Can You Have Your Cat and R2D2?

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Kristin Devine

Kristin is a geek, a libertarian, and a domestic goddess. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals and works with women around the world as a fertility counselor. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of https://atomicfeminist.com/

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8 Responses

  1. fillyjonk fillyjonk
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    I have a Furby, one of the original 1998 models. It’s still alive (I had it in a box for 15+ years, found it when cleaning up, popped some batteries in, and was amazed to find it still worked. (I also have one of those little Fingerlings unicorns that I bought for myself – yes, dangit, I am 50 years old this year – on a day when I was feeling kind of sad).

    (Heh. And yes, I did refer to Furby as “alive.” I also have far more stuffed toy animals that is proper for a six year old, let alone a fifty year old. I also have strong croton-petting tendencies, where I can feel emotion for inanimate objects. I have cried when I dropped and broke a coffee mug….)

    They are fun. They are not the same as a real pet and I admit there are long stretches of time that I don’t interact with either. That would not be the case with a real pet – you have to take care of it, it won’t let you forget to feed it, for example.

    I don’t have a pet, despite liking cats (and some dogs*) because I have allergies, and I’m also not home enough – a dog would be especially hard with the walking thing, when I have a 7 am to 6 pm day, that’s awfully long to expect a dog to ‘hold it” and I don’t exactly live somewhere where dog walking services are common.

    That said: I would love to have a more realistic robot cat or dog. Especially if the cat would purr or if they threw off a little body heat to simulate the warmth of a living thing. I’ve read that these are being developed especially for people in nursing homes, where having individual real pets doesn’t work so well (when it’s hard for you to take care of yourself, taking care of a pet can be hard).

    I tend to be a lonely person; one thing I have said on many occasions is that I wished I had something that at least seemed to be happy to see me when I came home. But because “real” pets are off the table for me at the moment, a realistic robot might be better. If I take better care of it than I do my Furby…

    (*I had some bad experiences with poorly-trained dogs as a kid and am apprehensive about dogs I don’t know. Friends’ dogs who are well trained and friendly I am fine with, but an unknown dog barking at me from its yard causes a strong fear response)Report

  2. Avatar DensityDuck
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    says:

    The idea of robot pets is a really important part of “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” The whole idea of that story is empathy–or, rather, how humans might invent simulations of it when they are so disaffected and disconnected from each other that they can’t get the real thing. Pets help, but ecological devastation has killed most of the animals on earth, so everyone uses robot pets.

    The bit that made me have to stop reading was the part with the vet. I’m actually having some trouble typing this because it affected me so strongly. See, people find that the more realistic the robot pet is, the better it provides the emotional connection they need. So the robot pets are programmed to “get sick”, and you have to call the “vet” to come help them. In reality the “vet” is just an actor who pokes the robot pet with a stethoscope and gives it a pretend injection, and then the program lets it “get better”. I’m actually kind of crying right now, thinking about my cats. So one guy gets a call from a woman, saying that her husband’s cat is sick and can a vet come help it. He gets there and it turns out it’s an actual real cat, not a robot, and he’s got no idea what to do. He doesn’t even know where a for-real animal vet is, because real animals are so incredibly expensive that he’s never even seen one, let alone had to do anything for one. But he can’t figure out how to tell the person this because he (like everyone else in this story’s world) has basically no ability to have a conversation with another human, so he just takes the cat and drives around with it in his car for a couple hours while it dies. I didn’t keep reading after that, maybe it’s a sci-fi classic but whatever, that’s too sad for me to want to continue.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    If it looks like the real thing, tastes like the real thing, and quacks like the real thing, you could easily see why calling it a duck isn’t *THAT* silly (even if it is a mistake).

    I remember an old Michael Kinsley column at Slate that talked about Martha Stewart (emphasis added):

    The answer to the last question is yes, you do have to, if you want the dish to turn out as the recipe’s author intended. But this is dinner, not constitutional interpretation, and the author’s original intent doesn’t particularly matter. The dish undoubtedly will turn out better if you meld the anchovies, the chocolate, and three teaspoons of vodka, using a mortar and pestle, before gradually stirring in the veal stock, the soy milk, and the rest of that liter of vodka. But if you just dump all the ingredients—minus a few morale-boosting slugs of the vodka—into the blender and then floor it, the result will be OK. More precisely, it will be good enough. Julia Child will not be coming tonight. More important, neither will Martha Stewart.

    The guiding philosophy of the Good Enough Cookbook is to seek out ways one can, say, put in half the effort and get three-quarters of the desired result. The guiding philosophy of Martha is to seek out ways one can gain a 10 percent better result by doubling the effort put in. It is important to understand that the Martha method is not a complete waste of time. It does make things better. It probably even makes life better. But the Good Enough method is good enough.

    I imagine that robot pets and sexbots and whathaveyou provide a simulacrum of the real thing for about half of the effort. Hell, maybe even less effort than that.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    I’m a dog guy so cats are meh to me. Dogs will love you unconditionally. Who among us doesn’t love a big ol English sheepdog with bangs over its eyes?Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    The sex robot and the pet robot serve a similar function. Both allow people to experience simulations of relationships that many people seem to be struggling to achieve with real life people or real live animals. Based on internet readings, there seem to be numerous people that want romantic and/or sexual connections but can’t form them for a variety of reasons, which could be anything from a very hectic life to the fact that they are disturbing creeps that really shouldn’t be in a romantic/sexual relationship. Likewise, many people yearn for the companionship that pets provide but either do not have time to take care of a real pet or can’t be bothered with the hassle.

    There are legitimate and illegitimate reasons for resorting to robots for pet companionship and romantic/sexual companionship. The people who want to ban sex robots or robotic pets focus on the illegitimate reasons, the creeps that use sex robots because no woman will date them let alone sleep with them in real life for very valid reasons or the people that can’t stand the hassle of a real actual pet and might even want to abuse an animal vicariously. People with legitimate needs for sex robot or robotic pet are just seen as acceptable collateral damage. Yeah, it sucks to be them but they need to deal with their pain alone for the greater good of humanity. Others see sex robots or robotic pets as a way to take away some of the pain that seems to inflict many. If some bad people take advantage of this, so what? We shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.Report

  6. Avatar Lark
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    says:

    {Redacted by editors}Report

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