Wanting to understand

2019-12-07

Strange but true: only one non-human animal in history is known to have asked a question. Not one species of animal. One individual.

An African Grey parrot named Alex was taught how to communicate using English as a kind of code, and he turned out to be pretty clever. One day they showed him a mirror. He observed his reflection carefully, and then said “What color?”

He didn’t know the word for grey at the time. This is the only time any animal which could communicate with humans has asked for information of any kind.

At least from the animals who have been taught to communicate, curiosity seems to be mostly a human thing. The desire to understand the world, to expand our abilities and find out how other people (and animals) think is one of the things that makes us different from other animals.

In fact, properly applied, it’ll separate you from a lot of humans, too.