Insect Awakenings.

Another PSA announcement: If anyone’s trying to email me, I’m not ignoring you. I haven’t got email for going on 4 days now. Alleged attempts by Dreamhost (the ISP that hosts rifters.com) to fix the problem have so far succeeded in changing its status from from “Everything’s pretty much cool, just a bit of leftover email congestion for a couple of users” to “critical problems, no estimated fix time, you’re hosed, we’ve disabled comments on the status update page, and we won’t even pretend to answer any follow-up queries.” So I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to even read any emails, much less respond to them.

In the meantime though, have a look at this expanded Director’s Cut edition of a recent Nowa Fantastyka column.

*

The study looks almost perfect, if ridiculously low-tech: the kind of thing an undergrad might do with a budget of $3.50. All you need is a mirror, a piece of Plexiglas, and a bunch of ants.

Oh, and blue paint. The whole thing comes down to blue paint.

Start with the Plexiglas. Put Ant A on one side, Ant B on the other. Ant A shows no reaction to its buddy at all. So far so good.

Stick it in front of a mirror. Now it pays attention. Goes up to the glass, taps its reflection, shows interest it never showed with the real ant on the other side of the plexi. Interesting.

Maybe closer than you think.

Maybe closer than you think. (Photo: screen grab from Phase IV.)

Maybe it’s reacting to something in the mirror, some chemical in the silver backing perhaps. So put a dot of blue paint on its head and put it in front of the mirror again. This time it checks out its reflection and starts grooming its head, as if to get rid of that weird-ass dot that just appeared there. It never tries to groom its reflection, which is where it actually saw the paint.

This is starting to get creepy.

Okay, um, maybe it could just feel the paint up there. Maybe it itched or something. So try a speck of brown, ant-coloured paint, something that won’t be visually obvious in reflection.

No grooming.

Put a speck of blue paint on the back of the head, where the ant can’t see it in a mirror. No grooming.

I’m not one to jump to conclusions, but I’m having a hard time interpreting these results in any way other than: ants recognize themselves in mirrors. Which means they pass a test frequently used as an index of self-awareness, a test that even some higher primates fail.

The stats seem sound, generally returning P-values of less than 0.001 (for the statistical neophytes in the crowd, that means the odds of getting those results by random chance are less than 1 in 1000). But the remarkable thing is, the researchers didn’t even do stats on most of their results. They couldn’t do stats, because there was no variation in the data. All the face-painted ants groomed their faces once they saw themselves in a mirror; none of the unpainted ones did. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such clean data in a behavioural study before.

Yup. Sure looks like a top-flight journal to me...

Yup. Sure looks like a top-flight journal to me…

What is this simple-yet-profound experiment, this rock-solid research with the batshit crazy results? Why, it’s “Are ants capable of self recognition?“, by Marie-Claire Cammaerts and Roger Cammaerts. Where will you find it? In the Journal of Science, a publication whose website veritably screams JunkWoo. The title bar on its website looks like a banner ad for generic penis pills. Just below that you’ll see, for some reason, a stock photo of a smiling dude in safety goggles and a yellow hard hat. “Instruction to Author” is either a typo or a tacit admission that every paper in the journal is written by the same person under different pen names. Even the journal’s name seems designed to encourage confusion with more respectable platforms (“the journal, Science?” “American Journal of Science?” “Journal of Science Education?”) while simultaneously discouraging investigation into its actual pedigree. (Google the phrase “Journal of Science”: you’ll get 67,000,000 hits. I scrolled through the first 300 and couldn’t find a single link to the actual journal.)

The Cammaerts are not flakes. They’re well-published in respected, peer-reviewed journals. I don’t know what they’re doing in the Journal of Science, unless they lost a drunken bet at a party somewhere. Or maybe their results are just so incredible that no one else would publish them.

I’m thinking maybe it’s that second thing. If you go to Wikipedia’s page on “Mirror Test”, pull back the curtain and read the backstage discussion, you’ll see editors and commenters stating that they “flat out don’t believe those results”, even while others praise the methodology that produced them. The idea that ants can self-recognize just opens too big a can of worms.

And yet, Cammaerts and Cammaerts are not entirely alone. Way back in 2010, writing in the top-of-the-line Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Björn Brems described research suggesting that fruit flies have Free Will. It wasn’t “free will” in the classic sense— it basically amounted to any behaviour complex enough to make you unpredictable to predators— but as anyone conversant with the literature will tell you, that’s pretty much the only kind of free will we humans can lay claim to as well (albeit with more bells and whistles). And just this year, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ran a piece called “What Insects can tell us about the origins of consciousness“, by Andrew Barrona and Colin Klein.

