13
$\begingroup$

In my setting, we have quantum computers that can easily fit in a soda can and machine learning algorithms so advanced that we can easily make it impossible for all animals (humans included) to tell the difference between what's real and what's illusion. In the future we can hug and pat holographic projections using invisible pressure waves in the form of ultrasonic transducer, or play a game of fetch with a mechanical canine. No longer do owners have to suffer the loss of their beloved pet, those with asthma and allergy problems are safe, and there's no need to clean up their mess.

With all of this, why would many people still prefer keeping live pets in the future?

$\endgroup$
10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Keeping Morby Dick in ur bathtub is no longer far-fetched... $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 5:07
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Read Phillip K Dick: "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 6:39
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Same reason people today prefer dead tree books to eBooks; go to live concerts instead of listening to FLAC of a great performer on hifi speakers; or buy Etsy handmade goods instead of mass manufactured ones. Psychology trumping rational thinking. $\endgroup$
    – user4239
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 8:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @user4239 although your argument starts convincing, the way it ends seems preposterous to me. What is irrational about buying paper books instead of paying for mobile internet connections and having to remember charging sth before you can read a few pages? Also digital audio will always be worse than analogue audio for humans (at least until we devolve our current hearing organs) $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 11:47
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Why not replace the real humans with realistic holographic ones as well? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 19:17

13 Answers 13

10
$\begingroup$

This is like asking why a book is better than an ebook, or why a letter is better than an email. No matter how convenient or easy or clean something is, there's just something about knowing it's real. People keep pets to pet, yes, but ask anyone with a pet, even people who just have a fish, and each and every one will tell you that their pet is a person too. It has a personality. It has likes and dislikes and quirks that make it unique. Yes, a robot could be programmed to have a little randomness, to develop x number of quirks, to develop tastes. You could take all the good things about pets and make them real in a robot, and you could get rid of all the bad things, but really, what makes pets special is that they're real. A stuffed animal is still soft, it will still snuggle you, you can heat it up and it will be warm, but it will never be truly real. That's the difference. It doesn't matter how good an imitation something is, if you changed anything at all, even things that are clearly for the better, it's not real anymore. There's a reason people don't write books in which nothing bad happens, and why there are no movies where nothing goes wrong: life is about the moments when something sucks, when it breaks, when everything goes wrong, when plans go awry, and just basically the worst moments because those are the ones that make the person, and those are the ones that make the pet.

That being said, having a real pet is definitely an endeavor. It's hard, it's dirty, and it's expensive. It takes time and love and forgiveness, things that not everyone has. I could very well see how the general populace might end up with robot pets. Easier, cheaper, safer... it's basically fast-food. You know it's not real, but it's quick and easy and it'll do. People still want to sit down and eat real food, though, and the same would be true with real pets. The wealthy, who had the time and money, would have real animals, and they would probably flaunt the fact whenever they had the chance. Real pets would become a status symbol, like fur coats, and just like fur coats, faux pets would do their best to imitate the real thing, but they would never replace knowing that what you have is really real.

$\endgroup$
2
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Nailed it. If we get the end result without earning it, how long before we get bored and throw it away? $\endgroup$
    – Lu22
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ Great answer. There is so much 'faux' stuff out there now - after the initial novelty of 'having anything you want, for cheaper' has worn off, people start to realise they are missing something. That something is what attracted them to it in the first place - real authentic worth, which cannot be replicated or copied. Personally, having fake timber boards in your home, laminates, fast food, virtual stuff on your computer - it all wears a bit thin after a while and we all yearn for the real thing eventually. $\endgroup$
    – flox
    Commented May 12 at 2:48
7
$\begingroup$

The tactile feedback of touching another living thing is far more complicated than it looks at first. Living things respond to your presence. They also respond to how they perceive your emotions. Many of these responses are very rapid, within a few hundred milliseconds. It can be very difficult to reproduce these accurately, especially because they depend on how you feel at the time, so you cannot pre-record them.

However, this does point to an interesting choice your world can make. If, in the midst of a technological revolution, they have to choose between whether they raise their children to interface with living things or machines, the children may never learn to desire that living feedback. In fact, it could even become uncomfortable (because it is terribly hard to predict in advance how it will go). As a result, a technologically advanced society may loose touch enough that they may be totally comfortable with an anamatronic device.

