Coincidence? I Think Not.

So, I see that some of you have noticed the endearing footage of the kleptopus making off with some hapless diver’s video camera. (For those who don’t follow the endlessly proliferating comment threads from previous posts, the smoking-gun is here.1) Oh yes, how cute.

But how many of you have noticed how closely this act of industrial espionage followed on the heels of other, supposedly “independent” octopi discovering the wonders of hi-def technology? (Apparently standard video wasn’t up to their standards.)2

Octopi learn of the existence of human video tech. Other octopi start making off with human video tech. Why am I the only one to be connecting these dots, people? Why am I the only one to see the conspiracy for what it is? (Well, I suppose Glenn Beck will raise the alarm once he figures out how to pronounce “octopus”; but what about the rest of you?)

You cannot trust the octopus. The octopus is a coward by nature, a creature of night who fears the open spaces, who lurks unseen in the complex topography of benthic habitats. Not like its forthright pelagic cousin, the Squid: noble denizen of the open water, proud and honest and fearless. Squids have nothing to hide. You won’t catch them snatching up some ill-gotten bit of technology and scuttling for the shadows.

Oh, and apparently “The Island” is now up for the Locus award, as is the Dozois & Strahan anthology in which it appeared. This is good news.

I will have more good news later this week. Assuming the octopi don’t get me first.

———————

1Thanks to David Held, who first alerted me to the camera-theft footage; and to
2Sheila Miguez for alerting me to the lab work.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday April 21 2010at 07:04 am , filed under biology, marine, misc, writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

42 Responses to “Coincidence? I Think Not.”

  1. I for one, will welcome our new scrambler, I mean cephalopodic masters.

    *snerk*

  2. I, for one, fear more the cuttlefish. They’re cthulu creatures if I’ve ever seen one! If /they/ ever use tools, that’s it; I’m off this rock. (The excpetion of Pfeffer’s Flamboyant Cuttlefish, because they’re adorable.)

  3. /me hands himself the correct version of the word “exception”.

  4. 100,000 eggs nursed by the female, the “octopussy”, who then dies thereafter, hmm, I think the Giant Pacific Octopus has something to say about all of this Squidy-doo hullaballoo bubble blowing and tentacle tangling…the things females gotta do for reproduction…tough and tender…all of her energy for the kids…then she dies for it all…

    Pursuing the Giant Octopus
    http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/searching-giant-pacific-octopus-10429756

    Cuttlefish? Those are great dried, covered with chocolate…

    Anyone know a love song about a squid?

    “Swim with the dolphins like Jacques Cousteau…I love you-ooooo Octopus…”

  5. Peter asked: “Why am I the only one to be connecting these dots, people?”

    Do these dots connect to reveal that male humans are like Octopi? You know, that thing with big screen HDTV, gadgets and tech toys, among other things?

    Octopi are cowardly? I think they are just a bit shy, that’s all. Besides those Giant Squids lurk about in the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean, ghost-like, avoiding that cetacean, Moby the Sperm Whale…

    But of course squids are cute. In college I had a part-time job sifting through Hawaii waters zooplankton jarred samples in search of microscopic squids, counting them, guestimating amounts…some looked like “Dumbo”, others had “Mickey Mouse ears”…

    “An ocean refuses no river…”

  6. Cephalopods are important in Hawaiian Culture~

    The Hawaiian Creation Chant speaks of “the present cosmos is only the last of a series, having arisen in stages from the wreck of the previous universe. In this account, the octopus is the lone survivor of the previous, alien universe.”

    The Octopus God
    http://rustyidols.blogspot.com/2008/08/research-octopus-god.html

    “He is the god of the squid, called in the Kumulipo Ka-he‘e-hauna-wela (the evil smelling squid).”

    “Fishermen still solicit his protection, but on the whole the squid today is looked upon with distrust as an aumakua.”

    “This attitude is reflected in a tendency by Hawaiian antiquarians to equate Kanaloa with the Christian devil.”

    Kanaloa
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/pac/hm/hm07.htm

    Squid vs. Octopus. Who will win?
    http://www.threadless.com/submission/114253/Squid_vs_Octopus
    (Besides, what if a Kraken gets to ‘crackin?)

  7. I’ve been saying some stuff about octopi and cuttlefish. I won’t repeat it here because you broke the rule about questioning cephalopods. Don’t let on until you have more proof.

    Try this line: “Yeah, I’ve been googling ‘octopus sentience’, but, you know how the web is, whatever notion you have, someone will back you up.” Keeps ’em guessing.

    Good point about the squids having less to hide.

  8. I’d like to suggest we should be more worried about the dolphins rising up. The octopus probably just has dreams of a film career?

    “I’m ready for my really really really tight close-up, Mr. deMille.”

