Will Crows Work For Peanuts? Ask Joshua Klein
Joshua Klein got a crow in his bonnet about 10 years ago that wouldn't let up. It was to teach crows how to live more purposefully for man, so that man would not annihilate the pesky species. (Thank heavens it wasn't a bee in his bonnet; we've done quite enough for man, thank you.)
So the subject came up at a cocktail party one night, the subject of crows, and rats, and cockroaches and other species generally repellent to man. And Klein thought "We can't annihilate all these guys. Maybe we can figure out a way to live together so that man and pest can help each other [or words to that effect]."
Now Klein had other projects going on. He's a technologist, "a quintessential hacker," people say. One that takes apart everything, and puts it back together better. Like a good consultant is supposed to do.
But finally, after 10 years of studying crows in his "spare time," Joshua Klein has given some crows in Ithaca, NY a really good setup. Klein has taught a bunch of them, remotely, through basic operant conditioning, to feed coins into a vending machine so they can get peanuts. And the original group of crows have taught other crows, including their offspring, to find the coins and put them into the vending machine to get peanuts.
That's the beauty of his project... that crows learn quickly and they teach each other. You'll notice in the pictures that the sea gulls are just hanging out wondering what's going on.
This was an important study. The next step for Klein is to teach the crows to pick up yard debris for peanuts. I'd like that. But Klein's thinking of bigger things, like cleaning up a stadium after a Superbowl....
Do you think each team should bring their own crows?
That's the buzz for today...
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