I Feel Like I’m Being Attacked By Octopuses. I May Be Over-Reacting.

Periodically this happens, right? An animal, idea, or person suddenly seems to be everywhere, in different forms.

Some call it synchronicity and say that it means you are supposed to be paying special attention to some sort of message:

Jung believed that synchronicities mirror deep psychological processes, carry messages the way dreams do, and take on meaning and provide guidance to the degree they correspond to emotional states and inner experiences. Gregg Levoy in:

Gregg Levoy, Synchronicities: A Sure Sign You’re on the Right Path

Right now, it’s octopuses. What the message is, I’m not sure yet. A reminder that intelligence is not unique to humans? That the world is a mysterious place we don’t understand as well as we think we do? Consider me reminded.

Octopuses have long been of high interest to me, and I can’t claim I have not spent too much time watching videos of them on YouTube. But recently two unique things have popped up that make now the perfect time to write about them.

One is the Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher. The other is that apparently, an octopus toy broke TikTok.

Netflix – My Octopus Teacher

Prepare to cry when you watch this. That is all. If you’d like to read about it first, here’s a review. And I can note that it currently has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

So what is it about octopuses, anyway? They’re bizarre and beautiful. Strange and surreal.

On a personal note, I’m working on a theory that if they wanted to, octopuses could take over the world. Think about it. So with equal parts appreciation and fear, let’s look at some visual evidence of the terrifying wonder of this mollusk:

1. They can escape from tanks.

So in the world-domination scenario, if you were relying on keeping them contained somewhere, rethink that.

Terrifying. Side note: Why are these people not running away?? They must be very brave. I would absolutely be running away. Also, love the bucket at the end.

2. They can squeeze through the smallest holes.

Similar to point #1, but also means that are few places where you can contain yourself and be safe from them.

Imagine you were outside that boat and saw that huge thing oozing through that tiny hole.

3. They can solve puzzles and problems.

Octopuses in captivity have mastered opening jars, so they’re one up on me in that way.

Just how smart are they? “Ridiculously” smart, and in a way that’s very different from us.

4. Their arms and suckers are incredibly strong.

As demonstrated when they get frustrated at being unable to solve a problem.

I get it. The frustration, not the incredible strength.

5. They are individuals.

When you watch these or read about them, you can’t help but see they have distinct personalities. Like this huge fellow, who is obviously curious and gentle, but also very busy.

Or these ones, who punch fish.

6. They have superpowers we don’t understand.

And are just starting to study.

Other labs are investigating how octopus arms sense and interact with their environment with minimal input from the brain. Last fall researchers reported in Cell that specialized receptors in octopus suckers detect chemicals on surfaces they contact, enabling them to taste by touching…

Materials researchers are interested in the animals’ skin for its incredible camouflage ability, for example, and computer scientists may someday draw on octopuses’ separate learning and memory systems—one for vision and one for tactile senses—for new approaches to machine learning.

Octopuses could also inspire biomedical engineering advances. Rosenthal is studying cephalopods’ incredibly high rates of RNA editing, which could someday lead to new technologies to erase unwanted mutations encoded in human genomes. Ragsdale is investigating how octopuses quickly regenerate their arms, nerve cords and all; this might one day contribute to therapies for humans who lose limbs or have brain or spinal cord damage.

From “An Octopus Could Be the Next Model Organism” in Scientific American.

I mean, those are some amazing abilities. If it came down to it, which do you think would be the winning side? Squishy humans or the animals that can rip bottles open, squeeze through tiny holes, camouflage themselves, and regenerate their body parts?

I say we make sure we stay on their good side.

The first step of that is to properly appreciate them, in ways large and small.

For example, octopuses single-handedly brought down TikTok in toy form, by helping humans non-verbally communicate their emotions.

Watch it in action in this very short clip.

I credit this entirely on how amazing octopuses are and not at all on clever toy designers and marketers.

So let’s jump in the octopus bandwagon and be mesmerized by their movements, captivated by their beauty and their sliminess in a horror sort of way. They are among the smartest animals on the planet. They are totally and completely different from us. What’s not to love?

I for one am happy to welcome our cephalopod overlords.

I’ll leave you with the most calming, relaxing octopus video of them all.

P.S. I’d like to thank my kid, who helped with the onerous task of researching* this post. I couldn’t have done it without you. Well, I could have, but it would not have included as much screaming and laughing.

Further reading: The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery

*researching = watching octopus videos on YouTube

Feature photo credit: Photo by Dustin Humes on Unsplash

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