    What also struck me was that we only have Mr. Huang’s word for it that the kleptoctopus had stuffed his camera in her mouth. I certainly wouldn’t know the difference watching the video.

  9. Squid may not skulk about in kelp beds, but octopi don’t get nommed by sperm whales…

  10. Now they will have to kill you. You will be the star of the first octopus snuff movie on YouTube. Fame at last!

  11. “You will be the star of the first octopus snuff movie on YouTube.” – using their new HD technology of course.

  12. “The male octopus uses a specialized arm called a hectocotylus to transfer sperm to the mantle cavity of a receptive female.”

    vs.

    “Squids often mate in large groups.”

    Hmmm…why am I suddenly reminded of that junk sociobiology piece down thar below?

  13. Now Glenn Beck will have one more group of aliens to attack. Illegal aliens that is. Clearly un-American these cephalopods.

  14. You’re just upset that it was an octopus rather than a squid.

  15. Michael said: “You’re just upset that it was an octopus rather than a squid.” Really? :)

    Alright, let’s show some love for the Giant Squid~

    Gentleman Squid
    http://squid.us/

    I Love Giant Squid!
    http://www.zazzle.com/i_love_giant_squid_tshirt-235079847231355344

    Deviant Art 6-foot Squid
    http://lanabosak.deviantart.com/art/Amazing-Giant-Squid-111519775

    Ladies love giant squid!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/beatnikside/49813041/

  16. Congratulations on “The Island” getting nominated, Pete! I downloaded it and read it last week. Great story.

    I loved the utter weirdness of it. The post-post humanity. Blue-collar monkeys finding something even their crazy advanced vessel can’t quite understand.

    Hope you win that Locus thingamajig.

  17. Octopi are trying to jumpstart their grab for power by acquiring some of our tools. But there seem to be some conflicts in the cephalopod empire…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGMT99i00M4

    Congrats on the nomination

  18. Wait till you see a mimic Octopus do it’s stuff.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimic_Octopus..

  19. Does anyone have a good link to a backgrounder for the major SF/Fantasy awards. I’ve sort of heard of the Hugo, Nebulas, Locus and the BAFTAs.
    What are the nuances? How are the awards different? Do different kinds of authors tend to win different awards? That sort of thing.

  20. When I saw video of Koreans eating live octopi I had a sudden perspective shift, it’s not they who are alien monsters, it’s us. We’re the cold uncaring intelligences from beyond the world with strange hard rigid structures propping up our bodies enabling us to live where no rational creature would venture.

    I mean who is eating whose babies alive here?

  21. @Nestor: it’s not they who are alien monsters, it’s us.

    You’re right; that display of cruelty was sickening.

    Personally, I was rooting for the octopus to choke a few Kendo students – if I have to die, I’m taking you with me, m*th*rf*ck*ers!

  22. Nestor: “When I saw video of Koreans eating live octopi I had a sudden perspective shift, it’s not they who are alien monsters, it’s us.”

    It is all about “cultural traditions and diversity”. It is one thing for people of a particular ethnicity and culture, to perpetuate their particular “traditions” within their own ancestral country, it is quite something else to bring a cultural tradition to another people’s country and proceed to continue it.

    Where I live, my maternal ancestral homeland, we are looking at some particular “cultural practices” that are the traditions of people who immigrated to Hawaii. We are told that it is a cultural right to “cock fight”, “eat dogs” and “fin sharks”. So we have to be respectful of Koreans, Vietnamese and Filipinos who eat dogs in their homeland countries but now they should be able to still do this in Hawaii, and the United States. Filipinos, and some Hawaiians, claim bloody rooster fighting is a cultural tradition therefore they have the right to practice it.

    Chinese in Hawaii claim they have the right of their cultural tradition of eating shark fin soup, but Hawaiians argue that this is Hawaii, and sharks are important to Hawaiian Culture, in addition to the cruelty, enviormental and biodiversity-food chain impact in Hawaii waters, therefore they have no right to this so-called cultural practice in Hawaii.

    I for one, am tired of how “diversity” and “culturalism” has morphed into allowing people to argue that they have a right to do such things. When people choose to go live in another people’s ancestral homeland, country or geographic region, they should respect the culture, laws and ways of the land they relocated to. Anyone who has grown up in Hawaii knows of all of the “jokes and issues” of whether mystery meat in some ethnic foods was dog, cat or something not usually eaten.

    Some cultures on this planet do not respect non-humans nor see value in preserving and protecting the biodiversity of life. A contrasting difference in the necessity of killing in order to survive with killing for “exoticism, mystical medicinal hooey, thrills and archaic warped cultural traditions”, can be seen in how some Alaska Natives and Pacific Northwest Native Americans hunt whales for their food, compared to the dolphin slaughter in Japan, or the “scientific whale hunting” by Japan, or the market for tiger, rhino and bear parts for the Asian market, particularly the Chinese.

