an imaginative look a palaeolithic life

The bonobo algorithm

The bonobo (Pan paniscus) is one of our closest living relatives.   It’s actually joint closest with the common chimp (Pan troglodytes), as they are more related to each other than either of them is to us.  But they are generally considered to be more like humans than common chimps are.  They are also quite possibly the most sex obsessed species on earth.  You thought humans were bad; bonobos leave humans looking like the prudish maiden aunts of the ape family tree.

Here’s an algorithm for how to function as a bonobo:

bonobo algorithm

There is of course a lot more to bonobos than their sexual behaviour.   Bonobos have been taught how to use language, and one named Kansi has even been taught how to make Homo habilis style stone tools, making him better at flintknapping than me.  They are considered to be the most human-like of the two species of chimpanzee, on account of their troops having lower levels of violence, more co-operation, a greater ability in language in language than other non-human great apes (common chimps, gorillas and orangutans have also been used in language studies, but bonobos have shown the most ability in this), and also because they use sex for bonding, not just for reproduction.  According to wikipedia (yeah, I know…!  but I don’t have access to academic journals) bonobos have differences in their brains to common chimps that suggest a greater capacity for empathy and better control of impulses, which leads to a more peaceful social system.  (But don’t mistake them for hippies, they can still be violent when they want to be, so they’re kind of like humans in that respect too.)  They live in the Congo rainforest, separated from common chimps by the Congo river.  There are also some bonobos in zoos, and apparently feeding time is very popular with visitors.


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