Evidence against vertebratism. Modified from Barrona and Klein 2016.

Evidence against vertebratism. Modified from Barrona and Klein 2016.

Barrona and Klein argue that vertebrate consciousness is seated in the midbrain, which acquires information about both the organism’s internal state and its external environment. It integrates these into a model that generates behavioural goals— if your internal state is too hot then move somewhere cooler, that sort of thing— and relays those goals to the motor system. The midbrain contains all the elements necessary to sense, navigate, and survive in a given environment. Barrona and Klein argue that such integration is the root of consciousness, and point out insect brain structures serving the same functions; they conclude that insects should experience comparable levels of awareness. (Nematodes, lacking comparable structures, would not.)

It’s important not to go off the deep end here. There’s a huge difference between consciousness and self-awareness, between sentience and sapience (and a belated thankyou to Leonid Korogodski for hammering that difference home to me many years ago); an organism can have conscious experiences without consciously reflecting on their own existence. And the Mirror Test has always struck me as a questionable metric for self-awareness anyway (for one thing, it’s easy to envision an algorithm that recognizes the self without being aware of the self). But the traditional view of insects as mere computer programs wrapped in chitin, utterly deterministic in their behaviour, appears to be wrong. Stimulus A does not always provoke Response B, as you’d expect from purely deterministic reflexes; sometimes the insect is focused on other input, sometimes it can be distracted. We are learning that insects pay attention to things. It seems increasingly likely that their experiences are conscious ones, to at least some extent. Consciousness may be far more ancient, far more widespread than we ever suspected.

Which means that suffering is, too, by the same token.

I’m not sure why, but I bet that explains a lot.

 

 

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday July 27 2016at 09:07 am , filed under neuro, sentience/cognition . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

38 Responses to “Insect Awakenings.”

  1. it’s articles like this that drag me back here nearly every day.
    So much good meat.

  2. Never trust an ISP with email; they all suck at it.

    I’ve been running mail services, professionally and personally, for myself and others as well as for clients, since 2004. I know how to do it right and I’ll host and maintain your mail for free, just for the privilege of saying I do it. If you’re interested, email me at the address in this comment once Dreamhost gets its thumb out.

  3. I don’t see why a mirror reflection is any more impressive than itching for causing grooming behaviour. It seems to be the definition of “self-awareness” rather than a sign of anything truly interesting. Self-awareness is grooming yourself based on seeing your mirror reflection.

    It is a funny definition, but not all that different from the definition of free will as being unpredictable to predators. An ant is self-aware, and a double pendulum has free will. Sure, whatever gets us a publication.

  4. If anything screams “trivially reproduce me” this experiment does

  5. Don Reba,

    the “remarkable” thing is not the grooming, but being able to tell reflected self from real (or reflected) other.

    Small animals usually don’t have extravagant neuron budgets, so we might ask why ants are “willing” to spend neurons on reflected-self-recognition circuitry.

    Maybe it is because of drops. Drops of water. Reflective drops of water. You probably see a lot of yourself in drops when you live at ant scale, what with drops conveniently being ant-scale, too.

    Maybe trying to do some of those touchy-feely ant-to-ant behaviors when you see another ant that really is just a drop reflection of yourself is not good for you. Fitness-reducing. So you better evolve a few neurons that can tell reflection from ant.

    Once that has happened, grooming behavior can build on top of that.

  6. And maybe being able to recognize an abnormality on your head and grooming it away is useful to ants, maybe they might catch a nasty fungal infection before it causes them to, say, climb up on a leaf, lock down with a death grip, and become a vector to infect others.

  7. I can’t find anything about this article. It sounds too awesome to be true, and that journal looks so sketchy, plus it hardly got cited anywhere else, it’s really odd. But: what I did find is belgian and dutch skeptics debunking some of Cammaerts earlier research ( they work at a university in Bruxelles). I could give links – if you know anyone who reads dutch. There is some really dubious stuff about ants getting harmed by ‘radiation’ (as in wifi or cellphones or something), linked to sketchy anti-radiation mumbo jumbo someone is trying to sell. All in all, my impression is that for legit scientists, their methods are worryingly amateurish. So yes, someone else should reproduce this experiment.