    Is eating dead primates, such as Chimps and Gorillas, “bushmeat” as upsetting as eating live Octopi? Is boiling crustaceans while they are still alive as troubling as boiling cats alive (this happens in China) to prepare human meals?

    I sometimes wonder if people lack something within their conscience that they cannot realize, understand or feel that what they are doing is terribly cruel, awful and ugly to other life forms. I believe that perhaps some cultures instill a mentality that does not view non-human life forms as being worthy of respect, compassion and care.

  23. Samantha Martin, on April 21st, 2010 at 11:57 am Said:
    “Squid may not skulk about in kelp beds, but octopi don’t get nommed by sperm whales…”

    Yeah, the octopi have enough problems staying away from sea lions. Oh yes — sea lions like them some eight-tentacled snack now and then. YouTube has the proof. :)

  24. well, if we’re on the subject of squids…
    http://ienkub.deviantart.com/art/free-the-squid-146481385

  25. I didn’t mean to post that as a moral judgement, btw, just as a perspective shift

    All else being equal I’d rather be the devourer from beyond the edge of the world than the devouree

  26. Nestor said: “I didn’t mean to post that as a moral judgement, btw, just as a perspective shift.” Yes, this is how I interpreted it. :)

    I do not believe it is about morals or morality, but something else…one does not necessarily have to possess morals, as we usually know or define them, to have a conscience…in my view.

  27. I think eating anything while it’s still alive is generally horrifying, but that’s just me.

    Also, hopefully the good news is a result of sentencing going well. Good luck!

  28. re keanani and nestor

    It may also be worth considering at times that people don’t even have a concept of another living thing being in pain when they cause it to be.

    I used to eat raw mussels, clams, and oysters. I adored them. Especially bluepoints, briny as possible. I used to joke about how I used to be an otter.

    Then, when I started to make some modifications to my diet for a variety of unrelated reasons, I found out that I had been eating them alive. I don’t know how I thought they had been killed — the idea had just never crossed my mind. I had been eating them since I was a kid under 10. I just thought of them as food, not as animals (well, they’re not in Kingdom Animalia last I remember, but you get the idea).

    Now, we can argue that mussels, clams, and oysters don’t suffer much, or their suffering doesn’t matter, fine. Certainly I put human rights above theirs. But this isn’t a case like that.

    And let me tell you, even if I still ate mollusks and crustaceans, I wouldn’t eat them raw anymore. Not just the old invasion phobia. I was revolted, certainly, but at myself as much as at what I had once put in my stomach. As a kid, I might not have been, even if I had understood. I’m a different person now. I’ve been exposed to different ways of looking at food.

  29. footage of the kleptopus making off with some hapless diver’s video camera

    Not a video camera but a regular, run of the mill (if ruggedized) cheapo photo camera. Not that the two categories differ much anymore. (The latest House episode was apparently filmed entirely with a photo camera.) Just add quad band GSM, and in a few years captain Nemo’s favourite pick-up line will be “is that a kraken in your pocket or did you set your bathyscaphe to vibrate?”

    (That joke made no sense whatsoever, but I hear 2 out of 3 octopi think it is funny.)

    Yes, I know, the diver himself calls it a video camera. It’s the Panasonic DMC-TS2.

    Well, I suppose Glenn Beck will raise the alarm once he figures out how to pronounce “octopus”; but what about the rest of you?

    Nothing but the finest prostitutes and caviar for me once Glenn Beck figures out how to pronounce “octopus.”

  30. @V – That’s what I’m talking about – since we can’t be sure of their experience of being eaten alive, dang, better to avoid it for moral reasons.

    Next f*cking life, there one is, having come back as a lobster, bending a weary eyestalk down toward the bottom of the cookpot and, without the kind of brain for language, one just experiences the universal sensation of, “Oh, f*ck, not again.

    If the Hindus are right, think about how many bugs there are, and how many you have stepped on and slapped flat. Think about it.

  31. I am a fan of cuttlefish….I feel like they are the underdogs of the cephalopod world!

  32. So, where’s that good news we were promised for later this week?

  33. @Flanders: Isn’t is obvious? The octopi did get him first!

  34. keanani: you sound a bit xenophobic. If people can eat cows why not dogs?

  35. Bah, dammit. Me and my fat mouth.

  36. @Alx who said: “keanani: you sound a bit xenophobic. If people can eat cows why not dogs?”

    Oh my, without knowing me, anything about me, you certainly are quick to condemn me. I stated that within a place that does not allow for certain practices, that should be considered. It is about culture, and which culture should prevail.

    What does “xenophobic” have to do with disliking a certain cultural practice? They are not linked as you so easily and wrongfully assume. What does my not accepting the eating of dogs in my own place of birth have to do with “xenophobia” whatsoever? You have certainly levied a wrongful barb as to my very character and being.