$\endgroup$
5
$\begingroup$
  • Because they read the scientific news that became available in 2016, and realized that cat-related toxoplasmosis results in more "shades of gray" (proclivity to BDSM), and don't want to lose that.

  • Because some people always have irrational affinity for what's "natural" and rejection of what's "artificial". in 2016, there are people who snub eBooks in favor of dead tree books. Who buy hand-crafted things of questionable quality just because they are "artisanal".

  • Because there's a psychosomatic (or may be real?) difference in levels of satisfaction of petting a live animal vs. fake one, even if the lab tests show no difference in objective tactile and audio experience - leaving aside that the latter is nearly impossible to achieve in the first place.

    People like to listen to live music instead of to hi-fidelity record, even though the latter is (1) cheaper, (2) can be better quality because you have better performer recorded and (3) you don't have downsides and inconviniences of having to go to a concert.

$\endgroup$
4
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with this answer. If people are lied to that all those robot pet are "real", then it don't matter for them. In this case, the truth is not as important as perception. $\endgroup$
    – DTN
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 17:14
  • $\begingroup$ You're missing one big point. The reason live concerts are better than recorded music is not the quality, it's the experience. Same goes for paper books over ebooks. Digital is cheaper and easily available yes, but it's restricted to one sense. Whereas concerts and real books engage touch, sound, smell and sight. These cannot be replicated by their digital equivalents. $\endgroup$
    – Lu22
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 10:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Lu22 - last time I was at a live concert, there certainly was smell. I can't honestly say that the smell was a positive experience, but I admit there was one :) $\endgroup$
    – user4239
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ @user4239 Depends on the quality of fanbase the band has. Apparently 30 Seconds to Mars' fans know how deodorant works. $\endgroup$
    – Lu22
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 12:58
4
$\begingroup$

Taking a slightly different psychological approach...

Have you considered the Uncanny Valley?

enter image description here

Many people find animatronics to be kind of creepy. Oddly they can be even more unsettled when they're more realistic.

You may remember The Furby from the late 90's:

enter image description here

It was more or less an early artificial pet, but notice also that it appears almost deliberately artificial looking, bearing little to no resemblance to any actual person or animal, but some people still found them creepy[citation needed].

Now compare the Furby with the Genpet1:

enter image description here

I'm guessing that you can see where I'm going with this, but to state the obvious... a lot of people were really disturbed by the Genpet concept. The more "real", life like, and (perhaps most disturbing) humanoid an artificial pet becomes the more some people will be upset by them.

Now there are obvious caveats and edge cases, The Furby did experience wild popularity albeit short lived popularity, but the uncanny valley will likely be a huge design consideration for future artificial pets, and perhaps a reason that some people will never truly accept them.

Note:
1:

Genpets aren't real

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ This issue of The Uncanny Valley problem, but in the last 10 years several workarounds have been found (which is why you now see people in Pixar movies). I suspect animatronic pets will take a similar approach initially. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 8:14
3
$\begingroup$

It is simple, THE COST!

Because in future too, adapting such technologies would be expensive for many.

Even if we assume that poverty on Earth would be abolished completely in future, It is still difficult to assume that each and every one would be economically balanced. Despite availability of such technologies, their cost may divert humans to use the 'real' pets.

Also, if we are to establish civilizations on other planets, migrating technologies from Earth to those planets or simply creating technologies on those planets too would be highly costly. It will be easier, comfortable and far cheaper to migrate the real pets to other planets.

Digging Deeper

If we even think more about the future...

The future criminals may use your virtual pets to kill, rob or kidnap you simply by hacking or manipulating the code and/or wirings. But hypnotizing real pets is very difficult if not impossible.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Because the pet can love you back.

That is certainly true in the case of animals of relatively high intelligence like cats and dogs. For less intelligent creatures like fish it might be more debatable whether it is capable of love, but even then there is something like a relationship between two living things. You can make a pet happy.

The near perfect technological reproduction of the physical sensations of having a pet may satisfy some, but it will not allow the human to give. For much the same reasons, humans will mostly continue to seek the company of other humans, however realistic androids get.

