Mechanical Dog Toys

Yesterday, as I often do I fell asleep with the TV on. I usually tune to Adult Swim in the evenings so I woke up to the morning block of Cartoon Network today. Since I usually stumble out of the bed, and perform a zombie like shuffle to the bathroom with my eyes closed still half asleep turning the TV off was out of the question. I ended up half-watching it from the corner of my blood shot eye while shaving and dressing for work. Note that at this point my brain was in standby mode using only as much processing as it takes to move around the electric shaver around my face, and pull out random bits of clothing from the closet attempting to find a combination that is presentable enough for work. But even in this low processing mode two things struck me.

Firstly, I could not recognize a single cartoon out of the lineup. It was all new original stuff, and none of the classics that I grew up with. Does that mean I’m getting old or perhaps Cartoon Network doesn’t have rights to air the old stuff?

Secondly, there was an obscene amount of commercials for mechanical dog toys. There was some plastic dog robot that follows you, a big yellow puppy that pees when you lift it’s leg up, another one that moves it’s head from side to side and barks, a poodle like puppy bot that grows in real time, something called iDog which looked like a Apple lawsuit waiting to happen, and bunch of huggable plush dog toys. And that was just one commercial break. There were like 3 other spots, and the rest were fucking dog-bots. WTF?

I guess they are really ramping up the pet like toys for the holidays. I’m guessing there is a (un)healthy demand for these damn things since kids usually either desperately want a dog or already have one. Your kid wants a dog? No worries, you can buy him a cheep, plastic imitation that sucks ass and will get forgotten and abandoned 10 times faster than that fucking Tickle Me Elmo thing. Sigh…

Seriously people, if you have the means for it, and you are not allergic or anything like that just buy a fucking dog. It will make you a better person, it will brighten up your life, and it will shit on your carpet – but that’s a small price to pay. Really, what you are getting out of this is a loyal companion who will always enthusiastically greet you when you come back home, or take 20 minutes of their busy schedule to diligently lick your feet.

Then again, I’m not a parent and I do not own a carpet that could be shat on, so perhaps I’m missing the point here. But I do believe that a dog is a solid investment, and that the bond which forms between a human and a dog is something everyone should experience. A cat is fine too, if you are not a dog person. And no, taking care of someone else’s dog for a week does not count.

I actually find it kinda sad that a lot of parents would actually try to substitute the real experience with a piece of cheep plastic made in Taiwan just because they shy away from a little bit of additional responsibility. I mean, next to raising a child taking care of the dog is a piece of cake. Unless of course you believe that parenting is something that should be left to TV and public schools in which case I can see why a dog or a cat would be a huge issue.

Personally I really don’t think that an AI that would be even half as amusing as my dog will become commercially available anytime soon. Emergent behavior may often be amusing and exciting – that’s true. But it requires certain suspension of disbelief to believe that your Roomba slammed the door on you out of spite or as a revenge for kicking it earlier tat day. Real animals on the other hand, have real moods, attitudes and they do communicate them quite effectively. As long as AI is only trying to emulate these moods and behaviors we are not there yet. I’ve seen the stuff modern robotics has to offer to us, and while some of this stuff is impressive, it’s not even close to being lifelike yet. And we probably won’t get a life-like dynamic AI that would actually develop traits of a living being like curiosity and etc within my lifetime.

Of course, if we do build one like that, it would probably indicate we are on the cusp of singularity and some interesting shit is bound to go down in the next few years. And by interesting I mean anything between extinction of human species, to technical immortality and anything in between.

Until then though, fuck the pseudo-dogs. If you are not planning to buy your kid a real pet, at least get him a Wii or something cool, not a plastic tease-dog.

[tags]dog, cat, mechanic dogs, ai, toys, cartoon network[/tags]

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11 Responses to Mechanical Dog Toys

  1. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Yeah, dogs rock! :D

    Being a dog owner I know that nothing made of plastic has a hope of coming close to the awesome of a real dog, and I doubt many kids are going to be fooled, so these toys are pretty much exclusively for the allergic (who are probably best off just leaving them anyway), the stupid, and those kids who are smart enough to realise that they have a much better shot at getting a robot than a living breathing (panting, drooling, shitting) dog.

