monopoly won't necessarily help you become an adept businessperson; But you may learn how to develop long-term strategies while in competition with multiple opponents, how to juggle a budget or, in the metagame, how to gain trust to broker a greater position.

The production of art also requires "idle" time. For that matter, invention does, too. Game-like behaviors can encourage spontaneity, which can lead to behaviors that don't exactly look like games to us (not anymore at least), but still incorporate many of the same key behaviors.

When elephants paint, is it art?

1 comment:

Chris said...

You just blew my mind with that elephant painting link. Wow. I had no idea this was going on! This is the ultimate in 'outsider art!'

All intelligent thought has now exited stage right while I take this onboard... :)