November 5, 2009 – The non-human

1.      Chris Roos
2.      Michael Biller

1.      Donnelly Phillips
2.      Stacey Peros

McClurken Videos
Robert Full on engineering and evolution

Deborah Gordon digs ants

Sheila Patek clocks the fastest animals

David Gallo on Underwater life

McClurken Articles

O’Donnell Videos:

The Intelligence of Crows??  What??

Biomimicry in Action??  Get outta town!

Articles (O’Donnell)


  • O’Donnell

    I expected robots. Interestingly the videos reminded me of a hierarchy that goes something like this:
    animals-humans-robots. Most robots are being designed from animals, or humans from an anamalistic perspective. It scares me how intelligent animal species are, and how obviously they could do without us. Ultimately, if humans died out tomorrow and someone surveyed their existence a thousand years later, it would be negative. Humans limit themselves with selfishness. I think we are all afraid to admit that an animal could ever be as smart or smarter than we are, or designed as well. The same with robots. Because of that we hinder ourselves because we are so prideful. We are stuck following Ptolemy.

  • O’Donnell

    As one of the discussion leaders for tomorrow, we would like to see you all discuss animals and robots and other things that are obviously not humans. For animals: how are they similar to humans? How are they different? How do we share a common bond with other animals? For robots: can they replace humans? Will they help our society or will they hurt it and lead to the destruction of mankind?

    I am hoping our last Ted talk will be a great one!

    –Stacey Peros

  • *sigh* our last discussion! Some of these videos were really cool, but I have to say, the one on the fastest animals didn’t seem to have a point to me. I think the boundaries between the human and the non-human are really fascinating, because we define any concept by the boundaries and so they provide us the most difficulty. The interaction between the human and the other will also become a much bigger deal than we have made it in the recent past, as we are starting to realize that we are not alone on this planet. I think the transition from animal technology to robotic, processed by the human mind, is a really cool integration of the three concepts that I think tomorrow’s discussion will focus on.

  • I am looking forward to this talk. I hope it focuses more on the animal novelties than aliens. Robots, as the first video has shown can and most likely will tie into our talk. I wasn’t a fan of the ant video, it wasn’t that interesting and i don’t think it pertained to this topic very well. I thought the shrimp one was really interesting and the speed that those things moved with was incredible. I’m very interested in seeing where this talk goes.

  • Animals are similar to humans in a lot of ways. They reproduce, eat, sleep, play, think, and according to our last class discussion they are creative. I believe that animals can understand tones of our voices, happy with them or mad at them, but I don’t think they understand what we are saying. They can understand commands like “sit” and “come” because they hear them over and over again but if I am to get mad at my dog and my mother says “don’t talk to her like that” it is kinda ridiculous because I say mean things in a nice tone, they don’t know what I’m saying.

    One day, humans will be replaced by robots in many aspects of life.

    Okay, hear me out, if the human race were to be wiped out but all the animals that are on the earth right now stayed alive, do you think that they would evolve into humans faster than the first time evolution happened? Maybe not evolve faster but be a smarter species during evolution because many animals are very smart now and gorillas can count and things like that. I don’t know. I just thought of that one day and I felt like it fell under this topic.

  • We can certainly learn a lot from these animals- although the same point could have been gotten across in less time spent watching vidoes. I don’t really understand the point of tomorrow’s discussion but I am excited to see how our last ted talk discussion will go. I really enjoyed the story of how seeing eye dogs were brought to America. They are amazingly useful and the sweetest animals. Hippotherapy- at first I imagined a hippo in a doctors outfit going around and visiting patients. To use a horse for physical therapy is a really good idea- not only does the child get to bond with a friend but they are also getting treatment, which is much better than going to a doctors office and having someone bend your limbs and work your muscles. The first reading, although crude, had some really adorable animals. I don’t care what you people say! I think they are adorable! (the mole and the fish and jellyfish not so much) but I love the turtle and lemur! I was watching Deborah’s video when the site decided to implode and so I didn’t really get much out of that video except that people get interested in some weird stuff- and that ants work without being told what to do- something that a few people should take into consideration….With the technology we can get from animals I think that the possibilities are endless. Issues NASA was having exploring craters is solved by the movements of the bug. Amazing.

  • It’s interesting to think about the differences in the human and non-human life and to also compare those differences. We’re becoming more and more involved about finding life on other planets and creating a this “robotic life”. On a daily basis we don’t necessary think about the non-human life but it was fascinating to hear “lifestyle” of the queen ants and their colonies.

  • McClurken
    I think that the fourth video was my favorite. This is an interesting topic. From the movies, it seemed like the animals had a better and smarter way to approach life. I wish that I could walk up walls! The ant movie was interesting because they have a very good system for maintaining their colony, a way that I guess we could use as a guide line. It would also be awesome to have the speed that some of the animals had.
    The animals in the first article were…interesting to say the least. I guess they look the way that they do for a reason. The idea to use animals for those that are disabled is a wonderful idea. This talk should be good, lots to talk about.

  • McClurken

    I thought Robert Full’s topic was very interesting. I liked his theory that we can’t model things after biology we have to be inspired by them. Basically we can learn a lot from animals like how we want things such as technology to move in a certain but we can’t make it exactly like the animal. Those robot bugs showed us that. They studied the bugs and how they moved across uneven and flat surfaces and we inspired to try and match it. Now there’s a robot that could go to Mars and get data.

    I also liked the article about Buddy the seeing eye dog. It shows that animals are very intelligent and can learn just like humans.

  • O’Donnell

    Though many don’t realize this, but animals have similarities to humans. They have sight(not always color though), smell, hear, feel or touch. The difference is humans actually can think about how to approach anything. Animals have instincts that take over in certain situations. I mean yes they can learn through repetitive teaching and rewards, but they don’t have the same intellect. I’m not an animal hater, there are times when I feel like my dog understands how I am. Animals do have an advantage with their ability to adapt to an environment quicker than humans.

  • McClurken

    I’m a little upset right now. I just wrote a really long post and it got deleted.

    Basically, I was saying that we as a society need to embrace nature and utilize it’s fruit. We need to preserve nature’s designs and use them in innovations today. The octopus was my favortie part of all the videos, and we should somehow figure out how he does it and use it….maybe change colors of a house to keep it warm/cold. Hmmm…yes, it will be an interesting talk. Nature is very creative in the way it has adapted to changes and we really need to learn from nature and use what they have shown us.

  • O’Donnell
    I am excited for this talk tomorrow. I love animals and I thought that the videos were pretty amazing. The animal technologies they displayed were breath taking. I loved how it showed how we are also using these designs in our own human world. I think there is alot to be learned from animals and I don’t like how humans take them for granted and see this world as being ours alone. Animals are an important part of our world and should be respected and given an equal place in it.
    As far as robots go I think it is scary how increasingly advanced technology is getting and how we are relying on it so much more than ever before. I think soon many things that were dependent upon humans will be taken over by robots. But there are some things artificial intelligence could never replace.

  • Ugh, machines again? I am really tired of this subject coming up. No, I do not think they can replace humans, ever. I do not think they have any of the capabilities that humans have and they really can not do the job. I think machines to an extent help society, of course. New technology is invented everyday and yes, it helps us. BUT I feel like too much is bad. I do not think machines should be able to teach, be doctors, etc.

    “Animals are similar to humans in a lot of ways. They reproduce, eat, sleep, play, think, and according to our last class discussion they are creative.” I definitely agree with that. I think that animals do have feelings and they know what we are saying to an extent but I do not think they know conversation.

    This talk will be interesting. I am pretty excited about it.

  • McClurken

    So these videos were pretty cool. That octopus that blended in with that bush thing, was sooooo cool. It honestly looked like it was fake. It seemed like it went invisible. Animals and some of the things they do are simply amazing. Some of the things we are discovering and inventing have limitless possibilities. Like how we learned about the springy legs to make that robot that could get down in the craters on mars. Even though that seems like something so little as a robot, but that technology could lead to so much. this is just a little one, just think with more time and resources turning that into something much larger, and think of the tasks that it could accomplish. There is so much else we can learn from animals. However, will we take advantage of them, or even figure out how we could, well that is a different story. There is so many things that need to be done, i highly doubt this is one of the top priorities. If only people looked so different like animals. Every day would be like a trip to the Washington zoo! I wonder if they get offended when people just stop and stare at them for being different. They have feelings too!

