Monday, June 2, 2008

Crows: Man's Best Friend? Possibly

Joshua Klein is a Principle at frogDesign, an incredible design and idea house based in New York City. I read their blog, frogBlog, religiously and everyday find new ideas and POV that give me new perspective. Klein recently spoke at TED about crow and corvid behavior, his unusual passion for the last 10 years. 

Klein explains that we seem intent on a handful of things when it comes to wildlife. We are very concerned with endangered species, particularly those that are endangered because of human destruction of habitat and hunting of the animals. On the flip side, we show disdain for those animals who have learned how to thrive in spite of a human desire to crush their species - rats and cockroaches are examples.

The most remarkable specimen of a species that seems to thrive on human existence are crows. They always live within a 5km of humans, on every continent except Antarctica. Like chimpanzees, crows use tools, reason, and logic, and then teach these skills to their young and flock. They have memories, particularly of physical human descriptions, better than most humans. They have trained themselves o understand human systems like traffic lights, and then use these systems to their own benefit. They adapt to challenges quickly and can even be taught to use vending machines. Unbelievable you say? Watch the video. You'll be blown away. 

Great observations, Josh Klein. So what? Who cares if crows are smarter than we give them credit for? What can crows do for us? Klein is asking these profound questions and he's wondering how crows and humans can form symbiotic, mutually-beneficial relationships. It turns out that crows could be trained to do a lot for us, if only we apply a snippet of creativity. Collect trash? Participate in search and rescue? Salvage valuable items from a landfill? After all, crows have proven one thing to us that we cannot refute - they thrive on human interaction and they aren't going away from us any time soon. And as long as they're here and willing to be a part of human society, then we might as well make them as useful as possible. 

The photo above can be found here. 

Take a peek at Josh's website:

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