Metavalent Stigmergy

How New Default Consensus Realities Instantiate

How primate porn reveals what we really want

19 January 2008 - New Scientist<blockquote>WHEN four male experimental subjects were found peeking at explicit images of naked female bottoms on laboratory computer screens, you might have expected disciplinary action, a review of internet security, or at the very least a new batch of subjects. Not in this case. Instead, Michael Platt and his colleagues at Duke University, North Carolina, actually encouraged the voyeurs to keep looking. They set up a pay-per-view system and even tried bribing them to look at less desirable images, all the while monitoring their sleazy viewing habits in the name of science.

It won’t help to know that those bared rumps belonged to female macaque monkeys. Don’t jump to hasty conclusions, though, because the male subjects mesmerised by these images were macaques too. What’s more, the payments and bribes associated with these slide shows of simian smut were not financial, but rewards or forfeiture of fruit juices depending on what they chose to view.

You’ll also be relieved to hear that there is a serious point to the project. Primate soft porn may just help solve one of the central questions about how our brains work - how, faced with all the choices we have to make every second of every day, we weigh up the options and convert disparate information about them into a common neurobiological currency. The research could even unravel some of the mysteries of autism. Honest!

[Researchers] knew a lot about how we collect relevant information with our senses, and how we direct our actions, but almost nothing about how we link the two processes in the brain; how we evaluate the options we see and make informed choices about how to act.</blockquote>I’ve submitted a request to New Scientist for permission to reprint the whole article; but in the meantime, I think they may offer a trial subscription that would allow you to read the full article.

Written on January 26, 2008


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