15 – Animals

Katrina referenced the book “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” Wiki page about the author. See also, wikipedia on animal cognition.

About the crow facial recognition and warning study.

Prairie dog language study.

The thought experiment of Torture vs Dust Specks.

The Machiavellian Intelligence Hypothesis. Also, like most good things, discussed in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

SMBC: Who’s cloning all of these Hitlers?!

Peter Singer’s essay All Animals Are Equal.

Archerfish face recognition study.

Summoning Elder Gods can be a risky proposition – be glad that breeding aggressive chickens was the worst that happened (that time)

The anti-CAFO organization is called Socially Responsible Agriculture Project.

Steven insists on linking to Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about intelligence since he really doesn’t feel like he did any justice in his paraphrasing.

Katrina’s self-corrections and comments:

  • I said that there isn’t much of a difference between social and solitary animals in terms of modeling other individuals. That is false. There is a difference. I just don’t want to discredit other forms of cognition.
  • I used terms like “intrinsic value,” but I don’t actually think that anything has value other than what it’s assigned by itself and/or others. I DO think that non-humans can confer value.
  • “Insects are the equivalent of moving rocks,” is quite a thing to say to an entomologist, guys.
  • We were negative about hunting. On its face, hunting animals with healthy wild populations for food is probably preferable to consuming an equivalent amount of factory farmed animals.
  • I meant “legislation” regarding condensed animal feeding operations (CAFOs), not “litigation,” although that has its place as well.
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4 Responses to 15 – Animals

  1. Senjiu says:

    First off, thanks for making all those episodes!

    The reason why I decided to write this comment is simply this though: Could you turn up the volume a little? Even at 100% it’s kinda quiet. I tried listening to it in the car and was unable at full volume (though I can listen to it at home).
    I’ve listened to half of the episodes of hpmorpodcast when I drove to Italy and back and they were easily understandable.

    Oh and that praerie dog language thing is amazing! That they have a system in their language that allows them to name shapes and things they haven’t seen before and normally don’t encounter (like a teal colored triangle) and that different praerie dogs have the same words for those things. Wow!

    • Katrina Stanton says:

      Thank you for the super helpful comment! It’s my very first time editing, and, well, it sounded loud at the time. Oops! I can fix it and reupload in a few hours.

      It feels like the more you study an animal, the more there is to discover. In the de Waal book, he called them “magic wells.”

  2. Vsevolod says:

    Regarding my question about Newcomb’s problem: turned out that I didn’t get that part about predicting the outcome based on the boxes which one will choose to open. Really interesting problem.

    It’s really a pleasure to listen to your episodes and thoughtful arguing from many points of view! It also gives an occasion for interesting discussions with my friends. Keep up the good work! Thank you very much 🙂

  3. Edgar says:

    I realize this follow up is rather belated, but…

    I did a bad job of articulating my point. At the time I listened to this episode, I kind of shrugged it off, but after listening to whichever more recent episode it was where my comment came up again, I feel I should clarify my meaning. Here goes!


    I said something to the effect of: “Don’t just make stuff up, talk about what you know!”

    I just assumed everyone would take from this the meaning I intended, namely: do more science, then talk about the results. (What counts as “known stuff”? Science stuff, of course!)

    As so often happens, I was interpreted in a slightly different manner. I seem to have been read as questioning the limits of our capacity to know, or positing that there are some things (the minds of animals, in this case) that are inherently unknowable.

    Although I was chagrinned at the realization that I’d left out my actual point, after listening to what you made of my comment, I reconsidered rearticulating myself. The point I was interpreted as making seemed to serve something of a “devil’s advocate” role on the podcast, prompting some interesting discussions. As time wears on, though, I feel my original intention might be worth restating (hopefully, this time in a more intelligible manner).


    There are limits to where unbridled speculation can take you. It’s not a bad thing to pretend your way into the mind of a mantis shrimp or onto the surface of the sun (and those who wish to truly know may do these things in order to procure hypotheses). Despite this, if you do not let your imaginings be ruled by reality, you can go nowhere but deeper into your own imagination.


    I apologize for my previous lack of clarity.

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