Thursday, 5 February 2004

Not a Norwegian Blue

...but an African Grey. Today's Brain post is about African Grey Parrots, or rather, one particular African Grey Parrot, called N'Kisi.
N'kisi, a six-year-old African grey parrot bred in captivity, has astounded scientists with his 950 word vocabulary, humorous expressions and apparent telepathy.

N'kisi, the companion of New York artist Aimee Morgana, is said to be the first parrot of his kind to go beyond mimicking speech to develop other language skills.

He uses words in context, with past, present and future verb tenses.

Grace Roselli, N'kisi's teacher, says he invents novel words outside his existing vocabulary, including "flied" in place of "flew." Creativity in describing new ideas is a trait typically exhibited by children.

The parrot is also able to link pictures to real people or objects. N'kisi first saw primate expert Dr. Jane Goodall in a photograph with apes. When the two were later introduced to each other, he greeted her with "Got a chimp?"

He also seems to have a sense of humor. Observing a fellow parrot suspended upside down on a perch, he quipped: "You've got to put this bird on the camera."
As I've posted before, my researches on Artificial Intelligence have led me to some uncomfortable conclusions about the boundaries between "People" and "Animals" . I'd include N'kisi as a "person", even if his conversational skills are limited. That's not to say that he should be entitled to a vote, for example. But he should be secure in his person, to kill him would be murder rather than vandalism.

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