If animals could talk to us : The Koko Experiment

Updated: Sep 18, 2021

One of the strongest skills that humans have developed with evolution is communication and language. Overall we have 6500 different languages and even automatic translators of 100s of them are now available freely on the internet. However, the Koko experiment is a story of a Gorilla adopted in a human family and taught how to communicate with humans.

Koko started understanding sign language and english words within 2 weeks of time living with Humans. Ultimately she would learn 2000 words in English and 1000 words in sign language. She would talk to humans about her daily life - ask for food, ask for tickling, ask for water, tell stories of her childhood. She would play, she would sketch and read comic books. She would watch movies and get emotional, talk about her urge to adopt a kitten. She even adopted a kitten and named her "All Ball".


Not only did Koko learn the sign language, she would teach others when she met other Gorillas. And amazingly, those Gorillas picked up the sign language little bit in a very short meeting itself. One such was Michael who learnt the sign language as a child and told the sad story about how her mother was killed by Hunters and Poachers in the forest before he was himself rescued by some activists.


It's an amazing story of feelings and a deep philosophical view of our relationship with others who inhabit this planet with us. Koko and Michael told us their stories. They showed us that they had the same basic feelings and basic needs as us. This planet belongs equally to those who were born here - not just Humans, the Gorillas, the Lions, the Fish, everyone has a share in this planet. The Human misadventure might have misled us into thinking that Earth belongs to us and we can do whatever with it but that is not true. We have a responsibility to be responsible.


An evolutionary view of the story tells us how we were the same as them at one point of time. Learning languages and learning communicating with each other. It took a long time to develop the communication effectively to be able to understand each other well. It took even more time to develop communication as a record for ideas through writing. Once ideas started getting recorded, the next generation could use those ideas and build on them like Stepping Stones to progress to even Greater Heights. Before this, ideas did not travel to the next generation and every generation began from the same basics. Using that communication to advance the civilisation through education and research and then passing over to next generations, humans have accelerated to the most dominant position on the planet.

Another learning from the discussion is to understand how language and communication is the single most important aspect of education and human progress. If we cannot communicate our ideas and thoughts effectively to others, then our ideas will not propagate further, and those ideas will not lead to progress. From a students' point of view, it's important to focus on learning better communication - language and literature - are an important part of the curriculum to develop these skills for better understanding what is being communicated in your science books. Reading is an important habit for you to pick up so that you can communicate with the smartest people on the planet and learn and not just with your immediate surroundings. Learning another different language like German or Chinese or Latin is a great way to not just enhance your IQ but find global opportunities to work.


In the bonus video, we have a look at Koko and Michael communicating their ideas and thoughts with humans. Scientists were able to measure that they developed communication skills upto a 3 year old human being. Like, share and subscribe for more byte sized knowledge and be smarter every week. Comment your thoughts and ideas below.


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