  • I thought Joshua Klein and David Gallo’s videos were fascinating. What we know about ourselves and other species has changed substantially. I had no idea that crows were so intelligent. I always felt they were creepy because their always in some part of a scary movie. I believed animals used a specific solution for a specific problem and didn’t apply the solution to different types of problems. After watching the crow video, my view has changed.

    Humans are no different from animals. The only thing differing us from animals is our intelligence. Other than that, we act and treat each other like animals. For example, we fight over land for more territory just as animals do. We just use our brains differently from animals.

    Robots are machines designed by humans to perform specific tasks. I do believe that robots will make specific tasks more efficient just like electricity has. Saying that, I don’t think we should replace humans with machines because they reduce jobs.

  • Thinking of the words “non-human” it makes me think of two main things robots and evolution. When I think of robots, I think of the movie I-Robot and how that could be a possibility in our lifetime. I mean that possibility would be without all the drama and the robots trying to take over. But I think its what is going to happen in the future, maybe not in the next few years but in our lifetime we will have robots that will help us with our everyday needs and whatever else we ask them to do. With that being said I don’t think they will replace us with jobs because once that starts to happen, the government will most likely enact policies that will force companies to employ humans.
    When talking about evolution, I completely believe in this theory. I’m not very religious but I respect all religions and I can’t believe the creation theory when the scientifical evidence is so clear. We are so alike with chimps that there is practically no argument. But as we are animals too we share a bond with all of them. A human’s best friend is a dog and people have all sorts of pets. Going back to the last talk we had there was a video where the polar bear and I think it was a coyote were playing, that is just another example how we as animals of all kinds share a bond. I think this will be a topic that many people will have an opinion on and it will be interesting to see what those are.

  • I think it is very interesting to think about the similarities between humans and animals. I think the two have a lot in common. Both humans and animals have the ability to eat, sleep, reproduce, and experience the 5 different senses. There are some beliefs that human evolved from animal and in that case, it makes sense that the two share so many common points. I believe that both humans and animals feel emotions and have a sense of instinct that can take over during certain situations. For both, instinct can take over during a time of defense or survival.
    I do not believe that robots will take over humans and the population. I do not think that this will occur at all. I think the idea is actually crazy and absurd that it is becoming such a topic of discussion that machinery and technology will soon take over humans and their own creativity.

  • O’Donnell

    I have usually lived by the mantra of: “If it doesn’t bleed when I cut it, I don’t understand or trust it.” Because of this perspective (that is shockingly similar to my grandparents’ perspectives), I’m not huge into robots… at all. My dad is a military officer, and has explained the advantages of robots in the military as means of protection for soldiers (the robots can stake things out, rather than our soldiers). I just have a really hard time trusting electronics. You can gain trust and loyalty with animals in ways similar to that of with humans – compassion, understanding, consideration. Not exactly feasible with metal.

    I’m an “animal person.” I just love dogs above all. I think that animals are just as intelligent and emotionally aware as we are. That crow video? Pretty awesome. I wish we were as built to withstand stress as those zebras!

  • O’Donnell

    The way our society is developing, pretty soon people will be replaced with robots in any way that is possible. Although i am not really too fond of the way things are turning out. Going along with the education Ted talk, i would much rather have a human teacher rather than a robot, even if a robot would be more efficient in teaching. I’ve had my share of electronics failing me and i still think humans would be better even if they weren’t as efficient. I also think that animals are very similar to humans, even if they can’t necessarily communicate with us they still have the same emotions as we do.

  • this talk will be interesting, blah blah blah, like everyone else said. I feel we still dont know the clear boundries between humans and non humans. I hope we focus more on animals and maybe a little bit of robots and less alien type.
    I agree with Seth, I definatly thought of i robot and how interesting it is that robot and human could interact like that. That is our next step to master. We have started but we need to perfect this. To go along with this we could give these robotic limbs animalistic qualities and make them better than human limbs, extraordinary.