    The robots are far cheaper, don’t require any looking after, and can be switched on or off when the kid in question gets bored of the thing.

    Ooh, possible other market would be the wily parent who wants to use “well you got bored of that robot pretty quick” as a cheap excuse to not get a proper pet. Why you would want to excuse yourself out of a dog is beyond me though… as I said, they rock.

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  2. Zack UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Believe it or not, this crap isn’t limited to dogs. I saw a mechanical PANDA in Fry’s the other day. Not only that, but there was also the “baby” panda that you could buy “for” it.

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  3. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Actually, having a real life pet panda would be kinda awesome. ;)

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  4. Starhawk UNITED STATES Mozilla Ubuntu Linux says:

    Hmmm Wikipedia claims “The average Giant Panda eats as much as 20 to 30 pounds of bamboo shoots a day. ” Now I eat a little bit bamboo now and then but shit that’s a lot of bamboo. Of course everybody loves Pandas how could ya not love something so damn cute and seemingly harmless. lol

    But I agree with ya Luke Robot pets is stupid and AI is unlikely to ever at least any time soon achieve any kind of real intelligence. Being raised on Sci Fi I of course would love to see Real “Strong AI” … you know like Data but as a programmer I would have No idea where to start. Philosophically speaking I doubt it is even possible, it may be and I would love for it be but I have a lot of doubts.

    But I think all kids should be raised around pets preferably intelligent pets (goldfish doesn’t count lol) as well as raised around other non human animals and have the opportunity to play in natural environments. Such experiences serves to teach compassion responsibility empathy as well as opening peoples eyes to the fact that other animals do indeed have minds can think and feel emotions and so on. Both Dogs and Cats are good choices for pets because they are smart and adapt so well to our societies. Of course we have breed them to some extent to fit in, but I feel it is also true that they have likewise influenced our evolution.

    See Explaining religion 4 – Wolves and gods for a rather thought provoking blog by a biologist on one way dogs have influenced us (I feel we have been influenced by dogs in many more ways but I’m just an idiot that thinks and reads too much). Cats on the other hand may have influenced us by infecting us with a cat loving parasite, seriously see The Return of the Puppet Masters.

    One more thought

    Dogs belong to that elite group of con artists at the very pinnacle of their profession, the ones who pick our pockets clean and leave us smiling about it. Dogs take from the rich, they take from the poor, and they keep it all. They lie on top of the air-conditioning vent in the summer, they curl up in front of the fireplace in winter, they commit outrages upon our property too varied and unspeakable to name. They decide when we may go to bed at night and when we must rise in the morning, where we may go on vacation and for how long, whom we may invite over to dinner, and how we should decorate our living rooms. They steal the very bread from our plates. (I am thinking here of a certain collie I used to have whose specialty actually was toast.) If we had a roommate who behaved like this, we’d be calling a lawyer, or the police.

    From a New York Times book review

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  5. vacri AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Debian GNU/Linux says:

    The only thing with a real pet is that they’re long-term. A dog is 10-15 years, a cat is 10-20 years. That’s a lot of time, and as such, pets shouldn’t be obtained on a whim, but out of a real desire. If you want a cool toy to play with for a short time, buy a robotic dog or an electric racetrack set. If you want a pet, it’s a whole different world and requires at least a modicum of forethought.

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  6. Starhawk UNITED STATES Mozilla Ubuntu Linux says:

    Matt` is right Dogs rock and vacri makes a good point Pets are a long time commitment as well as a big cost over time. A freind of mine recently lost one of cats but it lived to 27 years old! Damn cat has a blog too but that is another story, I quess now it is a ghost blog and the last time I looked the cat only posted one entry after death. lol

    And Luke btw I posted a comment here earlier today which I suppose because it was so long and contained a few links got snagged by your spam filter (hopefully). Tho I do have a local copy…longer comments I type in a text editor as this little box suxs ;)

    And oh yeah one moret hing you mention in your blog buying a dog … plenty of dogs available for free or at the various pet prisons and death camps around the world. That is probably a better option than buying a pet at a pet store or elsewhere :)

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  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Starhawk – yup, I unspammed it. :)

    I guess panda pets are only cool in anime. :P Also, I’m not sure if they are not endangered which would rule out the pet thing anyway.

