Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Project Nim

One of the movies I missed at the festival was Project Nim, starring Nim Chimpsky!

This is a movie that recounts the Project Nim experiment, from the start of taking Nim from his mother at day 15, through to his final living at a ranch, and with a lot of talking about the actual trying to teach him speech and of the conditions he was later left to. There is a lot of discussion in academia about whether or not chimps like him and Koko really did learn something or just moved their hands in a way that pleased the humans watching them.

But more than that, this movie is really about the humans involved, from the first mother he had, to the researchers, and the animal carers. To be honest, this project, although a "scientific experiment" was pretty much a failure from the beginning. They tried, but couldn't really get the science part of it right. The human side came up far too often. While people really did care for Nim, it's hard to see him not being just something that was used for other agendas with no interest in how Nim would fair.

Which, as it happens, is the conclusion the movie comes to. I've always said about science "if it can be done, it will be done" and this is a good example of that. While we do need to learn more about our primate brethren, this does not provide a good template of how to do that.


No comments: