Friday, May 19, 2006

Monkeys can form sentences / The soul of a machine

Pyow pyow pyow . . . hack hack hack hack! Let's get out of here (in monkey talk)

MONKEYS are able to string together a simple “sentence”, according to research that offers the first evidence that animals might be capable of a key feature of language.

British scientists have discovered that the putty-nosed monkey in Nigeria pictured above sometimes communicates by combining sounds into a sequence that has a different meaning from any of its component calls, an ability that was thought to be uniquely human.

Although many animals communicate with one another using calls that have a particular meaning — usually a warning signifying the presence of a certain predator — none has been known to combine these alarm calls into sequences similar to those of human language.

The findings suggest that the rudiments of syntax, a basic component of human language, may be more widespread among primates than is generally thought, and could ultimately shed light on the evolution of this most distinctly human of traits.

Searching for the soul in the machine

If computers could create a society, what kind of world would they make? Thanks to the work of an ambitious project that adds a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘computer society’, in which millions of software agents will potentially evolve their own culture, we could be about to find out.

With funding from the European Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) initiative of the IST programme, five European research institutes are collaborating on the NEW TIES project to create a thoroughly 21st-century brave new world – one populated by randomly generated software beings, capable of developing their own language and culture.


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