John Marlowe, complete with an faux-array of primate related publications, has put out a press release announcing that a chimp he’s worked with, “Albert,” has ventured into the wonderful world of online social networking sites with his very own Facebook account.
You can request to become friends with “Albert.” I did, and along with 263 other people, am friends with “Albert.” (UPDATE: they removed and banned me from being friends with Albert after I posted this) You can also check out his second, more specialized profile on Palabea, another site dedicated to networking with people from different linguistic backgrounds.
Unless it was “Albert” that wrote the press release, I believe Marlowe or at least the person behind is to blame, hyping this up big time, writing that,
“With the help of specially designed software that recognises sign language (ASL), and a “chimp proof” adapted touch-screen, these leading scientists recently announced that the four apes can communicate using more than 1000 symbols, adapted to the most popular features of the online social network.
They can chat online with their best friends from around the world, write text messages, and even upload their favourite profile pictures. Albert gang has become very popular among Facebook’s users.”
He also writes that “Albert” is the first ape to join Facebook, the largest online social network. Well humans are apes, and Facebook is full of humans, so “Albert” is not the first ape to join Facebook. Furthermore, Myspace is the largest online social network.
I’ve done some sleuthing to figure out more about John Marlowe and his work with “Albert,” and I can’t find much information. The only profile of John Marlowe, as a primatologist, seems to be the only the source of the hype engine, Marlowe’s one-post-blog, CyberChimps. On CyberChimps, Marlowe says he has a,
“BA and PhD in Psychology and Biology from Stanford University. Upon completion of his PhD, he joined the Biology staff at the University of Northern Oregon.”
I can’t seem to find any reference to the University of Northern Oregon. There is not a website, which I find ironic. On other pages, the university is called Northern Oregon University (NOU). The only references to NOU I can find are fictional stories that mention it.
Oregon is a state in the United States, but John Marlowe’s very own Facebook profile says he lives in London. Furthermore, Marlowe indicates, “Albert” is at the Yorke’s Institute, which seems to be another fictional location… the only reference to Yorke Institutes I can find is a professional school that train people in hospitality and cooking.
I did a WHOIS on CyberChimps.org and it is owned by Sebastian Schkudlara, of Palabea.
Admin Name:Sebastian Schkudlara
Admin Organization:Palabea e-Services GmbH
Admin Street1:Neue Bahnhofstr. 9-10
Admin Postal Code:10245
Admin Phone Ext.:
Admin FAX Ext.:
The last clincher, and the most convincing evidence that we are being duped, are the photographs of Albert. Several of the portraits of Albert are actually of different individuals. And the screen shots circulating of Albert using Facebook are photoshopped screen grabs of Ayumu the chimp. If you wanna check it out for yourself, look at this video I shared of Ayumu’s cognitive abilities in January of this year.
Here’s documentation of the Photoshop work, Ayumu on the left and Albert on the right.
With fake scientific publications, no real institutions, links between CymberChimp and Palabea, and above all poorly done Photoshop work, this all smells like a poor attempt to go viral, headed by Palabea. I know all’s fair in startups and marketing and is a cleaver tactic to brand your new product, but there is something at stake here… People do fall for crap like this and publicity stunts like this jeopardizes honest research in primate cognition, and the scientific process. I just hope the mainstream press doesn’t fall for this crap and further perpetuate the problem.