Many nonhuman animals have the ability to create and use tools. It’s easy to think of this behavior as simply a means to an end – a crow wants to retrieve a piece of food from a vertical tube, so she bends a piece of wire into a hook in order to pull the food out (if you weren’t aware that birds can create and use tools, you should check this out. We primates aren’t as special as we think we are).
But for humans, we know that tool use and problem solving are not always linked to a tangible goal. Why do we play chess or work on crossword puzzles? Why did I play the game Operation when I was a kid? For many people, activities that challenge our memories and problem-solving abilities, or test our dexterity and coordination, are considered fun.
What I find interesting about Jamie is not that she can find an appropriate tool, modify it if necessary, and manipulate it in order to achieve a goal that could not be achieved otherwise. What interests me is that this is Jamie’s idea of a good time. What we see in videos like the one below is a chimpanzee contemplating, deciding, planning, manipulating, straining, and struggling. For what? Not for the nut, at least not only for the nut. Jamie has a mind that goes looking for problems to solve. For her, it’s all about the challenge.