Look, don’t get mad, but according to research and video evidence available, chimpanzees do much better on short term visual memory tasks than humans. This ability has to be seen to be believed and below are a few videos to astound you.
Could this be faked digitally? Sure. You could just teach the chimp to press squares at random and then using digital editing, you could put the right numbers in the video to make it only look like the chimp had guessed correctly. You might also use deep fakes to create a really convincing digital chimp and then direct it to choose the right squares. None of that is what’s going on here, however. The research is real.
On Twitter, you can see people arguing that a trained human could do as well on the memory test designed by researcher Tetsuro Matsuzawa, but the reality is, no human has. Humans have definitely tried, some with hours and days of practice. While some humans do much better than most of us, none could beat the chimps in Matsuzawa’s lab. With.a human brain, we simply cannot do what they can. In just 0.65 seconds Matsuzawa’s star chimp can easily remember the location of 9 digits placed at random on a computer screen. The chimp can subsequently point to these numerals when the digits are quickly covered and hidden. We can’t. They can. Ha ha on humans. Okay, now calm down.
Some things just are the way they are. This chimp memory demo really bothers some people, specifically those with a “we are superior to animals in every way” complex. Perhaps the fact that this chimp is better at this task using a computer, something we humans invented, is part of what might seem like an insult. It is no insult, however.
The reason chimps beat us at this appears to be that during evolution humans traded a lot of short term memory space in our primate brains for the speech centers we now have which allow us to use complex symbolic language. We can talk and they can’t. Ha ha on chimps! We win! Go humans.
Still, we can’t beat them at short term visual memory tasks. Watch this video showing an amazing chimp computer skill.
Tetsuro Matsuzawa at the Kyoto Primate Research Institute in Japan devised a memory test for chimpanzees on which they significantly out perform humans.
If your competitive human ego says, “No! This can not be!!” then consider this: Dogs have a much better sense of smell than we do. You don’t hate dogs for that, do you? Bees can see ultraviolet light we cannot. Cows can digest grass which we cannot. If you train hard, if you spend years training and practicing, if you focus and meditate and practice every day year after year, well, … the dog, bee and cow will *still* beat you at these respective abilities.
What we can do, however, is invent devices and strategies to supplement our existing biological abilities, such as they are. We have excelled at this. Our ability to “time travel mentally,” that is, to run useful possible scenarios in our mental models of the world, this ability allows us to excel at planning and at inventions.
We do have to accept our limitations as human beings, at least at times. The point of knowing our limits is not to be depressed or to feel put down by reality, however. The purpose is to accept what is and then to go on to make the very best of it. This attitude has allowed us to “see” a single Hydrogen atom and to peer back into the beginnings of the entire universe, seeing the oldest stars.
Thanks for reading. Here’s a banana with a tattoo. Don’t worry, this artwork was not created by the above Chimpanzee.
Would it bother you if it was?
Okay, one last thought. Does a chimp have any concept that humans built the entire building it lives in? I think not, but if so, would that chimp then think that every human being has the god-like ability to create any human building? This question might be relevant to alien human interactions if we finally make first-contact with an intelligent non-human ET species. We might think that they know how to build the ships they arrive in, for example, but the individuals we encounter might have no idea. They may only be the pilots, not the architects and engineers.