Papers Discussed:

1. J. Crinion et al., Language Control in the Bilingual Brain, Science, 2006, 312:5779, pp1537-1540.

2. Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello, Altruistic Helping in Human Infants and Young Chimpanzees, Science, 2006, 311:5765, pp 13019-1303

3. Alicia Melis et al., Chimpanzees Recruit the Best Collaborators, Science, 2005, 311:5765, pp 1297-1300

4. Ap Dijksterhuis et al., On Making the Right Choice: The Deliberation-Without-Attention Effect, Science, 2006, 311:5763, pp 1005-1007

5. Gregory Berns et al., Neurobiological Substrates of Dread, Science, 2006, 312:5774, pp 754-758

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A recent study has shown that while “neural circuits for different languages are highly overlapping” in a bilingual brain, it is the left caudate that is still the center of language monitoring and control (1). Now, I’m no brain scientist and I only have a vague idea of what the left caudate is, but at the very least, I’d like to infer from this article that the more languages you speak the more super intelligent you are. Which means that, with my vast lexicon of foreign phrases (including but not limited to: “I am the rainy season” in Vietnamese, “Your dead reindeer is delicious” in Finnish and “You have beautiful knees” in Spanish), I must be a super genius.

Now that I have proof of my super genius-dom (you may not think that’s a word but you’d be wrong; trust me; I’m a super genius; I can say “I dance beautifully” in German) my first order of business will be, like all super geniuses, to take over the world. Initially my plan was to construct an army of giant robotic squirrels. However, that seemed a little too 1950’s science fiction movie for my tastes. Plus as a super genius I’m capable of so much more. I then thought of making a clone army full of replicants of myself. This was a far sexier idea, an idea I felt the world media could really sink its teeth into what with its associations to the hot topics of stem cells and human cloning. I had visions of ominously titled segments on the evening news, melodramatic movies of the week and maybe a Barbara Walters special with one of my more eloquent clones (I’d do it myself but I’d have other, taking over the world type activities to do). Once the daydreaming stopped I quickly realized that an army of myopic, weak-ankled sissies would not strike fear into the hearts of millions. So instead, I settled on highly trained chimpanzees.

Actually, before settling on chimpanzees, it was a tough decision between chimpanzees and an army of bloodthirsty toddlers, but I went chimps for a variety of reasons not least of which was because it seems human infants have the nasty habit of altruistically helping others (2). If there is one thing I don’t need my soldiers doing in the thick of battle it’s ignoring the deadly throwing stars I’ve equipped them with and instead, helping someone retrieve the pen that they have foolishly allowed to fall to the ground; which is, according to the article, exactly what they’d do. While it is true that chimpanzees also demonstrate some altruistic tendencies (2) these are not as strong as in toddlers and frankly I’m pretty confident I can train that kind of behaviour out of the chimps. I am, after all, a super genius.

Furthermore chimpanzees have been proven to be effective at working together; they know when to seek assistance and they are adept at picking the best collaborator (3). This bodes well because I’m sure at some point in our battle to take over the world, there will be some tasks that chimps simply aren’t equipped to handle and my monkey-soldiers will know to ask, I dont know, say, a condor for some help. In truth, I am highly skeptical that a toddler would be able to communicate with any birds of prey, let alone something as mighty as a condor. Unless, that is, they were super geniuses, which they clearly aren’t since I’ve never met a toddler that could say “My bicycle tastes of tropical fruits” in Swahili.

Anyway, once I have successfully taken over the world, it is then that I will have some hard choices to make. Specifically I will have to decide whether to be a benevolent dictator leading Earth into an age of prosperity and happiness, or a harsh tyrant using the toil of the multitudes to fill my palaces with expensive carpeting and really nice glassware. You’d think that this kind of decision would take some serious conscious thought but again you’d be wrong (seriously, can you say anything, anything at all, in another language?). A decision of this magnitude is best mulled over unconsciously (4). At least that would be the case if the tyrant/gentle father figure debate is similar to the examples in that particular paper, which include deciding what new outfit to purchase and whether to go to Tuscany on your vacation or the Costa Brava. So once my army of chimpanzee warriors and I have successfully taken over the globe, I would basically have to sleep on it and let you know whether your future is one of joy and security or one of hardship and sorrow.

I would also try and get back to you with a decision on that relatively quickly since, as I’ve just read, if there’s anything worse than a bad outcome it is the dread associated with waiting for that bad outcome to occur (5) and as I’ve always said, “An anxious slave labourer is an unproductive slave labourer”.