It is striking that chimpanzees start to fail [to recognize themselves in a mirror] once they reach 30 years old despite having some 10 or 15 years left to live. The reason is that self-awareness comes at a cost. Consciousness allows the brain to take part in mental time travel. You can think of yourself in the past and even project yourself into the future. And that is why Gallup believes that in later life chimpanzees prefer to lose their ability to conceive of themselves. "The price you pay for being aware of your own existence is having to confront the inevitability of your own individual demise.
"Death awareness is the price we pay for self awareness."
Friday, April 30, 2010
Are Animals Self-Aware?
The Dish points out that even animals that are cognizant of themselves either lose or consciously give up this ability as they get older (and closer to death):