I’ve had this idea in my mind for many years to build a new type of place where animals can live. I call it the “Cognitive Animal Farm”. It is not really a farm, it is half science lab and half sanctuary where animals can live. I would imagine the types of animals would be mostly mammals, but certain other species could work as well. The farm would serve 3 purposes. 1) As an experiment for an alternative space for animals to survive in our human dominated world. 2) As a lab to study animal intelligence 3) As a lab to experiment with new forms of animal/human societies and animal work.
Alternative animal living spaces
The places an animal can live continues to shrink over time. The best place is their natural habitat and I sincerely hope we can give more land back to animals, but as the human population continues to grow, space for animals continues to shrink and animal deaths and extinctions accelerate. The other place they can live is in zoos. Zoos are nice for humans and animals to interact and for humans to learn about animals. Many people believe its cruel to have animals in zoos, but it may be better than just letting them all die from human disturbances. The last place animals live in are animal sanctuaries. Sanctuaries are places where animals are protected for the rest of their lives. These sanctuaries are usually non-profits. These animal living areas are usually lacking in funding. So I’m interested to see if there is a new form of animal living spaces that could be self-sustainable. Self- sustainability could happen in several ways: new forms of funding or with a new animal work model that I discuss below.
As a lab to study animal intelligence
It fascinates me that humans are the only species we know of that has the level of intelligence that we do. Artificial Intelligence research is one of the main R&D focuses of the 21st century. Scientists already study humans and animal minds to inform our computer algorithms. In many ways, actually in almost all ways, animals are more intelligent than computers. Animals have homeostatic systems, they can change their goals in real time, they have powerful object classification systems, their memory structures are closer to humans than computers, they have various other sensors to interact with the world, they can do real time navigation, and much more. Animals can do some of these things much better than both computers and humans. Could we accelerate the testing and innovations coming from animal intelligence experiments. Then use these learnings to build out new algorithms and products to improve our lives. The farm would have facilities for building out experiments in intelligence research. Some ideas for experiments I’m interested in (these have probably been done in various forms already):
- experiments in animal/human communication
- experiments in animal specific computing devices
- experiments in animal specific internet and learning informations systems
- can certain animals be taught to follow different schedules
- can certain animals be taught to not kill and eat animals they normally would in the wild
- can certain animals be taught to only defecate in certain areas
- can animals pass on human trained skills to their offspring
- can these experiments be combined and merged in different configurations
Anyone with a good idea and the will to do it would be encouraged to run research experiments.
A lab to experiment with new forms of human-animal societies and animal jobs
In human society, the worth of an animal is fairly low, the main uses are as a food source, entertainment in the form of pets and zoos, and for experiments in science. I’ve alway wondered, could animals be trained to take on jobs and self function within a human society. Money is the currency of human society. If you have money, you can basically do whatever you want. Animals as they are now, have no way to earn money besides giving away their lives and I doubt they want to do that.
Could you have humanlike work societies, but with animals where instead of purely hunting, animals were able to do other forms of work to “earn a living”. And if you were to build this, would the society’s intelligence level increase. Would the intelligence of the individuals increase as well?
Could some of these skills be enhanced enough to be used in human society. Current animal jobs we have are police dogs or plowing animals. We already know animals are smarter than computers in most ways. Just like how smart phones and the internet are extensions of the human mind, can we build computer systems for animals that allow them to accelerate their intelligence and maybe give them a place in our human-centric society to be more than our food. Let’s walk through 2 hypothetical examples: 1) Robots are not very mobile, they can’t navigate the earth like animals. Could we have computer systems attached to animals as a way to do certain tasks like security patrol, vacuuming, or delivery of certain items.
2)A wilder example: We all want autonomous vehicles, but there are many unsolved problems like detecting dangerous situations. Could we have animals be connected over the internet to cars acting as agents to monitor for dangerous situations?
This idea has been noodling in my mind on and off for many years in various forms. The idea seems crazy, but I wanted to at least get it out in writing. If some form of this could succeed, I imagine this would be replicated and mini animal cities would popup near human cities. I’d probably start with chickens or mice.
IF this were to be built, I think it should be build either as a public benefit corporation, a DAO, or some combination of both. You would need to come up with a plan, buy a lot of land, raise lots of money, assemble a team of passionate animal advocates, cognitive scientists, computer scientists, entrepreneurs, builders, and start building it.