Sunday, January 27, 2013

Call in the Dogs

Five facts:

1. Americans love dogs
2. It is possible to train dogs to do remarkable things
3. Americans are growing accustomed to always carrying around a "personal assistant" in the form of digital devices
4. For as much as we love electronic digital devices, there is a sentiment that our embrace of artifical devices is sapping us of our ability to interact with and appreciate the natural world
5. In the Middle Ages, rich people used dogs as napkins.

Everybody knows that at one time it was impossible for humans to live without animals.  Virtually everyone owned animals and forced them to do specific labors.  But then we invented artificial devices that were more efficient than four-legged friends, which allowed most people to live without directly enforcing animal labor.  And this was seen as a sign of progress.  Civilized people didn't bring animals in public.  It was okay to own animals, but for most, they were relegated (or promoted, depending on how you look at it) to household totems, objects to be lavished with (often undeserved) affection for the sake of lavishing a biological entity affection in order to promote emotional fulfillment. 

So because practical use of animals came to be unconsciuosly associated with barbarism at the same time that animals were utilized to fill an emerging set of psychological needs, the demand for animals as labor receded dramtically.  And subsequently, we have all been born into a world where household animals are referred to as "pets."  Because this is the way it has always been, we lose sight of how bizarre this is.  Furry, four-legged creatures are referred to with words that connotate a tacticle verb.  Perhaps we take a subconscious pride in our ability to tame and domesticate the wild.

But really, do we still need to have such pride?  What more do we have to prove?  We've got smart phones and tablets.

And precisely because we've got smart phones and tablets, I think there is a remote possibility that in the generations to come, animals will cease to be known as "pets".  We know that service animals have provided an invaluable contribution to those who are disabled.  But is it only disabled people who are in need of a service animal?

What would it take if every man, woman, and child in the nation were given their own service dog?  How much would crime be decreased if every person had a placid but well-trained guard dog?  What if said dogs were trained to peacefully execute simple but time-consuming everyday tasks that would ultimately increase every person's comfort and efficiency?  And that doesn't even begin to measure the psychic benefits of restoring a deeply ingrained ancient relationship between human and animal.

Obviously, such a workforce of trained animals would require a gargantuan investment in infastructure, and in human capital in order to train up such a canine workforce.  But then again, just such an investment is probably a perfect bipartisan economic stimulus for these times.  Everybody knows that we are moving to a service economy.  Machines have taken over for not just animal labor, but increasingly, for human labor.  But machines still don't know how to train dogs. 

I see no downside to my proposal.  It's time to let the dogs out.


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