the liver and the brain

Lester Zick lesterDELzick at worldnet.att.net
Sun Sep 5 10:04:19 EST 2004

On Sat, 04 Sep 2004 15:39:57 -0400, r norman <rsn_ at _comcast.net> in
comp.ai.philosophy wrote:

>On Sat, 04 Sep 2004 18:20:33 GMT, lesterDELzick at worldnet.att.net
>(Lester Zick) wrote:
>>On 4 Sep 2004 09:35:30 -0700, feedbackdroids at yahoo.com (dan michaels)
>>in comp.ai.philosophy wrote:
>>> ...  my question regards the level of development of
>>>perceptual systems at the time of birth in precocial ungulates ...
>>>It's a fairly interesting problem in its own right, since a baby zebra
>>>has to be ready to flee from a lion shortly after birth, if it ever
>>>wants to get to be an adult zebra. To flee from a lion, it might help
>>>to be able to distinquish one from a parent zebra, so upon seeing its
>>>own parent, it doesn't go running off into the jaws of the nearest
>>>lion. I guess it's conceivable the adult zebra would be able to
>>>"teach" its baby what a lion is in the first hour or so, or that the
>>>baby learns on its own the first time a lion comes to eat it. Operant
>>>conditioning rules, so long as the organism makes it through the first
>>>day against something 10X its size and power, not to mention the big
>>The baby zebra wouldn't have to learn to discriminate lions. It would
>>just have to learn to stay with its mother, a much easier task for
>>which it is presumably born pretty much ready.
>>Regards - Lester
>You are right in questioning the specific behavioral capabilities
>needed for a newborn to survive.  Still, putting aside the particular
>focus on ungulates and on recognition of predators as a specific
>animals and behaviors there are still very interesting scientific
>questions behind all this.  Exactly what are the differences in brain
>development and function between precocial and altricial animals?  To
>what extent does a reliance on learning vs. instinct play a role in
>the behavioral repertoire of precocial vs.altricial animals?  

You know, it's difficult to understand exactly the distinction between
learning and instinct in mechanical terms. I agree that there are
significant differences, but I'm not sure how to class given behaviors
either way in particular instances. Hell, I'm not even sure what we
mean by learning in specific instances. Obviously we're referring to
acquired behavioral traits. But it isn't really clear what the process
of acquisition amounts to. Presumably some behavioral characteristics
are acquired, but there certainly also have to be certain innate
aspects to acquired behavior residually present to allow acquisition.

I do think the general idea of precocial versus altricial behavior
holds some interest. It's an idea I've considered myself in the past,
but Dan brought it up in this context so I'd rather see him run with
it than try to offer anything except peripheral comments myself. It
occurs to me that it holds a rather wider potential applicability than
is apparent at the moment. But it may also be a lot more difficult to
generalize from it than would initially appear.

>I would only just repeat here something I have been trying to say for
>some time now.  These differences are well known and well recognized
>as reproductive strategies with important implications for ecology,
>evolution, ethology, and development. There is a rather extensive
>literature about these, although not specifically about the ability of
>ungulates to recognize predators.

As my comment to Dan shows, I doubt that the suggestion offers any
clue as to the ability of precocial animals to recognize predators one
way or the other. And I certainly wouldn't expect predator recognition
to be an instinctive behavior (whatever that means) although certain
kinds of threat recognition could well be instinctive. And I certainly
agree that these kinds of behavior are tightly bound up with survival
considerations of important ecological and evolutionary consequences.
What I doubt however is that ecological and evolutionary consequences
have much to do with artificial intelligence. These considerations are
more important after the fact of intelligence than before.

Regards - Lester

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