Thinking Like an Octopus

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    • #427964
      eridani
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      • Total Posts: 8,950

      https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/06/04/thinking-like-an-octopus/

      ust over five years ago, Inky the octopus became a folk hero because of his escape from a New Zealand aquarium. After squeezing through a narrow chink in his tank, he crawled across the floor and found an opening to a 164-foot-long drainpipe that led to the ocean. As much as I enjoyed the film based on Stephen King’s “The Shawshank Redemption”, which climaxes in Tim Robbin’s daring prison break, I only wish that a gifted animation team like the one that made “How to Train Your Dragon” could tell Inky’s story.

      At the time, I made a mental note to myself to learn about octopuses. From the time that I read about Inky, interest in the creatures has increased dramatically with this year’s Oscar for documentary going to “My Octopus Teacher.” Nearly everybody who spends time looking at octopus YouTube videos, or going further and reading books about them, will be struck by both their intelligence and inscrutability.

      This article will discuss Sy Montgomery’s best-selling “The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness” and Peter Godfrey-Smith’s “Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness.” It will also review “My Octopus Teacher.” Despite the inclusion of the word “consciousness” in both titles, there are vast differences between the two. Montgomery’s focus is on the interplay between humans and the octopus taking place in aquariums just like the kind that Inky fled, while Godfrey-Smith applies neuroscience and Darwinism to a creature that seemingly defies what these disciplines hold as sacrosanct. In either book, you’ll discover that both authors have the kind of love for the octopus that other authors had for the chimpanzee or the wolf. I, of course, am referring to Jane Goodall and Farley Mowat respectively.

      When I was young, there was not much love for the octopus, especially in Hollywood films. In the screen version of Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” Kirk Douglas battles an octopus (or perhaps a squid) that is trying to overwhelm and destroy Captain Nemo’s “Nautilus,” a submarine that is on a mission to ram and sink munitions-carrying ships. As it happens, Nemo’s vessel is named after another cephalopod. The nautilus, which Godfrey-Smith analyzes in great detail, has both tentacles like the octopus and a shell. Hundreds of millions of years ago, a similar creature found that abandoning the shell would allow it to adapt better to its underwater surroundings even though it lost some of its protection. As an invertebrate, the octopus compensated for the loss by developing a brain that can compete with other “smart” animals such as the dog or the parrot. However, the octopus reached this level of intelligence 270 million years ago while the other animals in its league got brainer many millions of years later. In fact, the octopus became the smartest kids on the block during the Cambrian Age that preceded the Mesozoic Age’s dinosaurs. Talk about being ahead of the curve!

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

    • #427977
      KenTankerous
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      • Total Posts: 1,216

      For once in a long time I agree with the Oscar selection. That doc is a heart-warming marvel.

      BTW isn’t the plural for octopus octopi?? Surprising in a counterpunch article.

      "If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States."
      - Henry A. Wallace
      (FDR's Vice President until he was forced out by the corrupt forces of obscene wealth.)

      • #428010
        alcina
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        • Total Posts: 810

        @kentankerous

        At some point in the past, someone in authority made the assumption that the word stemmed from Latin and thus popularized the Latinized plural. The word octopus, however, is from the Greek oktopous. If one were a stickler, then octopodes would be a more appropriate plural. But in my many years working as an editor, I found a roughly 50-50 split between octopuses and octopi, both or which are considered acceptable.

        "The United States is also a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them." -Julius Nyerere, First President of Tanzania

    • #428127
      KenTankerous
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      • Total Posts: 1,216

      Never too old to learn. Thanks, @alcina.

      "If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States."
      - Henry A. Wallace
      (FDR's Vice President until he was forced out by the corrupt forces of obscene wealth.)

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