  8. I’m not sure that evolutionary biology is the right place to seek answers to why we have consciousness. It can explain all kinds of behaviours, but consciousness seems to be something that quite possibly, tautologically in ways that we can’t physically explain, lies outside physics, in which case attempts to connect it to survival mechanisms are spurious. The aliens in Blindsight were neither (if I remember correctly) conscious nor self-aware, but they were pretty well adapted to this universe.

    Much as they have everything else wrong, the Jovie phrase “God’s witness” has a ring of truth for me. The universe, in creating itself, wants to know itself. Perhaps ala Berkeley, it doesn’t exist at all if it isn’t seen (albeit, using Ockham’s razor I’d discount the need for God in his considerations). So consciousness isn’t a survival mechanism for the parts but the whole. We question the possibility of consciousness in ants, and only consider the possibility because we can see them reacting consciously to something and because they have brains. But why do we think something needs a brain to be conscious when we don’t even know what consciousness is or what kind of time scales it can operate on?

    Not that referring to non-physical possibilities is in any way helpful. I realize it has some equivalencies to appeals to an intelligent designer by those idiots trying to fill in the pieces of a perfectly good evolutionary theory. Except that we don’t have any kind of physically convincing description of consciousness at all as far as I know (I’d love someone to convince me I’m wrong on this), while evolutionary theory is extremely well grounded in the physical. So, maybe unhelpful, but the universe isn’t giving us much to go on from what I can see.

    As to whether or not ants are conscious (I’ll leave self-aware out for now), I don’t have much more problem believing that they are than I do believing my fellow humans are. It seems to me that on some level I have to take both on faith.

  9. Don Reba: Self-awareness is grooming yourself based on seeing your mirror reflection.

    No, self-awareness is the recognition that something over there, something not part of you, nonetheless represents you. The grooming behavior is simply the telltale that reflects (sorry) that recognition.

    peter xyz:
    If anything screams “trivially reproduce me” this experiment does

    I know, right? I mean, we could do it…

    Cassanne: It sounds too awesome to be true, and that journal looks so sketchy, plus it hardly got cited anywhere else, it’s really odd.

    It is. It really is. I’ve seen high-school plays with better production values than that website.

    But: what I did find is belgian and dutch skeptics debunking some of Cammaerts earlier research ( they work at a university in Bruxelles). I could give links – if you know anyone who reads dutch.

    Post, by all means. I don’t offhand think I know any Dutch speakers, but that doesn’t mean one won’t drop by at some point.

    All in all, my impression is that for legit scientists, their methods are worryingly amateurish.

    I disagree with you there. Their methods are basic, sure. Simple as can be. But those methods suffice for the stated purpose of the study; there’s no reason to add unnecessary complexity to one’s methodology, unless some company is paying you to product-place a centrifuge in your Materials and Methods or something…

    Tar: consciousness seems to be something that quite possibly, tautologically in ways that we can’t physically explain, lies outside physics, in which case attempts to connect it to survival mechanisms are spurious.

    For all the shit Roger Penrose gets for his own models of consciousness, I suspect he’s right when he says that we won’t understand this phenomenon until we develop a whole new model of physics. Maybe not even then.

    I’m increasingly inclined to think that consciousness may be more of a side-effect than a functional adaptation. Which doesn’t get us any closer to figuring out how it works, of course, but at least it frees us from having to come up with explanations about what it’s for.

    Tar: But why do we think something needs a brain to be conscious when we don’t even know what consciousness is or what kind of time scales it can operate on?

    Well, according to Barrona and Klein, consciousness needs a brain because the brain integrates certain kinds of information in a way that generates consciousness. That’s hardly an uncommon perspective, of course: Morsella, Tononi– hell, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the field who doesn’t think that integration of info isn’t somehow essential to the phenomenon, because there’s a lot of evidence to that effect. It’s purely correlative evidence, of course, but we know that when you futz around with latency and integration and information flow, you can get consistent changes in the conscious state. And based on our own experiences, the time scales it operates on are a few hundred milliseconds; if it takes longer than that for a signal to cross the “conscious” medium, all the parts can’t fire in proper synch and the system kinda decoheres.

    We’ve figured out enough to be able to induce on/off conscious states at will, and to split one conscious entity into two and then fuse them back together again. But it’s a black box with levers on it. We can move the levers and get results, but we have absolutely no idea why integrated information would give rise to consciousness.

  10. The ‘amateurish’ judgment was based on their older publications – the mirror test sounds ok, I’m just not convinced it happened (as opposed to someones idea of a joke?).

