[Crm-sig] New Issue: Non-human Actors

Mercedes Menendez Gonzalez UO68235 at uniovi.es
Wed Sep 22 16:31:22 EEST 2021

Dear all,

Although I am quite new to this, I would like to contribute my opinion on this interesting topic, if I may.
I agree that the most suitable option seems to be to create a class or some new classes for non-human actors. Going back to Rob’s example, I would say that the bird carries out an intentional action when it designs and builds the nest with very specific purposes (to lay eggs that have a specific size, to raise offspring).  We could even think on nest construction as an individual action as well as a collective behavior.


*I take the opportunity to thank you for the invitation to participate in this forum and to introduce myself. I am Mercedes Menéndez, PhD candidate in Art History at the University of Oviedo, Spain.

Enviado desde Correo<https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=550986> para Windows

De: Martin Doerr via Crm-sig<mailto:crm-sig at ics.forth.gr>
Enviado: Tuesday, September 21, 2021 9:16 PM
Para: crm-sig at ics.forth.gr<mailto:Crm-sig at ics.forth.gr>
Asunto: Re: [Crm-sig] New Issue: Non-human Actors

Dear Robert,

I support this.

I suggest the non-human Actors to go into CRMsci. It is a straightforward extension of scope, and has been discussed in the past. Non-human actors cannot be hold liable, and will not report. They are obviously a sibling to the human actors, and fall under a common generalization. In the same way, we have generalized over physical things in CRMsci.

I think any opinion that animals in general cannot take intentional actions has been proven non-sense. Conversely, human actions are often enough instinct driven.

So far, I do not think we have evidence of conceptual objects created by non-human actors. Whales may turn out having oral traditions in the future. Bird songs are, however, partially tradition and not innate, but we miss the creator individual...



On 9/21/2021 5:13 PM, Robert Sanderson via Crm-sig wrote:

Dear all,

In working with our natural history museum, we have a need to assign non-human "actors" to "activities", which is not currently possible.

I think the easiest case to discuss is the construction of a (collected) nest by a (known individual) bird.

We have an identity for the bird (and indeed, we have the remains of the bird!) and we have an identity for the nest that the bird constructed. We can estimate the time when the nest was made, and we know exactly where it was made (due to where it was collected from).
For example: https://collections.peabody.yale.edu/search/Record/YPM-ORN-131036
Or a dinosaur nest, where the adult and the eggs and the nest are preserved.

If the bird (or dinosaur) could be an Actor, then it would be easy - the bird carried out a Production, during the TimeSpan, which produced the (coughcough)MadeObject, at the Place. However the only thing that can carry out activities is a human or group thereof.

Similarly, the nest might have been built by a mated pair of birds, thereby requiring a Group-like construct for non-human actors as well.

At the moment it seems like the best we can do is (beginning-of-existence-of-nest)  P12 occurred in the presence of (bird-as-biological-object), which seems woefully inadequate semantically as it likely occurred in the presence of a lot of things, including other birds that didn't actually do anything. The closer subproperty is P11 had participant, which we can't use as birds cannot be actors.

This might also relate to other discussions, in particular:
* Instruments -- the instrument is somehow more responsible for the measurement than the thing being measured. It is at least "instrumental in" the measurement, be it digitally or mechanically.
* Bias -- that animals cannot take intentional actions is a pretty biased viewpoint. Canis virum mordet, not only vir canem mordet. This might be extended to un-observable agents -- a culture might believe that a ghost, spirit, god, or other non-physical entity carried out some action.
* Software "agents" -- even if the software is acting totally deterministically at the behest of another actor, a hard determinist might argue the same for humans.

We could add a property either something like "instrumental in" with a broad range (Persistent Item, as super-class of Actor?) that is less about intent and responsibility, and more concerned with the required-ness of the entity for the event. Or we could go further and create some new classes between E77 and E39 that allow limited performance of activities by non Humans.


Rob Sanderson
Director for Cultural Heritage Metadata
Yale University


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 Dr. Martin Doerr

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