Re: Why Not Planet of the Apes?

Erik Möller (
Mon, 09 Jun 1997 18:33:11 +0200

Robin Hanson wrote:

> So why is it exactly that we haven't trained such monkeys to do real
> jobs around in our society? Couldn't they be trained to be security
> guards, to sweep streets, to wash cars, or to run machines in
> factories? Yes language is important for many jobs, but for all jobs?
> Sure they like to be with each other, but couldn't teams of monkeys
> work together?

Monkeys are also able to learn language. Japanese researchers have
trained monkeys to read Japanese characters (and they're hard to learn).
They are also trying it vice versa: trying to learn the monkey
"language". An English researcher whose name I have forgotten asked a
monkey, I think it was a bonobo (they have the best learning
capabilities) to perform not so very simple tasks given to him in
English language ("fetch the ball out of the freezebox"), where the
conditions were not trained before (i. e., the ball had never been in
the freezebox before).

The problem is that apes are _physically_, not mentally, unable to
articulate language. When training them like someone who is deaf mute,
they can learn to "speak" using a complex sign language.

There's not as much research done in that area as one might expect. I
think it's mainly because of humans who don't want apes to become more
than uneducated animals.
In Germany, there's the case of the ape "Freddy", a very interesting
one, where an ape who had never met any other apes thought that he was a
human. He behaved like one, too, and was very interested in contact with
other humans (and not in contact with other apes). But this ape was
"brainwashed", forced to return to his natural environment. Now that
he's back to normal everything is fine again. But this ape might have
been one of the best training objects they could ever get.

Not doing simple jobs should be the work of apes, for what motivation
should they have? If I was an ape, I would prefer getting my bananas for
free to having to brush the streets for them. Instead a continous
learning process for apes, including the use of computers and the
internet, could make humanity evolve into a multi-racial environment.
And the ape rights would also become a more important issue.

Most apes who were used for learning objects had much fun doing it. In
one project, they were given the choice to go to the "ape school"
whenever they wanted to, and most of them went the long way there every

Maybe someone can give some literature about apes and projects with
them, the information above is from a TV documentation.

Erik Moeller