    Sorry this was late, i was more focused on registration and my presentation on tuesday, so i forgot, tyler

  • Today’s discussion was really fun! I enjoyed talking about the intelligence of animals and if we could ever reproduce emotions in robots. I think it would be cool if your robot could have emotions and relate to you, but how sincere would these emotions be? and aren’t emotions a symbol of sincerity?- at least on a basic level. Certainly you can fake an emotion, like when someone gives you a gift you don’t like, you still pretend like you love it because you know that they spent a lot of time and thought in procuring your gift. But on a basic level, emotions are sincere. You cry when you are sad- but crying isn’t the whole aspect of being sad. Being sad is something you feel, a sinking feeling of just…sadness and the byproduct is crying. If a robot decides that this particular situation calls for ‘sad’ and cries, he isn’t really feeling it. He can’t relate. Sincerity does count for at least a portion of emotions I think- and I don’t see how it would be possible for someone to create feeling for a robot, but who am I to say that the technologies of the future can’t produce emotions. Lets look to the animals! I think that we really need McClurken for discussions. He is able to bring facts to the table that keep the conversation going- today’s discussion, however, was on topic the whole time and was fun! LAST POST POST! 🙂

  • I think that today’s talk, the LAST ted talk, was one of the best, if not the best ted discussion we have had. I thought that the leaders had a lot of really good questions to ask the class that required each person to really think about how they’d answer. The leaders’ questions opened up the window for a great discussion because people had so many different opinions. We started the class off by saying each of our favorite animals and why. I think that humans and animals have a lot in common and I think that animals do understand a lot of what is going on around them. In class we discussed whether or not animals have right and I believe that to an extent, an animal has every right to live a happy, healthy life. Haley mentioned that she ate organic meats, which means that the animals are raised in healthy environments, are not drugged, or given unhealthy chemicals before being slaughtered. I feel like every animal should have the ability to live a healthy life without being drugged or hurt throughout their life in preparation to be slaughtered for food.
    The idea of robots taking over concerns me. I don’t believe that robots are a better solution than humans. Humans create the machines; there is a reason for that. I do not think that machines can ultimately do the job that humans can but together they can make a great team.

  • I think that animals are intelligent but I definitely think that humans are far more intelligent than animals. I do believe that animals are, most of the time, underestimated. I also think that animals do have rights, to a certain extent. They’re just not able to express their rights like us humans can. I think the way animals are killed for food for us could be done in a much better fashion. If it were humanely I wouldn’t have such a problem with it. I don’t really know enough about this topic to argue it though.

    I think the first step is that people need to acknowledge that there is a better way to do what we do now. I think that a lot of people are just ignorant and don’t really care about the environment enough to want to save it. The environment has been so good to us and we don’t give it any respect in return.

    I find it fascinating how many different kinds of animals Haley has had and still has. The only unique animal I’ve had is a robin. I would also like to add that raptors (the dinosaur, not the bird) are my second favorite animal after sharks.

  • McClurken
    Today’s talk was interesting. It was weird how it was so hard to talk about the non human, and the thing that was most talked about was robots. Can we define the human versus the non human?
    I thought that the ants were amazing in that they have an incredible amount of organization. I do think that we take nature for granted, and we look at those who are so enthusiastic about nature, and what it has to offer to us to explore, and think that they are weird. Maybe it is us who are weird.

  • O’Donnell

    I was really pleased with our discussion today, and I thought Donnelly and I did a good job as leaders. It is so strange that this was our last Ted talk and now we will be sharing our own ideas! I am hoping our Fred talks will be just as interesting as these discussions.

    I was pleased as a discussion leader because we covered all of the main points we wanted to cover. There were points where the group did go off topic, but that is expected when the topic is something fun like animals. I am glad we got into the topic of robots as well. Personally, I do not believe we should use robots to do our work JUST YET. Maybe when the technology becomes more reliable, then we could start using them. I also enjoyed talking about the crazy squirrels we have here on campus. I am glad it went well because I was scared this was a topic where no one would really have any input, but I was very happy with the overall input of the class.

    –Stacey Peros

  • I think that in response to our discussion about whether robots could ever have emotions: I don’t think they could ever actually feel the emotions the way we do, but at the same time, we’re never actually sure what another person is feeling, so I could foresee a future where robots could imitate human expression of emotions to the point where we would be unable to tell the difference. I think there are people who don’t really feel emotions the same way the majority of people do, and they have simply learned to imitate what others do (Dexter, as I mentioned, or Meursault in Camus’ The Stranger, are good examples). So I think that the definition of what is a human is a blurrier line than it appears at first glance, and I wish we would have delved into that more. However, I think our discussion went rather well, especially sans professor.

