The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Wednesday, January 01, 2003


Drudge has a link to a Telegraph story about a chimp who appears to have created his own sounds for four concepts (three fruits and the word "yes"). Aside from the normal gee-whiz reaction that anyone would get, this news is interesting to me because it relates to the celebrity who lives closest to me.

I live in Sky Londa, which is an unincorporated community of a few hundred people near the junction of California state routes 35 and 84. We have several local celebrities. Joan Baez lives nearby, but I think closer to Woodside. Neil Young used to live on a nearby road, but I think he has moved out. The closest celebrity to my home is not a singer, but a signer -- Koko the gorilla, famous for having been taught sign language.

A friend of mine is an artificial intelligence experts -- formerly one of the top researchers in the field of "artificial life" -- and he is skeptical of the claims of Koko's linguistic prowess. He thinks that Koko's signings are basically random, that the researchers who study her have massive amounts of footage, and they can choose excerpts that make her look intelligent.


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