Re: Why Not a Planet Of The Apes?

The Low Golden Willow (
Mon, 9 Jun 1997 17:15:43 -0700 (PDT)

On Jun 9, 1:28pm, Robin Hanson wrote:
} Eugene Leitl writes:

} >Concerning using primates for slaves, see big problems:
} >a) primates are very, very costly
} >b) primates are dangerous
} >c) primates are notoriously unreliable
} Yes, but aren't these three facts a *consequence* of their not yet
} being domesticated?

Horses are useful. Zebras are like horses. Horses can't live in lots
of Africa, because of tsetse flies. Most of Africa has known about
livestock; Diamond claims much Bantu livestock near the Sahel is
Eurasian in origin, which managed to trickle across the Sahara. Bantu
farmers moving south left livestock behind because the livestock kept
dying. Zebras would be useful. But zebras are nasty; they don't let go
when they bite, and they duck lassos. Zebras have not been domesticated.
In the past or by modern humans, who've tried again.

Neither have elephants; wild ones get tamed, at least in India, but they
haven't been bred and modified by humans. And African elephants don't get
tamed. Hannibal's were presumably African, but I think I've heard they
were an extinct breed. (My reliability is deteriorating.)

Cheetahs have been tamed or domesticated as hunting cats. Tigers and
lions haven't been.

Why did no North Americans become nomadic bison herders, like herders of
cattle, sheep, and goats in the Old World?

Proposal: most animals, for one reason or another, just aren't
domesticable. Small mammals you can try breeding as you want anyway;
it's easy to play god to a gerbil or pigeon. (I heard about Coast Guard
pigeons being used to rescue people years ago; I'd forgotten about it.
They peck a button when they see bright orange. Source: 3-2-1 Contact a
long time ago.) I don't know if there's any guarantee you'll succeed.
Or that it'll be economical for mortals to try. If it takes 300 years
to breed an animal to a useful state, who's going to keep at it for that
long? Knowing more about how dogs and horses got bred would be useful,
but presumably being useful and controllable in the wild state was
rather significant; after that maybe a royal breeder can start some long
term project.

I think I've heard the word "fragile" applied to great apes,
particularly in response to wounds or disease. Wait five to ten years
for the gorilla to grow up, spend many years training it to do its job
*and* to interact safely with humans (gorilla might be smart enough to
figure out that it _is_ stronger than all the pale midgets around it)
and then it dies of the flu. Or cold. Nice profitable investment you
have here.

And what's a primate? Curious, fairly intelligent, playful, and
manipulative. And verbally autistic. What's the market for dumb but
mischievous humans you can't talk to? Monkeys may be too small to be
too useful, and the apes' generation time is too long.

I see no reason to assume an AI, human-level or not, would be as
intractable as most animals. (Apart from the non-existence problem
right now.) You can perhaps imitate the neural structure of nice
animals; you can have not built in nastiness in the first place; their
structure can be directly modified to see what happens, rather than just
breeding two animals with nice bloodlines and praying; and software AIs
running on SuperHexium or CAM-arrays can be even more easily modified,
or could be evolved at some speed. And they shouldn't bite, shit, or
get sick. (Brittleware has advantages Eugene: parasites can't spin out
and evolve so well.)

Merry part,
-xx- Damien R. Sullivan X-) <*>

Dance, dance, dance with me
Round and round the greenwood tree.
Dance, dance, while you may,
Tomorrow is your dying day
Dance with me!