Re: Why Not Planet of the Apes?

Anders Sandberg (
Mon, 9 Jun 1997 11:43:36 +0200 (MET DST)

On Sun, 8 Jun 1997, Sean Morgan wrote:

> I once read about an Australian pharmaceutical company that used pigeons to
> sort pills, conditioned to hit a button when they saw one of the right
> color. Supposedly the ASPCA had them replace the pigeon with a human.

Hmm, this could be a distorted version of the real work done by
Skinner in WWII project ORCON (ORganic CONtrol), where pigeons were
trained for missile control! Pigeons were trained to peck at a screen
when an enemy ship appeared on it, and an electrode on the beak would
make it possible to register the exact location of the peck, making
it possible to fire a missile towards the ship. Skinner showed that
the pigeons could learn to distinguish friendly ships from enemy
ships. However, as my psychology textbook put it: "However, the
American military showed some concern at arming a flock of pigeons
with enough explosives to wipe out the whole American fleet, so the
pigeon pilots never had a chance to show their military skills".

It almost sounds like an urban legend, but it is apparently true
(below is the reference given in _Psychology: Theory & Application_
by Banyard and Hayes)

Skinner, B.F. (1960), Pigeons in a Pelican, American Psychologist,
15, 28-37

Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y