However if science advances to the level where robot pets can be made as sentient as the animals they imitate, things might be different. But how would we know? The manufacturers might claim that the robo-dog truly felt love for you, and its behaviour might be programmed to resemble the behaviour of a loving dog in every way, but I think people would still doubt. The only way that I would be convinced that a robot had been made as self-aware as an animal would be if I had already been convinced that a robot could be made as self-aware as a human. (This would happen by the robots passing the Turing Test or similar. Basically, they'd tell us that they were conscious and we'd believe them for the same reasons that we believe each other to be conscious.) Thus, I suggest, sentient robot pets will follow, not precede, the development of sapient computers, despite the creation of animal-level artificial intelligence being an easier task than the creation of human-level intelligence.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Life Lessons All those inconveniences of having a pet that you can neatly program out--well, they teach children things, and for adults, owning a dog is like training for having kids. (It's not the same, but it's a start.) People want the experience and they want the inconvenience. If you've cleaned up dog puke at 3 a.m., you have to factor your dog into the expense for every vacation, and you've cleaned up dog poop with those little bags, then kids are the next step up. By having a pet, you'll know that some things are out of your control, you have to clean up some gross things, and that your life has to be adjusted for the pet. Having a programmable death installed, is not the same as real death. The death of a pet is often the first way that children learn to deal with death.

Your pet chews something up? Wipe that part of the program. You never have to find a way to change your life to accommodate that tendency, or teach the animal. There's something to be said for that experience.

You may as well ask, why adopt children instead of programmable people who grow--there's no off switch on a kid, they pee and poop and make dinner inconvenient.

It's boring and mass produced. Because a mass production of pets means that they won't have individual personalities, and if they are programmed, they will all respond the same way. You are talking about algorithms as though that will mean that the electric pets have the same sort of responses animals do--but there's a lot of things that animals do that we don't like--and that's part of what makes them interesting. We have thousands of YouTube videos of pets which do something or learn something unexpected--like the one which tries to attack the windshield wipers, or coming home to find your kitchen ruined, with two dogs telling on the one who did it.

Expensive Also, it seems like that would be massively expensive. That's a pretty good reason not to get one.

Programmed love is not the same. Getting love from something that's programmed to love you is not the same as getting love from something that decides to love you.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Loss makes every day count.

"You don't know what you've got 'till it's gone"

If something were to last forever, then there's no particular drive to enjoy its presence right now. That, in turn, means you'll never truly enjoy something in the way that you would if it were to cease existing at some unknown point.

To live - truly live - is to love, to feel, and to enjoy the moment whilst it lasts, because we know it won't last forever. This applies to anything that's alive - pets or indeed family members too. Cherish those fewer special moments rather than drown in the endless ones; something that would otherwise be special becomes routine and therefore ordinary.

$\endgroup$
5
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ They could program the pets to die, though. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 7:44
  • $\begingroup$ @IndigoFenix - 1 word: Tamagotchi $\endgroup$
    – user4239
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 8:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @IndigoFenix A programmed death is nothing like the real thing though of course - like tamagotchi you can just get a new one and it'll be exactly the same as before. Death becomes an excuse to buy another one. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ If the robot pet is "raised": new robot = white paper, old robot = paper with lots of text, then robot pet can be equal to real pet. $\endgroup$
    – DTN
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ @LukeBriggs You could say the same thing about organic pets, though - just buy a new one. The difference is that real pets are more complex than most existing electronic "toys", and animals learn and change over time, so the new one won't be an exact duplicate of the old one... but AIs that learn from experience already exist, and at some point complex, learning AIs will be cheap and affordable for the general public. At what point does the difference between an organic brain and an electronic one cease to matter? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 6:19
2
$\begingroup$

For the same reason that people have exotic pets now. Everyone has a cat or a dog, but how many people have a false water cobra? Or a monkey-tailed skink? Or a rose-hair tarantula? Or even something deadly, like a real cobra or Gila monster? Even if most people have gone to animatronic pets, people will like the novelty, the challenge, even the risk of working with real living creatures.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