    For your information some of my own ancestors “ate dog”, as well as “sacrificed and ate human beings”.

    For your narrowminded ignorance, I am multiracial, multicultural and multiethnic. I do not presume to tell anyone in any place in the world in their particular country of their particular people of their particular culture what they can or can’t do. I do however, have the right to express my opinion on any such practices. I do have a right to say I am against it in my own homeland.

    The issue is about having a conscience and the cultural view of non-humans as having rights beyond being just the resource of human beings. It is not about fear of foreigners.

    Thanks for turning something that could have been elevated into the realm of discussing human being’s treatment of other life forms, sentience and the rights of other life forms into something pseudo-politically correct and finger-pointing demeaning.

    I am chimp, therefore am I.

    Chimps feel death like humans…
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8645283.stm

    “…considered as setting humans apart from other species: reasoning ability, language ability, tool use, cultural variation, and self-awareness, for example,” said James Anderson from Stirling University, who led the research team looking at the death of the elderly female.”

    “But science has provided strong evidence that the boundaries between us and other species are nowhere near to being as clearly defined as many people used to think.”

    “The awareness of death is another such psychological phenomenon.”

  37. @Alx ~ Also, and this will be all I wish to engage with you about your statement because I am certainly offended. I can just as easily and rightfully so turn your statement squarely back at you for you are then “xenophobic”, according to your very own words, for not repsecting my “cultural rights”, my “ethnic ancestral traditions” of having a reverence for nature and belief in treating non-human life forms humanely.

    Perhaps it is you, so quick to judge, who should actually, truly think before you point and profess. Really, you do not even know me, and I am certain that I did not say one thing about “cows” and how yummy I find them. You just “assumed” that. I don’t eat certain mammals because I find it cruel how they are prepared while alive and how they are slaughtered. I have friends who do sometimes eat dog. But I can most rightfully express my aversion to it and why.

  38. Ok, let’s see if I’ve got this right.

    The diver has a compact camera shooting HD video, and the octopus steals it. The result is a minutes long chase to try and get the camera back.

    But what does the diver do to entire the octopus to return the camera???

    HE GIVES THE OCTOPUS THE SPEAR GUN.

    Are we all clear on precisely why this is such a bad idea? If all the octopi want is to shoot and enjoy HD video, I say, let’em at it. Because – honestly now – suggesting that they move up to projectile weapons instead is not a good idea!

    Remember – we know from experience that they already know how to aim… http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/3328480/Otto-the-octopus-wrecks-havoc.html

  39. keanani: you sure are easy to offend. I suppose you’d like all of us to become vegetarian immediately? I just said you “sound a bit xenophobic”. Does that sound like a full-blown condemnation to you?

    Why does the fact that you were born in a certain place make your opinion more important than theirs? Cultures have always influenced each other (they have never been set in stone), stop being so narrow-minded. It is no longer just your country, it has become their country as well. As long as the laws are respected I don’t see what the problem is (that doesn’t mean that the laws are perfect of course).

    “It is about culture, and which culture should prevail.” –> You say this so easily, but I don’t see how you could see something so complex in black and white.

    You sure are quick to judge and assume many things about me, even though you don’t know anything about me either (you just went on a one line reply). I never said animals don’t deserve rights.

    “For your narrowminded ignorance, I am multiracial, multicultural and multiethnic.” –> Good for you! Before posting my reply I should have asked for your resume, because it seems nobody is allowed to tell you something without knowing your whole family history.

    “For your information some of my own ancestors “ate dog”, as well as “sacrificed and ate human beings”.–> I’m sure many of our ancestors did things that we would now consider reprehensible. We’re talking about the present right now though.

    As for “something that could have been elevated into the realm of discussing human being’s treatment of other life forms, sentience and the rights of other life forms”, you were already pointing fingers and you definitely were not talking about these issues but were simply spouting hate about people who don’t do what you want them to do.

    “I don’t eat certain mammals” –> I see, so you have no problem with people killing and eating other mammals? I just used “cows” as an example of animals you seem to overlook.

    You seem to think that different cultures cannot truly coexist (and merge over time) and that is part of the reason I called you a xenophobe.

  40. I’d eat dog. Heck, I’d eat you if you were dead and I was in a bind. You aren’t using your meat at that point, anyway. I’m an omnivore, like the noble bear.

    To be clear – if you’re starving, and I get killed, grab a haunch of Hljóðlegur and nom.

  41. Someday I am going to track down and acquire and read a copy of a book with a title something like The Shield on the Head of Pallas Athena, by Jerome Lettvin, MD-Ph.D. and retired MIT EE professor teaching at Rutgers the last I was paying attention. I remember him referring to squids and octupus as sapients, long ago when I was in college.

  42. Having seen the footage, feel the octopus made a filmaker than any surrealist art school wanna be.