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]