Thursday, February 25, 2010


Karen Pryor starts her book 'Reaching the animal mind' with this observation: that Konrad Lorenz created ethology and B. F. Skinner created behaviorism, and animal clicker training inherits from both: you need to know the nature of your partner. You have to understand the machinery.

Excellent development tools are now available for C++, Java: you can see the source code as it is being executed, dump the value of critical variables, and repeat the same code many times, stopping it at appropriate places.

Nothing of the sort exists for Dario. I bought "Cry Translator" for my iPhone. I record the Dario's cry, and it tells me if he is hungry, bored, stressed, sleepy or has discomfort. Usually, I get two or three different answers in the same number of consecutive recordings. One could qualify this app as useless, or at least useless for an infant that age, or useless for an infant with a French accent (the app comes from Spain). But it still serves a purpose: it reminds us that there are not so many types of things that can go wrong with the machinery.

But as far as debugging tools go, we don't have much else at home. We observe Dario swaying his head left and right, opening his mouth wildly, closing it on his fists, the blanket. And that, we learn, may mean that he is hungry, has gas, is tired, and, maybe, that he is stressed.

Contemplative on his mat, Dario is becoming fussy. Swaying his head left to right, opening his mouth wildly, closing it on his fists. We know what this may mean: anything. The key to successful analysis: change one variable at a time. We burp him and put him back on the mat. Same. We change his diaper and put him back on the mat. Same. We give up.

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