A Pet Needs a Soul

Yes of course people can and do become attached to inanimate objects and "date" virtual catgirls and all the rest. I'm particularly fond of a specific miniature I use in tabletop wargaming because for reasons a statistician could explain but I certainly can't, "Sam" (yes I named him. Of COURSE I named him.) pulls of miracles. He's a tiny metal man in a slightly-larger plastic plane. But I make sure he's specially transported/stored and "look after" him during games as well. I often talk about him like he's a real person doing real things instead of a tiny dude that I roll dice for to see what happens. Makes no sense. I'm also very fond of Dobby the House Robit (our roomba) and tell the kid to treat it nicely and act like it's alive. But it's not a "pet" to me.

That being said, I also have two dogs. Real live animals. And if somebody said "I can give you a dog that looks/acts/feels EXACTLY like a dog, from puppyhood to death or could be "immortal" at any stage of a dog's life I'd prefer, I'd still want a real dog. Even if I 100% believed them. Because the dogs aren't a pile of components and wires and AI machine learning. They're real flesh and blood things with thoughts and actions that are their own, not just programmed. Granted, were I a Materialist Atheist I might believe the dogs themselves were just piles of pre-programmed reactions. But most people, even those without religion, tend to think that animals and other "biologicals" have some amount of free will. A "soul" for want of a better word. At the end of the day most people would rather that than a robot no matter how lifelike. After all, a robot puppy chewing my carpet and peeing on the floor is "badly programmed." A real puppy doing the same is an adorable little trouble maker that I'll help grow into a wonderful companion.

All that to say, if your society doesn't view AI as having a "soul" or "Free will" or whatever that means for the society, there's always going to be people that would rather the real thing.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Because it ain't real. It does not shit into your flat. It doesn't rebel, it does not have moments of childish "Ha, im smarter then the big-guy" smugness. It does not suffer if you neglect it, it does not depend on you. It does not love you, it is just electrons in a smart stone. Which then again, can be the same, can have the same emotions, can have the same suffering and longing built into. But it can not sleep on your chest, its weight pressing down, it can not fart a meat fart into your face, making you having nightmares of Verdun.

https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2002/11/11/the-law-of-leaky-abstractions/

The hologram is a leaky abstraction and ever so often it will give away its true nature. Not pushing wine glasses from a board. Not having hair everywhere. You do not scoop poop, you do not carry sacks of food up to the elevator. You never hold it panicking at the vet, while it thinks you betrayed it, sacrificing it to a predator with a syringe. If it does not make you suffer for it occasionally, do you really love it?

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

A Hologram Does Not Need You

The ways that a pet show us affection are only one half of the emotional connection that drives us to want them. They also fulfil a basic psychological need to have someone to take care of. The human Ego fundamentally needs to feel important and relevant. If you are a single person living by yourself or a 2 income household without children, it is very hard to fulfill this need; so, a lot of people who do not have any other humans to take care of will adopt pets as a way of increasing thier own sense of importance.

As long as you have someone you care about that needs you, even if that someone is a dog, you will always have something to live for.

An AI pet might do all the same physical actions for you that you want out of a real animal, but the inability for them to actually need you means that you will not get any of the feelings of self importance that comes with the responsibility of keeping another animal alive. Sure, your halo-dog will be a cute fixture of your household at first, but after a few months when the novelty wears off, you'll just stop bothering to turn it on, and it will be as forgotten and meaningless as the Tamagotchi you dropped behind your bed in highschool and never bothered to pick back up.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

In addition to all the people who made excellent points about humans preferring things to be real, knowing they have a ind etcetera, I would like to add a slight compromise. To what degree have neuroscience and brain scanning come in this world? If it is reasonably advanced, I imagine some people would have organic pets for a time, and then when time runs thin... Grant their beloved critter a new form. So long as the technology permits, there might not be near so much need for the dreaded farms upstate and rainbow bridges. And because this a real pets mind, simply running on chips rather than neurons, the pet is aware. Perhaps somewhat confused, but likely happy that their person is there and whatever disease threatened is now mere memory. There of course would need to be a far more active system for neutering pets with this, but it could be a pet utopia. Sorry if I rambled, and everyone else made fantastic points as well. Hope I could help.

$\endgroup$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .