Mongrel Mindreading

I'm thinking that this thought reader makes me look ridiculous (No More Woof)

I’m thinking that this thought reader makes me look ridiculous (No More Woof)

In the 2009 Disney/Pixar animated film Up, a 78-year-old widower named Carl uses thousands of helium-filled balloons to transport himself, his home and a young stowaway and wilderness explorer named Russell to Paradise Falls in South America—a destination his wife once dreamed of them visiting together.

Once they arrive, Carl and Russell meet a dog with the appropriate name of Dug. Only this is no ordinary dog because attached to his collar is a device that allows him to speak (i.e. it translates his thoughts into words and projects them verbally using a computerized voice system). I won’t spoil the film for those of you who haven’t seen it, but suffice it to say that the device comes in pretty handy.

When Dug isn’t distracted by what he thinks is a squirrel, that is.

At first, the concept of translating animals’ thoughts into words seemed—as it did in Up—completely far-fetched and much more appropriate for cartoons, science and technology magazines, and the like. But as unlikely as this technology seems, the truth is that it already exists!

Apparently, researchers at a small Scandinavian lab known as the Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery have developed something called No More Woof, described on their website as “a small gadget that uses the latest technology in micro computing and EEG to analyze animal thought patterns and spell them out in Human Language using a loudspeaker.”

Dug, the talking dog (Disney/Pixar)

Dug, the talking dog (Disney/Pixar)

To date, the device can communicate only basic thoughts like “I’m hungry” and “I’m tired,” but more patterns are being translated every day. Unfortunately, the innate complexity of this task costs money to sustain, so researchers have started a campaign on the fundraising site Indiegogo to try to raise the $10,000 needed to continue. Anyone interested in contributing can go HERE to do so—just a $65 donation will get you a simple, one-sensor device capable of reading a few basic thoughts like curiosity, hunger and exhaustion.

I’m not sure about shipping costs and arrival times this close to Christmas, but you may still be able to have one shipped overnight. It could make for a pretty cool stocking stuffer, if nothing else.

Personally, I find this technology to be incredibly cool and can’t help thinking about some of its potential uses. Instead of dog shows where canines simply prance around, do some tricks and try to illustrate how obedient they are, there could also be a question-and-answer session: “To bring peace to the world, I would work tirelessly to ensure cats and dogs everywhere learned to get along.”

Police could even use these devices to guarantee that abusive pet owners pay for their crimes: “Yes, your honor. We have a detailed statement from the dog, as well as witness testimony from two cats and a goldfish. It’s a pretty cut-and-dry case.”

This technology could also prevent tragedy, especially with regard to dog-on-human crime. Last year, there were 38 fatal dog attacks in the United States, most of them committed by pit bulls and Rottweilers. If these dogs had been wearing translation devices, though, it’s possible these deaths could have been prevented. Someone may have overheard the dogs plotting against their owners or expressing thoughts disturbing enough to warrant suspicion: “If she tells me to sit down again, I swear I’ll eat her face off while she sleeps!”

Good advice for anyone, but steak is so delicious! (Chick-fil-A)

Good advice for anyone, but steak is so delicious! (Chick-fil-A)

That would certainly be enough for me to place a call to animal control!

Of course, there is also a downside to having technology capable of translating animals’ thoughts into words. I hate to say it, but some humans bore the shit out of me, so tossing animals into the mix doesn’t sound very appealing. And if so-called “motor mouths” exist in the animal kingdom, then I’d just as soon let them bark, meow, growl and roar. Give them all the power of speech and before you know it, animals will have their own Facebook pages and Twitter accounts!

And before you point out how most animal species are incapable of using a keyboard, let me remind you that most devices—if not all of them—now feature voice recognition. In other words, there will be no stopping the social media stampede and pretty soon, “trolling” may include pissed off cows insulting meat eaters or urging everyone to “Eat Mor Chikin,” as they do in Chick-fil-A’s advertising campaigns.

Either way, I say bring it on. I would love to know what animals are thinking because that’s Step One in creating a more harmonious existence among all the creatures of the world. Want to know if the animals in the zoo are really happy? Or if the killer whales at Sea World are being neglected? Ask them yourself!

Just imagine the possibilities!

Posted on December 21, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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