  • Being discussion leader for this topic, was a challenge and a half. This topic was so hard to discuss, but you would think it would be easy to talk about. Basically our discussion was more on the technology basis, and not about animals. Is that because we are taking out the animals from our society now. What I was trying to bring up was that, is it good that we are evolving into this much depth of technology, for example having a robotic bug. It was interesting though to see how us humans learn from other species, and take their methods and build our society off of it.

  • O’Donnell

    I think the last talk had the most contributers which was really nice. This seemed to be a subject that everyone could add something to. Go free range, organic-fed animals. Mass production of meat sucks. The talk on robots reminded me of the last Terminator movie. Excited for our personal Fredtalks to begin!

  • McClurken
    (Sorry this is so late I had trouble with my internet)

    The discussion was interesting but it took a while for us to get the ball rolling. We tried not just talking about robots but I think I peoples minds that is what non-human is when we think about it. Also we brought up the subject of emotion for humans, animals and robots. The way I see it is that humans and animals have emotion we just portray it differently. Humans control their emotions and don’t act immediately animals, however, do. They act on every emotion that they have which I think is a good divider of human and non-human. When bringing up the subject of giving robots emotion I thought we would be able to have robots show emotion but we can’t really make them feel emotion. We ourselves can’t really describe emotion so how can we make something else have something we can’t describe? Over all it was a good discussion.

  • McClurken

    I feel like this was not a very great talk…of course we love our pets, but I feel like that is the extent. Obviously we are more interested in the “non-human” as to be robots, not animals. As I said earlier, we just take the animals for granted and really need to learn from them! We talked about robots and whatnot for a bit, but I feel like we covered that in the technology day. I love animals, but I feel like we just don’t understand them enough and those who do understand them we think are weird (for example, the ant or mantis lady).

  • I thought the “non-human” was topic was great discussion to end on. It was fun and mostly everyone had an input on the matter. Even when the class got off topic the group leaders were able to recapture the class. Overall I thought it was interesting to listen to everyone’s views on the topic.
    Humans are no different from animals. The only thing differing us from animals is our intelligence. I am still waiting for Mr. Odonnell to show us the meat packing video.

  • I don’t know where my post went? I had posted one right after class? Anyway, this day’s discussion was slightly awkward at times due to Dr. McClurken not being there to ad his insight. But, other than that it was a fairly interesting talk. I mean I care about animals but I seem to be more interested in robots. I feel as though humans have taken characteristics from all sorts of animals and we are now the most complex being in our own natural world. But robots seem to interest me more, as we talked about expressing emotion. Do we as humans actually feel emotion? Or are we just genetically able to show it as a reaction to certain events? I feel as though robots could be very human like, but would not be able to learn or create their own thoughts. What is plugged into a robot is what is going to be there, I do not believe any new information can be added or old information be lost without some adding software or deleting information.

  • for a last talk this was a fun topic to talk about. We focused a lot on animals and not so much on robots, but that’s understandable, animals are more fun. When we did talk about robots it was interesting to hear what people thought of using them in the military and thinking back to our education discussion, teaching students in schools.

  • McClurken

    I thought the class went pretty well for not having McClurken there. It was evident that the start of the class was a little slow because people were not into the whole camera in your face style of discussion. This was one of the first topics i think that we were on topic the entire time. The part about emotions made absolute no sense to me, or the same people who were arguing that maybe we don’t feel emotions were majorly contradicting themselves for almost every other discussion we have had. Have we not discussed how different colors make you feel different ways, or different type of music make you feel certain ways. So, when one of your parents die, you cry just for fun? You are expressing an emotion that you don’t feel? I honestly can’t believe this…it is just ridiculous. But, besides that our main point was if we can make robots have emotions. I still don’t see this being possible, but then again i am sure people back in the day never saw the internet as being a possibility, so who knows. I definitely think we can program robots to show emotion though, it would take a lot of effort but i think it can be done. Overall it was a good way to go out with our last discussion for the semester.

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