Monday, 15 September 2008

Dogs or robots?

I read recently how a biotech firm in Korea (RNL Bio) and the Seoul National University had trained a pit bull terrier to perform certain domestic tasks such as removing laundry from a washing machine, fetching things from the fridge, amongst others.  Then they cloned five other dogs from this well trained parent.  Articles were subsequently written about whether dogs trained in this way could rival and be better than domestic robots.  I suspect that some would have opinions about the ethical aspects of the canine solution to domestic automation.  

Actually, I would still prefer a robot anyway.  There are plenty of reasons why the dog could choose not to follow its training on any particular day.  The dog will also eventually tire from domestic work.  The programming "breadth" possible for a robot should out-strip the number of tasks that a dog can be trained to do.  Finally, the dog will always require more maintenance, and have a more limited lifespan.  Unless its training extends to clearing up after itself then I still prefer the robot alternative, all of the previous points not withstanding!   

What is perhaps more interesting than to debate the merits of robot versus dog, is to wonder what might be the motivation behind the scientists who chose to train and clone the pit bulls?  Which species of animal do would be considered next?  

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