Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lassie of Borg

H/T to Smartdogs for the most addictive timesuck of all, Paleo-Future.

Just reinforces my perennial pique.

Where is my damned jetpack!?

Why is there no cheerful robot cooking my dinner?

How come no monorail?

And how did past futureologists envision 21st century "pets?"

LONDON (UPI) -- The programming of family pets to perform various tasks and various deeds, good or evil as required, may be fairly common practice by the year 2000, according to an American psychologist.

Dr. Boris Levinson of Touro College in New York, a specialist on relationships between people and animals, said that by the end of the century pets controlled by brain electrodes may become commonplace. Recent experiments make this a strong probability, he said.

"it does not lie in the realm of science fiction," Dr. Levinson told a symposium organized by the British Small Animals' Veterinary Association. "In a sense the electrodes will make the animals become living robots. They will be able to open doors, close windows, adjust beds and even call for help."

He said pets could even be used for warfare and for espionage and if the knowledge of genetic engineering involved fell into the hands of insurgent groups they could be employed in bombings and in plane hijackings. Criminals might use them in the commission of theft, robbery and even murder.

But he said most pets would play a highly beneficial role in society -- "a very important safety valve in a sick society" -- as specially trained companions to invalids, old people, childless couples and even astronauts.

Dr. Levinson's remarks brought quick reactions in this nation of animal lovers. A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other animal lovers described "exploitation" of pets as reprehensible.

Dr. Levinson pointed out that dogs had been used as living bombs in the Russo-German fighting in World War II an he was stating the possibilities.

"We can already implant minute electrodes into animals' brains to make them placid, angry or to stop them attacking," he said. "It is only a matter of time before electrodes can be implanted into every part of the brain to make them do whatever we wish."

Putting aside Dr. Levinson's muddy conflations of remote-control with "training," animal with "pet," and brain implants with genetic engineering, this 35 year-old prognostication raises interesting questions.

Dogs and helper monkeys already perform all the services Dr. Levinson predicts, and much more.

They can do this because of training, not electrode implants.

The BNW of remote-controlled pets has not come to pass, and I don't see any sign of it on the horizon.

There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to the principles of training animals. There are new tools. Not the same thing. Everything you or I have ever done to train a dog or another animal to do any given thing has been done before, and was probably done before the invention of agriculture. We're continually rediscovering and rearranging old knowledge for our current needs. Those with an inferiority complex invent new jargon so as to seem original.

But brain implants that directly controlled motor functions would be entirely new.

If it was available, if it worked, would you do it?

Would you have your dog wired?

What needs, human or canine, could induce you to do so?

What if the electrodes simply delivered stimulation to the pain or pleasure centers of the dog's brain -- so that we are, however tenuously, back in the realm of "training?"

Would you deliver a remote punishment to the dog's brain?

What about a remote reward?

If you see a difference, what is it?

borg dog sez  you will be assimilated
see more dog and puppy pictures


  1. Some (not me) would argue that modern electronic training collars create robot dogs.

    They certainly were handy when teaching young Audie to help me out when I'm suffering from severe gimpage.

    As far as that direct wiring thing goes; no, of course not. For me, the joy of training comes from the process of establishing a mutually respectful two-way communication system with an animal - not in the end result of the training. Even if the end result is very cool.

  2. A dog is already a miraculously genetically modified organism.

    BTW, why do they not mention that the Soviet anti-tank dog was a major failure?

    The dogs were conditioned to go tanks with diesel engines in search of a food reward, because those were what the Soviets had. The Germans had tanks with gasoline engines.

    The dogs associated the scent of diesel with the reward, so the dogs ran toward the Soviet tanks. And because the dogs had bombs on them that would go off whenever the dog made contact with target, you can see what happened in many cases.

    Although the Soviet government claimed that 300 German tanks were destroyed, the exact number is not known (and is probably lower than that).

    No one has given an account of how many Soviet tanks were destroyed by Soviet anti-tank dogs.

    I'd actually prefer that our technology create a dog that can live beyond 25 years and for this trait to be commonplace in our animals.

  3. Well, I will say it did have an effect on the Germans, who knew of these anti-tank dogs, because they wasted a lot of ammo shooting every dog in sight. The Soviets had more people, but not more guns and ammo, so every bullet that went into a dog wasted the German supplies that much more.

    But as a tactical weapon, the Soviet anti-tank dog was a failure.

  4. I gotta say, I have had days when the idea of being able to deliver a remote punishment directly to a dog's brain sounds GREAT!!

    Those are the same days I am glad I don't routinely carry a gun...

  5. They do actually have electrode implanted RC rats now.... There is still training involved, but they have steering down. As if the thought weren't creepy to start with...

  6. The only implants I would be willing to consider would be to address medical conditions such as seizures which were not responsive to medication. Then again, probably not, no matter how much I don't want to loose a beloved pet- I don't want to make it's quality of life take a nosedive and I also would not feel comfortable spending too much on a pet. Then again I have trouble defining too much for myself let alone others.


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