[ExI] mammalian contenders was: go canes!

Stuart LaForge avant at sollegro.com
Sun Sep 4 16:47:51 UTC 2022

Sorry for the duplicate post but the previous one was missing a link  
to the Slate article I referenced.

Quoting Bill Wallace:

> chimps - I need to do some research but here is what I read about chimps:
> there are some tasks that they are better at than humans, and the
> difference is that the chimps don't have a couple of biased ways of
> thinking that humans do have.

This is true. For one example chimps do not engage in pointless  
ritual. Humans on the other tend to imitate the people around them,  
even when it is of no clear benefit to them to do so. This is  
illustrated by Victoria Horner's research which is show cased in this  
shot video clip (3:29) from Nat Geo.


> Now think of this:  suppose  chimps keep evolving - they could wind up with
> better minds than ours (unless we mess with our genes and get rid of the
> ones that produce bias).  And since an adult chimp (not the juvenile ones
> like Cheetah, for those of us who remember him) is stronger than three or
> four men, they could take over.

Cheesy science fiction movies aside, chimps will never pose an  
existential threat to humans. The high end estimate for chimp  
populations left in the wild are about 250 thousand individuals. The  
U.S. has about 2000 additional chimps in captivity. Even without  
firearms or technology involved, 250k chimps stand no chance against 8  
billion humans. There are 32 thousand humans per chimp. That is going  
to be a curb stomp even if each chimp has the strength of four men. :)

> Or maybe we could mess with their genes
> too and prevent that.  Endless possibilities for messing with the genes of
> all organisms we might like to change.  Limiting possible enemies:  you
> could call it 'germ warfare'!

Actually it is called germ line engineering, and we are already using  
it in the form of gene drives against mosquitos who are actually far  
more dangerous to us (still not an existential threat) than chimps or  
any other mammal.

A far more realistic contender for the spot of top mammal would be  
raccoons. They are smart, their populations are surging even within  
our urban centers where they are starting to outnumber rats, and they  
have opposable thumbs that allow them to operate our technology.



More than the threat of disease, the thing we seem most flummoxed by  
is their gall. The animals seem not to know their proper place in the  
animal pecking order. At least rats know when to hide. Raccoons seem  
to regard humans as the rube roommate who overstocks the fridge and  
conscientiously cleans up after everyone else.

Of course, we don’t really like to equate ourselves with animals, so  
we often don’t think about where we ought to belong in the pecking  
order. But it’s us humans who have expanded our environment into  
animal territory. So far, we seem to have done so quite successfully.  
Raccoons are simply flipping the script by adapting instead of running  

So yeah. Raccoons are more likely to succeed humans than chimps are.  
For post-apocalyptic science fiction, forget "Planet of the Apes",  
make way for "The Raccoons of the Ruins" :P

Stuart LaForge

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