The tragic fate of Nim Chimpsky, or is it possible to make a man out of a monkeyBy Pictolic https://www.pictolic.com/article/the-tragic-fate-of-nim-chimpsky-or-is-it-possible-to-make-a-man-out-of-a-monkey.html
One day, Dr. Noam Chomsky, a well-known linguist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ridiculed the attempts of zoologists to teach monkeys to communicate in sign language. He said that only the human brain can perceive the wisdom of syntax. To spite the self-confident scientist, his opponents found a baby chimpanzee, named him after the linguist Neam Chimpsky (Neam Chimpsky) and began teaching American sign language.
Professor Herbert Terres led a bold project, rallying around himself 60 specialists who had been working with Nim for 4 years. Terres recorded the entire process on video, so that if successful, there would be no doubt about the purity of the experiment.
Unlike other monkeys that were tried to teach sign language, the Nim was kept not in the laboratory, but at home. Terres handed over the tiny chimpanzee to research associate Stephanie Lafarge, so that she would raise him together with her children in an ordinary family.
Terres believed that a complete immersion in human life would help the animal to learn communication faster. Stephanie tried her best to make Nim a full-fledged member of the family. She breastfed the chimpanzee with her baby, taught the primate to eat with a spoon and go to the potty.
When Nim grew up, Lafarge even taught him to smoke weed and showed him how to drive a car. But most of the time her ward spent with his teachers, who filled his sloping skull with the wisdom of sign language. Nim turned out to be a diligent student, although he was inferior in his ability to learn to Washo – a female chimpanzee with whom Allen and Beatrice Gardner studied.
Nim Chimpsky learned 125 signs and could tolerably explain his desires and problems to people. But with the conduct of an intellectual conversation, the primate did not work out. The longest meaningful utterance of Nim was temperamental, but not too meaningful: "Give me an orange, give me an orange, give me an orange, give me an orange, give me you" (Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me you).
But this did not bother Terres and his colleagues too much – they actively promoted their pet in the press and on television, making Nim a celebrity. The fame of the "educated" monkey was in no way inferior to that of the animals that were the first to go into space and there were legends about the success of the talented chimpanzee.
But in the visual arts, Nim succeeded more than in oratory. Unexpectedly, he liked to draw with crayons and felt-tip pens. The chimpanzee paintings were abstract, but far from meaningless scribbles. Neem's approach to drawing was unusual and his principles were never solved.
A chimpanzee could use a single color in his work for weeks, but then something happened and, after long thought, he chose another one to get carried away with it again for many days. During the years of the experiment, Nim created about 200 works that ignorant viewers called "playful drawings of a child".
4 years have passed in sign language classes and drawing exercises. Nim grew into an adult male and Lafarge began to get tired of the pet. The monkey, even when breastfed and raised with human children, remained an animal, and a very dangerous one at that. It is well known that a chimpanzee, although smaller than a human, is 4 times stronger than him, and Stephanie and her household were able to see this for themselves.
Playfully, He could seriously scratch someone, put a serious bruise or bite until it bled. Sometimes he became poorly controlled and then Stephanie became afraid. It all ended with the fact that the monkey attacked one of his teachers and caused him serious injuries.
Immediately after this incident, Nim Chimpsky was removed from human society and isolated in an aviary. He changed his place of residence several times until he ended up at the Black Beauty Ranch animal shelter in Texas. Nim spent many years of his life there, occasionally meeting with his former household members from the Lafarge family. He died in 2000 at the age of 26 from a heart attack.
By the way, 200 drawings of Nim Chimpsky have been preserved and are now worth more than the works of some modern artists. The works of chimpanzees were estimated at $ 25 thousand (1.82 million rubles), however, this is only an estimated value, because the rarity is not for sale.
As for Dr. Herbert Terres, he was forced to admit that the experiment with teaching a monkey sign language had failed. The scientist announced to the world that the phenomenon of the talking primate, which has been exploited by everyone for almost a century, simply does not exist. At the same time, he made a reservation: this does not mean that monkeys cannot think or that they are stupid – they are just not like us and our methods of communication do not suit them.
After the end of the experiment, Terres visited Nim only once in the shelter and the monkey's happiness from this meeting is difficult to convey in words. But the scientist did not stay in the chimpanzee's enclosure for very long – he left the fruit basket, patted the Nim on the head and, without turning around, left forever. For him, Nim was not a pet or a member of the family, as for Lafarge – he was just the waste material of a failed experiment and a reminder of a loud failure.
Nim Chimpsky went down in history as another "talking monkey" and a documentary film called "Nim"was made about him in 2011.