    LOL on the NYT quote. Then again, a properly trained dog should know it’s place in the “pack”. A lot of people a spoil their pets rotten and some never even get that whole “shitting on the carpet” thing worked out. But in the end dogs are pack animals – if you establish dominance, they will follow. If you let them do whatever they want, they will assume they are the de-facto pack leader and act accordingly.

    Cats are a bit different and I don’t get them. I have a wild cat living on my deck. I’ve been feeding it for over a year now. It has it’s own bowl by the deck door, and it comes into the house when I open the door. Still, he won’t let anyone get within arms reach to him, and if I close the door while he is inside he will stop whatever he’s doing and meow loudly until someone opens it at which point he bolts out. I keep telling him to fucking get domesticated so I can take him to the vet and get him vaccinated and etc but he is not very keen on that idea. That is pretty much the extent of my experience with cats though.

    Btw, your cat link is broken.

    Oh, and yes – adopting is also a good way of getting a dog that might already be housebroken, and trained. You just have to be careful because some of these dogs might have been abused, or conditioned in weird ways. For example, when he was young my dad owned a dog who apparently was trained by the previous owner to allow people to come into the house but not let them leave unless escorted by the owner – so he would actually attack guests who were leaving the house without a warning (and it was a German Sheppard so he actually could do serious bodily damage). It was a very odd quirk, and they never figured out how to undo that. I mean, stuff like that is rare, but it’s something to keep in mind.

    @vacri – very true. Some people have no business owning a pet. For example, someone I knew ended up taking care of her daughters dog when she moved to a place where pets were not allowed. I never seen this, but allegedly she would keep her dog in the little carry-on cage all day, and let him out only to take him out into the yard and tie his leash to the deck post and leave him there for 20 minutes to “do his business”. Then it was back to the cage. If the dog would bark or make sounds during the day she would hit the cage with a stick.

    That kind of thing just makes me sick. So you are right – the daughter bought a dog on a whim, then dropped it off at her mom’s house when she didn’t need it and the poor thing ended up in a fucking maximum security dog prison. Well, allegedly at least – I mean, I’m still not entirely sure if someone could be *that* cruel to a living thing.

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  8. Starhawk UNITED STATES Mozilla Ubuntu Linux says:

    Yep the link doesn’t work, outta pay more attention. The Return of the Puppet Masters and Pandas are endangered sadly.

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  9. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Wow – that site’s layout is so broken in Firefox that it’s not even funny.

    Actually, it’s also broken in IE. The sidebar is repeated on left and right, and contains the same shit on both sides. WTF?

    The parasites are kinda freaky. Luckily they don’t make weird fungi sprout out of our brains yet. :P

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  10. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Damn right on the dominance thing – don’t know if you’ve seen “The Dog Whisperer” or any show like it (including all the nanny shows come to think of it) but it basically always works in 2 steps – 1. Establish dominance 2. Communicate to dog what it is that you want of them.

    If you’re the pack leader, they obey willingly, devotedly and without question (unless they smell something cool in the bushes, in which case you lose priority :wink:)

    A dog that thinks it’s the boss… that only leads to bad places – with dogs that aren’t up to the task of being leader they get all stressed out trying to defend you from all those people you insist on letting into the house and end up biting someone because they’re panicking. Dogs that are up to the task can be over-protective, territorial, potentially aggressive (in their minds they’re defending the pack)

    And of course there are the spoiled little rat-dogs who are totally un-disciplined, demand food whenever they want it, go wherever they want, demand your attention for no reason, probably haven’t gotten the toilet training down pat yet and are generally just a total pain.

    Amend what I said – dogs that know their place in the pack (loyal follower) rock!

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  11. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    I have seen the South Park episode when the dog whisperer trains Cartman to be obedient… and succeeds. Does that count? ;)

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