Scientists Train Cockatoos to Open Locks

Nothing is safe

    Photo: University of Oxford

A robot uprising may be the apocalypse scenario du jour, but it’s time to get real and open our eyes to the true threat. Cockatoos.

Researchers at Britain’s University of Oxford have been training the fluffy, feathery engines of human demise to unlock mechanical locks and puzzles with increasing success. One cockatoo named Pipin, presumably their leader, solved a puzzle composed of five interlocking devices unassisted in just two hours.

“We cannot prove that the birds understand the physical structure of the problem as an adult human would,” said Oxford zoology professor Alex Kacelnik. “But we can infer from their behavior that they are sensitive to how objects act on each other.”

Most of the birds, once they learned to remove the locks, could repeat the task over and over without any error. When the puzzles were slightly modified, researchers found that the birds would respond by working on the new steps first rather than applying the techniques they had learned earlier. Soon, nothing will be safe.

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