Oh. My. God.

Discussion in 'BOARDANIA' started by Garner, Mar 30, 2008.

  1. Garner Great God and Founding Father

  2. Ba Lord of the Pies

    But can they be taught to baste themselves?
  3. spiky Bar Wench

    They've certainly learnt their art since I was there. it was all a bit modern and impressinistic when I saw the elephants painting. That was more traditional with great use of perspective...

    The paintings cost a bomb but the money is used for the elephant sanctuary so thats OK then.
  4. TamyraMcG Active Member

    it is an amazing thing to see,I wonder how much of it is a trained behavior though. It does give me pause though, if an elephant can do that, what else is in their thoughts?
  5. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    I was hoping they did something like that - seems very fitting, and a lot more marketable than an Elephant version of the Horta.
  6. Marcia Executive Onion

    What do you mean by trained behaviour? Being taught how to manipulate a paintbrush? Being taught how to represent a 3-dimensional object on a 2-dimensional plane? (I don't know how you would teach/communicate that to an elephant?) How different is that than "training" received by humans who paint? If a human copies a picture of a fruit bowl onto a canvas, we don't say that's just trained behaviour, even though, technically, that's all it is.

    edit: Is it really that strange that an animal with a naturally high level of dexterity (trunkerity?), good visual acuity and sense of perspective (navigates through a jungle) and a strong social structure (need to communicate and receive approval from others) could develop such a skill?
  7. Katcal I Aten't French !

    What I understood Tamyra meant was that an elephant could be taught to pick up a thingy, dip it in paint and then wave it at a square white thingy in a curvy movement and then do the same again with another paint colour and so-on. This would not mean it understood that it was painting a picture, representing anything, or whatever, it would mean it was repeating a meaningless gesture, just like standing on its hind feet and juggling tomatoes. I mean I'm sure even a Rinso could be taught to do that...

    Edit: that said I can't see the video, as I'm at work and Youtube is block, so I'm only talking about what Tamyra said and not about the video...
  8. Marcia Executive Onion

    Have a look at the video when you have a chance. It is extremely detailed and shows a great deal of skill. Even if someone showed the elephant where to place every brush stroke, it is still an accomplishment.

    edit: Also, elephants are one of the few types of animals that are known to be self-aware and can recognise themselves in mirrors.
  9. Katcal I Aten't French !

    I remember reading a book a few years ago called Why cats paint it was quite amazing, but in book form, you couldn't, obviously, be sure that the whole thing wasn't just a scam. However it does seem to have grown into quite a phenomenon. The "official" website is here : Why Cats Paint they have a couple of documentary snippets to watch.

    Cats, as far as I know, aren't capable of recognizing themselves (hence leading to many a funny clip on Youtube), and most of the paintings on the site are abstract, or "easy" things like flowers or whatever, but still, kinda weird...

    Edit: Ewwwwwwwww! (check out the tips, no, some things are NOT art...)
  10. Katcal I Aten't French !

  11. TamyraMcG Active Member

    Having seen earlier examples of elephant art, and knowing how complicated many of the tasks they are trained to do are I am just a bit skeptical that the elephant decided on his/her own to make that painting. I don't doubt they are intelligient and self aware, I just think they are enough different from us that it makes more sense that the representation was taught to the elephant,then that it came up with it by itself.
  12. Maljonic Administrator

    I thought only chimps, humans and dolphins could recognize themselves in a mirror? I'm sure people keep adding to things, making stuff up as I get older!
  13. randywine Member

    You are not alone there Mal.:sad:

  14. Marcia Executive Onion

    Well, I'm pretty sure that elephants have the fine motor capability and visual capability to copy something. Whether or not they have the desire to make representations of things is another questions. However, when human mommy looks at her 4-year-old's blob of fingerpaint that he was playing with because he liked the feel of the paint and the paper on his fingers, tells him it looks just like a tree, and gives him loads of praise, isn't she also "training" him to try to make accurate representations of things? How many human beings would naturally make copies of the things they experience if they did not receive some type of reward for it?
  15. roisindubh211 New Member

    I would have believed it was the elephant's idea if it weren't for the flower- they are very intelligent, why shouldn't they decide to represent themselves on paper? But obviously he/she wasn't requesting any new colours of the paint holder so it's just mimicking.
  16. Hsing Moderator

    ..."just mimicking" is hard to tell... Most of what we do has been learnt by just mimicking. It is a learning technique. Even if drawing the picture was trained with the elephant stroke by stroke, it looks too delicate and is too complicated a task to be rationalized away like that. (I mean, honestly - copy it. I wonder how many of us will do as well, despite a human brain and an opposable thumb.)

    It looks more like an interesting question of the extent of creativity involved to me. While it is true that children, too, have to be taught painting as well, and train it, three or four year olds are -or should be- capable of drawing distinct sceneries they put in their mind before. Let's say, "mom shouting at me because of the vase" contains a woman like figure with a huge mouth and overlarge eyes, a smaller human being and a broken... something. But interestingly they usually lack technique in comparison with this elephant - which isn't just drawing the lines as well, the elephant was also repeating lines that were too faint etc.

    Now this clip shows more likely a case of "trained, not thinking":
    YouTube - stupid dog does not realize there is no glass in the door
  17. Maljonic Administrator

    Now does that apply to the clip or the replies to the clip? :)

    It would be great if the trained elephants actually started to pass on the knowledge to their children and, say in a few generations, you could happen across an elephant, all on it's own, decorating the inside of a cave with chalk drawings of its family.
  18. Hsing Moderator

    I haven't read the replies, youtube comments have a tendency to destroy my hope in humanity.