    Oh nice, he actually wrote a piece in english too: http://www.pepijnvanerp.nl/2013/02/ants-performing-statistical-miracle-under-gsm-phone-radiation/ – analysis of the radiation harms ants article. Includes french video featuring MC Cammaerts herself ( did not improve my opinion…)
    Might be worth mailing this guy about the mirror test article, he is a professional debunker and looked into these authors before.

    This one’s in Dutch, about an even weaker experiment of theirs (radiation again): http://kloptdatwel.nl/2016/01/04/cammaerts-en-johansson-doen-deens-tuinkersexperiment-over-nog-knulliger-dan-de-scholieren/
    I imagine google translate would give you the gist of it, details are not very relevant here. This seems rather incredibly bad science, yet it was published by some journal from argentine, linked article contains the title, you may be able to find it ( I don’t care enough to try, sorry). Comments in this link contain a snippet of a response by Cammaerts to the criticism. Again, not improving my opinion.

    And a french version of above linked texts, in case it helps: https://sceptom.wordpress.com/tag/cammaerts/
    A similar one in french ( I think, my french is quite rusty): http://blogs.univ-poitiers.fr/n-yeganefar/2013/06/02/wifi-et-cresson-ne-maltraitons-pas-la-science/

    And last, more amusing than relevant, I found her signature on this thing: http://www.cellphonetaskforce.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/scientific-declaration-to-health-canada-english.pdf

  11. I just noticed the second article has also been translated, so to complete things: http://www.pepijnvanerp.nl/2016/01/cammaerts-and-johansson-manage-to-replicate-danish-garden-cress-wi-fi-experiment-with-even-more-mistakes/

  12. Just found an english version of the second article as well: http://www.pepijnvanerp.nl/2016/01/cammaerts-and-johansson-manage-to-replicate-danish-garden-cress-wi-fi-experiment-with-even-more-mistakes/

  13. Peter:

    “Instructions to Author” –> “Instruction to Author” (in 12th paragraph of your post)

  14. Ah. Right. Thanks.

  15. Nearly all animals fail the mirror test of self-awareness.

    What’s the corresponding test for humans, i.e. the one nearly all of us fail?

  16. Democracy, apparently.

  17. My half pickled brain seems to recall experiments whereby ants from a colony are visibly marked differently by experimenters and reintroduced to said colony where a bloodbath (ichorbath?) promptly ensues, reducing the number of workers of the colony and thereby the colony’s fitness.

    It could be that the ants ability to recognize and correct for the discolouration is an attempt to promote the colonies fitness.

    This begs the question though:

    What the fuck do ants use for mirrors to self inspect?

  18. If true, likely it’s a skill specific to this species of ants, assuming she used (among two others) the same species described in this article: http://link.springer.com/article/10.2478%2Fs11756-012-0112-z
    An ant species that relies on visual clues and thus is much more likely to notice and correctly interpret mirrors. Most ants rely on scent and can be fooled by parasitic catterpillars. Though there are also spiders that look like ants, fooling them by visual clues. At least some ant species have impressive eyesight.
    So to repeat this experiment you’d need to get hold of the same ants, might make it not so trivial. These are supposed to be common in northern europe, but I don’t recall ever seeing them in the wild. Plus some way to mark them that they can’t smell or feel, and a decent lab. Anyone here know any ant researchers?

  19. Well, sorry for the broken email. Might be my fault. I finally overcame my epic social anxiety to send you an email shortly after reading this article in NF, and I knew ahead, something would go wrong. Why? It always does. I don’t know, how bad luck works, but I’ll personally bite anyone who claims, it doesn’t exist (if there’s such a thing as the law of the series, why shouldn’t some series last a whole lifetime? Maybe even for generations. It’s called a family curse then).
    So, here it is again. Please, pardon my English.
    Judging by their behavior, any gang of animals perceives itself as the master race, entitled to use and abuse at will the world outside the pack. But humans seem to be the only beasts desperate to find rational excuses for this purely instinctive, false, yet useful for survival, world view. Since reality doesn’t offer us many (unless you, like an animal, believe, might is right), we either make up some (“We’re the greatest, because our alpha male in the clouds says so, and he’s really strong and will kick you out into the jungle full of demons, if you don’t obey him, so he’s always right” – religion offers interesting insights into an ape’s mind. Or “free will” – freedom is a feeling, a state of mind. It tells you, you’re at the more comfortable end of the spoon, you’re the eating one, not the eaten. Any amoeba has that, I suppose. Freedom is, what you call power, when you like it: We’re good, because we only want freedom, they’re evil, because they only want power.), or inflate any tiny, ridiculous difference we can find into THE GREAT BIG COSMIC ULTIMATE SUPER-PROOF THAT MANKIND IS SOMEHOW BETTER THAN ALL OTHER BEINGS.
    Provided it’s true, it’s apparently useful for an ant to recognize itself in the mirror. Or was, at an earlier evolutionary stage. That’s all it takes – it’s not a big deal, neither for us, nor for them. Maybe, if we look closer into ant world, we’ll find some counterparts to mirrors. I’d also check out, if wasps have a similar ability – they fly above mirroring water, after all, as did ants’ wasp-like ancestors.
    Life is a gladiator arena, where zillions of natural born sociopaths slay and devour each other for all eternity. If we admitted that animals (and plants maybe?) can probably feel and suffer just like us, we’d have to admit, we’re in some sort of Hell, with Evil inextricably encoded in the laws of physics. It’s much more comfortable to keep our minds safely hidden in the Matrix, the virtual reality of animal consciousness, and try not to give too much thought to the heaps of chopped-up corpses at the supermarket, or to the things our hands are doing right in front of our eyes. Yes, I’m not the most cheerful person on the planet.

  20. paul s,

    Epic social anxiety, represent!

    *gaze avoiding fist bump*

  21. Here’s another article on the reproducibility crisis in research via my friend asl2. (he knows I collect things like these (plus articles on corvidae and all kinds of things.)

    Can Robots Help Solve the Reproducibility Crisis? Automating lab work can make results more reliable and easier to reproduce.”

    Ps.

    obXKCD (there have been too many to post just one)
    https://www.google.com/search?q=xkcd+automation

    Pps. Hope your email works again soon. I gave up on hosting my own email and just use gmail and also google apps for users ((dunno if they still do this, maybe I’m grandmothered in) (if you ever want a codersquid.com address, let me know)) and also fastmail because they are in australia and are not google? and also I use pobox.com to redirect to those except for filtering out an ex’s email so it only goes to fastmail since he hates google and I respect his wishes.

  22. U. Ranus,

    My thought process seems to have echoed yours. I too was wondering why among insect species ants would be most likely to be self-aware, and I agree it may have something to do with their eusocial societies. After all trying to bump antennae with every reflective surface you encounter would be pretty inefficient.
    Could it be linked to the division of labour within a colony? E.g. THEY are doing that job, therefore I will do this job. Perhaps there is a need to be self aware of ones unique position amongst several thousand siblings.
    Now I want to see this experiment repeated with other invertebrates. Is this common amongst other eusocial species? Bees? Termites? What about solitary insects?

  23. paul s,

    Good post, minor nitpick: Useful for survival only when cooperation isn’t a more fit behavior.

  24. Completely off topic but maybe not out of place on this forum.

    Donald Trump as the Meltdown Madonna?

    “The reason they resonated is that people have been so fucked by the prevailing order in such deep and fundamental and enduring ways that they can’t imagine that anything is worse than preservation of the status quo. You have this huge portion of the populace in both the U.K. and the U.S. that is so angry and so helpless that they view exploding things without any idea of what the resulting debris is going to be to be preferable to having things continue, and the people they view as having done this to them to continue in power.”

    http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/07/28/greenwald-explains-what-out-touch-media-doesnt-get-about-trump-russia-and-us

  25. Mr Watts, I thought most ants are blind. Was this test done with a specific type of ant?

  26. Tar,

    Ech, once you start talking about ‘outside physics’ you get into crazy stuff like platonism and such. Additionally, even if things are really rooted ‘outside physics’, we know that within physics, events usually follow causes, especially when you start talking about scales bigger than atoms. So, unless consciousness happens at the quantum level, there still needs to be some reason why consciousness exists, and why and how it does what it does, and unless there is some truly crazy hidden-variables-type shit going on there is some way to deduce those reasons. Whether we ever will is a mystery.

  27. tstt:
    Mr Watts, I thought most ants are blind. Was this test done with a specific type of ant?

    Yes, I too am very curious about what species of ant it was

  28. tstt:
    Mr Watts, I thought most ants are blind. Was this test done with a specific type of ant?

    Well, they’ve hardly got eagle eyes but they’re not (for the most part) blind. The Cammaerts did their work using members of the genus Myrmica, which can at least recognize nestmates (they speculate that at least one species should be able to see stars at night). They review the visual acuity of their ants in the paper itself, and conclude that “our attempt to examine the possibility of self recognition ability in ants was not entirely absurd”.

  29. This reminds me of the older Myrmica study about their method of teaching each other to find food. It used dots of paint to differentiate each ant, but I don’t think the researchers noted any preening.

  30. I’m curious if you’d heard about the ants before I made this comment. It amuses me to think I’m manipulating my favourite author with my comments like Valerie’s gang signs do with Bruks 😉

    Speaking of Valerie and Echopraxia, which I’ve been rereading right after Blindsight… would you think it’s a fair observation that there seems to be some sort of intelligence inflation between the two books? Much like in Dragon Ball every new character was much more powerful than the previous, it seems Valerie is exponentially smarter than anything good old Jukka showed himself capable of doing. Likewise, the scramblers seem to be a lot more mundane than Portia.

    The baselines seem dumb as ever though…

  31. You’ve seen this, I assume?

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/kids-and-animals-who-fail-classic-mirror/

    For a while it was thought that gorillas failed the mirror test, but it turned out they did realize that the mark was on them, they just got embarrassed and waited until they were away from the mirror before cleaning it off, and it simply never occurred to the researchers to check if that was occurring. So, if I’m reading that right, it means that our entire understanding of gorilla sentience (which, IIRC, you had at least one character cite in Blindsight as evidence that sentience hinders cognition) was based on the assumption that other species would react in simple and predictable ways to unfamiliar stimuli.

    And that’s before we get into the issue of humans who fail it despite not being any less sentient or empathetic than anyone else.

    It’s important not to go off the deep end here. There’s a huge difference between consciousness and self-awareness, between sentience and sapience (and a belated thankyou to Leonid Korogodski for hammering that difference home to me many years ago)

    I freely admit I’m not as educated in the topic as many of the people who make this distinction, but I can’t help but think that statements like these are a map-territory confusion thing. Maybe I’m just an ignoramus though.

  32. Wow, ants apparently have something like twice the neuron count of lobsters? (If wikipedia is to be trusted)
    An ant connectome might be a bit more challenging than I thought.

    I wonder what the smallest neuron count that can give rise to self-identifying behavior is.

  33. “Stimulus A does not always provoke Response B”

    This as a response to a study in which Stimulus A *always* provoked response B?

  34. seruko,

    The meat… it’s *thinking*?!

  35. Greggles:
    What the fuck do ants use for mirrors to self inspect?

    Maybe they don’t. Perhaps these behaviors are not functions of a capacity to recognize “self”, but an incapacity to recognize “other”?

  36. Deseret,
    You’re right, of course.
    Perception follows profit: we see the world, as is useful for survival. Your inner Machiavelli makes you feed a hungry girl, because he hopes, she’ll let you inject your genes into her body. He makes you feed a hungry world, because he hopes, it’ll let you inject your memes into its heads, where they’ll combine with theirs, and turn into hordes of cute, little thought babies (communication is memetic sex, and we’re having it right now – please, use that sentence at your next family reunion, would you?). A shepherd uses at the same time paternal and predatory instincts towards his sheep, and he doesn’t see a contradiction, because it would be useless for him to see it. And so on.
    Machiavelli has missed a lot of updates in the last million years, so he often gets things wrong. Like well-off people whining all the time, that politicians don’t listen to them, then being appeased by a cheapo “I’m listening now”-show: He hasn’t realized yet, we’re not living in a tiny tribe anymore, where everyone could talk to the chieftain, if he wanted. A lot of stupid behavior can be traced to an outdated perception of reality. But I digress.
    So, what any individual perceives as “master race” is basically people useful enough to care about their well-being. With all the hierarchies and grey areas this implies.

  37. Human-scale animals to within two orders of magnitude rarely encounter vertical mirrors in which they could recognize themselves; hence when they do recognize themselves, this must be through the use of some kind of general-purpose intelligence, rather than through evolution of some instinct to engage in some beneficial behavior in the presence of mirrors.

    How rare are vertical mirrors on the ant scale. Dew-drops? flecks of mica? Your shinier grains of sand?

    Evolution can craft a useful response without self-awareness if ant-scale vertical mirrors are common.

  38. Ok, here’s the off-topic stuff. A few steps closer to Achilles Desjardin having a job.

    How Dallas PD Used an Improvised Killer Robot to Take Down the Sniper

    North Dakota Becomes first US State to Legalise {“Less Than Lethal”} Armed Drones by Police