Needed: Dog/Robot Teams to Teach Animals to Avoid Us

15Feb12

I was looking at this report about how dogs are so much better than chimpanzees at understanding humans.  It occurred to me that a well-trained dog (or maybe a superdog of the future) could use this kind of knowledge to help endangered animals survive.

Granted, there would be certain operational difficulties in getting a dog to teach anything to, say, a tiger.  I don’t know if it would be possible to design a taser or a nasty-tasting coat that might aid in this sort of difficulty.  If scientists can create a turnip that glows like a firefly, maybe they can construct a dog that smells like a skunk, though I suppose a dog of that nature would soon jump off a cliff.  Also, while a dog might find it challenging to catch up with the deer long enough to get a word in edgewise, it might work to have the dog just patrol the roadsides instead.

The robot wouldn’t have to be R2D2.  It might be more like an implant or a collar device.  The concept is that it might function as the dog’s guide.  “Rhinos for Dummies,” etc.  With a GPS link, Fido could be steered over to Sector A, because infrared or animal tags indicate that this is where human and animal are most likely to meet up tonight.  When a certain species lies beyond the doggie’s ken, A.I. might provide the cues:  “I know you have no idea what kind of warty beast you are looking at, but let’s pretend it’s a chipmunk.”

At some sci-fi level, the dog becomes optional.  When robots become sufficiently smart, cheap, and mobile, there’s no need for a meat-eater on the team.

I realize that, overall, what I’m proposing is probably a dumb idea.  It just seemed like there must be some way to turn dogs’ apparent understanding of humans to the task of protecting or possibly teaching other animals.  Maybe there’s a variation where a human-looking robot and a real dog take a stroll through the jungle — the robot protecting the dog from predators, and the two engaging in activities of a sort that could teach at least some kinds of birds and animals about us.

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2 Responses to “Needed: Dog/Robot Teams to Teach Animals to Avoid Us”

  1. Somewhat related: I found a YouTube video where Waterton Lakes National Park is using border collies to herd deer out of town.

  2. My company used Border Collies to deal with a Canadian Geese problem.

    Question: if you make dogs more capable (human-like?), do they lose that particular ability to understand other animals?

    Perhaps true robots are the answer. I was reading about robotic fish that other fish recognized and followed. They thought it might be useful in herding non-game fish away from commercial fishing spots.


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