    And *lol*... the Cave Decorating Elephants... I can see that.:smile:
    Well, both decorating and passing on knowledge can be found in the animal kingdom...

    By the way, I wouldn't have titled the clip - nor the dog - stupid. Not exactly out of politeness towards the dog, more because I think you can't apply valuations like "stupid" or "smart" to an animals behaviour... erm... I mean, of course I've met dogs I thought of as "smart(er than most other dogs"), but scaling their abilities like that doesn't really work, I think.
    For example, what makes the dog valuable for a human is that he listens to them, lets them train him for routines and sticks to them to the detail, etc. This one might be a top drug dog because he doesn't think, "Oh, pretty flower over there, lets do something completely different this time and skip this odd smelling suitcase over here so I get the day off sooner instead of having to sniff through this van for hours...", which would be creative in a way. I thought this was a nice example of "trained behaviour", but I find it hard to apply "stupid" or "intelligent" to animals' behaviour or capabilities in general.
  19. TamyraMcG Active Member

    Way back when I was studying art, they told us that little children seek to make representations of what things actually are, then social pressures stomp those efforts out and they start making pictures more on the lines of what that elephant did. Chimps actually follow the same stages in learning to draw up to the point of making marked circles that most kids will say is a face, but they don't go on to adding hands and feet and calling it a picture of mommy. Visual depictions are as much hard wired into us as verbal language is, and they are getting more and more sure of that.
    I think I have read that an elephants trunk is capable of almost as fine of motor skills if not even more so than human hands, I'm not questioning that the elephant did the painting, I'm just pretty sure he was taught to make those marks and they might not even register as a picture of an elephant to the elephant, like Rogers the Bulls they might have a very different perception of themselves. Finding that out would be way more intersting to me then seeing them do human style art.
  20. spiky Bar Wench

    I think the debate here is revolving around whether the elephant is exhibiting conditioned learning or cognitive learning... Puts academic hat on :pirate: and gives a shortened lecture on the subject:

    Conditioned learning includes instrumental/operant conditioning and classical conditioning.

    Instrumental/operant conditioning:
    • Where a behaviour is reinforced with rewards and punishments
    • So when your a kid and you do something wrong to reinforce not doing the behaviour mum might have given you a slap on the wrist. We learn that a particular behaviour has negative consequences. And vice versa with rewards.
    • For the elephant to learn to paint the trainer would normally reward good painting behaviour with a reward, i.e. food to reinforce the good painting
    Classical Conditioning:

    • Think Pavlov's dog. Is the gaining of a conditioned response from one stimulus and the dog learning to associate that response with another stimulus.
    • So Pavlov's dog; the conditioned response to food is to drool. Through repetition of the dog being given food with the sound of a bell, the dog learned to associate the two stimulus together, so then Pavlov was able to ring the bell, without the presence of food, and the dog would drool.
    • So for the elephant. Through repetition they might learn to associate the paint with using its trunk for other purposes so when the stimulus of paint is given it associates it with trunk movements (not the best analogy but I don't know i lot about elephant physiology)
    Cognitive learning
    • Includes:
      • Rote learning - its actions might simply be a set of repeated behaviours
      • Vicarious learning - it may have been shown what others do and has copied it (this is why you should never dig in your garden with a dog around unless you want the dog to copy you)
      • Formal learning - basically instruction, such as you'd get in school.
      • Cognitive processing - the rational drawing of conclusions by the gaining and retention of facts, their systematic comparison and the complex process of elaboration and the drawing of an individual's own opinion, conclusion or ability in a situation.
        • This last one seems to be what people are arguing as self-awareness.
        • Is the elephant able to assess the painting situation? Decide that what it feels like painting today is a self-portrait with a colourful flower and that it needs to use its trunk to dip into the paint, move it in a certain way for the picture to look the way it wants it too and to be able to judge the outcome as a success or failure compared to the guidelines it has established in its own mind?
    The problem with the video is that you can't see what instructions the elephant is receiving from its trainer. The trainers use a series of touches mostly to guide the elephant, so the sound doesn't help.

    Personally I think the elephant is using a composition of the all of the learning styles except cognitive processing. You can learn things without being able to process them. Instinctive and associative behaviours, along with reward and punishment can achieve the same result and look a lot like intelligence if you don't know the training behind it.

    Thats my opinion anyway.

    Takes academic hat off.
  21. Marcia Executive Onion

  22. redneck New Member

    Spiky, I noticed several spelling and grammatical errors in your post. I liked the way the points were delivered and how you made good use of examples. Therefore, I give your academic hat a "B".
  23. spiky Bar Wench

    Piffle, just because my home computer doesn't do spell check like the work one... My hat is better than that.
  24. Maljonic Administrator

  25. Hsing Moderator

    You tell them that to their faces...
  26. redneck New Member

    C'mon Mal. Don't you know that elephants worked very hard at evolving to walk just on their toes so that they could be the star of the ballet? I mean, why else would an elephant walk on its toes if not to try it hand at dancing?
  27. OmKranti Yogi Wench

    That was awesome. Thanks Garner.

    I really love elephants. I think they are one of the most intelligent and loveing creatures. I want one for my very own.
  28. spiky Bar Wench

    The naighbours might have an issue though...
  29. Maljonic Administrator

    Don't let them fool you Jimmy, if an elephant had the chance it would kill you and everyone you care about!
  30. Roman_K New Member

    It's impressive, but I tend to agree with Spiky's opinion on the issue.

    But still, trained or not, that elephant can paint a better elephant than me.

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