The Box Experiment
While surfing youtube the other day (which I’ve recently managed to pry open), I found an interesting video that I’ve been thinking about ever since.
The video starts as showing the sophistication of the chimp mind, and comparing it to that of a human child. A black plastic box is brought, and demonstrated in front of the chimp are the moves it has to make to get a hidden reward. A complex series of pushes, pulls, taps, that have to be done so the reward can be taken. The chimp does it flawlessly, and so do the children who are put through the same experiment.
The second part is much more sinister. The black box is replaced by a transparent one. Through it, you can see that there’s an obvious wooden obstacle between the top of the box and the reward at the bottom. Meaning, none of the movements you are doing at the top have any effect on the outcome. The biggest shock happens. The children, knowing the movements are pointless, keep doing them anyway, as they are exactly told. The chimpanzee however, goes “ahh hell”, ignores all the movements, and goes straight to the prize.
Conclusion: A chimp is smarter than a human baby.
Even bigger conclusion, our focus on imitating each other when children and learning through that, while kinda “anti-existentialist?”, is the reason we have society and culture in the first place, the reason we are the dominant species on the planet. Yes, sheeple built society, and you oh so aware and omniscient being, have the intellectual capacity of an ape.
We like being in groups where we all do the same thing, think the same way. We like imitating, and being imitated, it’s the way our species show a connection. It’s how nearly any social group or movement is founded. Does it make it a skill? Does this make people like me, who can never fit in or accept making something we see pointless, at a disadvantage rather than how we imagine ourselves to be?
I used to believe using rationality to cherry pick what you naturally see right from multiple sources is the way to go, but this video is making me rethink the whole idea.
What do you think, should imitation be celebrated?