Sunday, February 2, 2014

Best Buds

I cried while watching a Super Bowl commercial.



Having spent nearly a decade with my Yellow lab Ben I feel smack in the center of the target audience. As much as I may disparage the Super Bowl for bringing out the worst of American Culture - celebrating voluntary head injuries, exploiting minorities, claiming non-profit status for an entity that is anything but "non-profit" - I do think all the dollars being thrown about produce some of the most concise social commentary each year. And here we are talking about our collective cultural obsession with pets be they puppies or draft horses.  However contrived you might think this is does not nullify the reaction many will have while watching. Whenever I see my mom's cat snuggle up to her dog on the couch I can't help feel all mushy, same response here.



After first seeing the ad I kept thinking of Peter Singer's expanding circle.  The idea that the next phase of human morality ought to expand to include cognitive non-humans and further as we understand more about how other animals feel.  This train of thought also reminded me of the nascent "inter-species-internet." I first heard about this during a panel discussion about the future prospects of the internet titled "Internet Everywhere" presented as part of the World Science Festival in 2012.  MIT professor Neil Gershenfeld explains the inter-species internet (ISI) as a small group loosely coordinated by musician Peter Gabriel. Apparently, Gabriel started conducting jam-sessions with bonobos and found bonobos to be incredibly responsive.



What emerged from this initial observation was a network among cognitive animals.  Giving the bonobos ipads they found they could use them to communicate to each other and to other species like dolphins. Though I have yet to find video on the internet of bonobos sharing selfies with dolphins, I can imagine it being so. So, although the #BestBuds ad is most surely a heartfelt fabrication it certainly touched a universal chord with me. 
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