In Amsterdam they want to teach crows to collect cigarette butts

In Amsterdam they want to teach crows to collect cigarette butts

Categories: Animals | Europe

Two engineers from Amsterdam have figured out how to clear the streets of cigarette butts. They want to train crows to pick them up and exchange them for peanuts in the vending machine.

In Amsterdam they want to teach crows to collect cigarette butts

Urbanists Ruben van der Fleuten (Ruben van der Vleuten) and Bob Spikman (Bob Spikman) noticed how many cigarette butts in Amsterdam parks, and began to look for a solution to the problem. Robots were the most obvious option, but it would be strange to write complex code just so that robots could pull cigarette butts out from under bicycle wheels and from other hard-to-reach places. Therefore, the engineers paid attention to the birds.

At first, the Dutch thought about pigeons, because there are most of them in cities. But, having hastily studied the topic, they realized that not much is known about the intelligence of pigeons and it will be difficult to train them. Then they remembered the crows, which are among the smartest species on the planet. These birds like to settle near people, are able to solve problems and learn independently.

In Amsterdam they want to teach crows to collect cigarette butts

Engineers discovered the project of Joshua Klein, who created a vending machine for treats for crows Crow Box. The birds picked up change on the street, threw it into a vending machine, and it gave them peanuts. The engineers decided that birds might as well be able to collect cigarette butts from the streets. To do this, they need to learn to associate them with food. The Dutch plan to achieve this in four steps.

In Amsterdam they want to teach crows to collect cigarette butts

First, they will install vending machines with food and cigarette butts in trays in parks. The crows will get used to the fact that there is something to profit from there, and they will return to the vending machines. At the second stage, the food will appear only after the bird arrives at the vending machine. So they will understand that the machine performs certain actions. The third step is very important: at this stage, food disappears from the tray and only cigarette butts remain. Birds, accustomed to the fact that food should appear in the machine, will drive their beak around and eventually push the butt into a special tank. When this happens, food will fall out on the tray. All this will be repeated until the crows associate the ejection of the cigarette butt with the receipt of food.

In Amsterdam they want to teach crows to collect cigarette butts

The fourth stage is the only one in which a person is involved: when the crows get used to the third stage, they will need to scatter a couple dozen cigarette butts around the machine. It remains for the bird to figure out that it must collect them and put them in the car. Then, when these cigarette butts run out, she will look for them in other places.

In Amsterdam they want to teach crows to collect cigarette butts

Will the interaction with tobacco harm the crows? Engineers answer: "Cigarette butts have a huge impact on nature, and a few crows is a small price to pay for the fight. Moreover, with a short contact with a cigarette butt, the harm to birds will be minimal. We can configure the machine to limit the number of crows that will train on it. But in fact, we still need to do extensive research: if it turns out that all this has a bad effect on crows, we will have to look for another solution."

In Amsterdam they want to teach crows to collect cigarette buttsIn Amsterdam they want to teach crows to collect cigarette butts

Professor John Marzluff, a specialist in the vranov family, is confident that crows can learn to collect cigarette butts: "They learn quickly if they receive a reward for their actions. I've heard of stories of crows collecting cigarettes everywhere and wondered if there was any point in that. Tame crows often steal cigarettes from their owners, and Indian domestic crows were photographed with cigarettes in their beaks. Perhaps, in search of food, they remember that they saw cigarettes in people's mouths. Or they use cigarette filters in their nests as an insect repellent, like other birds. So yes, they can learn."

At the same time , Marzluff pointed out the dubiousness of the idea: "It is equally important to ask ourselves whether we should enslave crows so that they do the dirty work for us. As for me, the answer is no. Crows have their own life, and we should just admire it, and not try to make them work for us. It would be more ethical to create a machine that would collect cigarette butts, develop biodegradable cigarettes, or better yet, train our smoking relatives to clean up after themselves."

Keywords: Automaton | Crows | Netherlands | Training | Birds | Cigarettes | Startup

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