By now, just about every news affiliate has picked up the story on Jungle Island's Orangutans and their use of iPads. And, you thought that an Orangutan's daily regimen consisted of eating, sleeping, looking cute, auditioning for movie roles and flinging feces at bratty little kids and women with giant, cotton candy-style hairdos. Oh, how wrong you are. These great apes have a higher calling--they use iPads as part of their daily dose of entertainment.
Flinging feces* might pale by comparison to using the iPad. Let's hope so.
But, the Orangutans don't play Angry Birds on these iPads, they actually use them to communicate with their trainers. It's also a measure of how well the animals feel. If one doesn't feel like "playing," then the trainer knows to take a closer look at the health of the animal.
An interesting point to note is that the older Orangutans really have no interest in using the iPads. The younger ones do. It's very similar to the way humans behave as well. This is an aspect of human behavior that I find fascinating. I would love to see some data on age vs. tech use/obsession.
The research could explain why preteens, teens and young adults sit around peering into their cell phones and other mobile gadgetry with thumbs a-flyin', while the rest of us leer at them with utter disdain.
While I haven't done an independent study any further or more scientific than empirical observation, I think that there is a chemical change that occurs in more mature animals that signals the brain to, in effect, "grow up." It sounds odd but I think that it's the biological equivalent to the proverbial smack upside the head. It's a signal that moves the brain into survival mode. The old "business before pleasure" thing that your parent tell/told you about.
It's an instinctual change that we have no control over. For example, I've always thought that if you wake someone up from the dead from two, three or more hundreds of years ago and set them down into our technology-obsessed world, they would readily accept it, once they understand it. A child from 1512 would be playing video games with his contemporary counterpart in a matter of hours--no problem. That same child would soon learn to use his thumbs to communicate with his peers. And, his parents would complain that he's consumed with fleshly pleasures and demand that he go chop wood, slop hogs or something equally unpleasant and non-tech related.
A scientist from the Orangutan Foundation International said that she isn't surprised by this analogous behavior, since Orangutans share some 97% of their DNA with humans**.
In the future, the Jungle Island scientists hope to equip the Orangutan habitats with ape-proof versions of computers or iPads. Good luck with that. I think that another similarity between young apes and young humans is that they care very little for preservation of anything that they, themselves, don't pay for. Since Orangutans also communicate through sign language, I'm sure my opinion about their personal use of technology would elicit the same gestures that their human counterparts flash at me after I launch a disapproving glance in their direction.
*The human equivalent might be flame wars or otherwise rancid commentary, for some of you anyway.
**Hopefully, by "share," she means that Orangutan DNA is very similar to human DNA. Any other type of DNA sharing would make me ill.