Jewish World Review Nov. 4, 2003 / 9 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

Keep technology away from the monkeys | In what could turn out to be extremely bad news for pet owners, monkeys at Duke University have learned how to move robots around simply by thinking about it.

According to a story in the New York Times, implants in the monkeys' brains picked up brain signals and relayed them to a robotic arm, which picked up one of the Duke scientists and snapped his neck like a pretzel stick.

I am making that last part up (though the New York Times story did not say specifically that it did not happen) simply to illustrate the potential dangers of this scientific breakthrough and, of course, to cause the kind of worldwide hysteria not seen since the Martians invaded New York City.

This particular advance comes (much too) soon after the development of electronic gizmos that allow you to understand what your dog or cat is thinking. I suppose it is good to know that your cat is feeling anxious or bored a second before it leaps on your neck and sinks its teeth into your carotid, but this new monkey technology has clearly raised the stakes to a whole new level.

If a monkey can operate a robot with its brain waves, it is only a matter of time before Fluffy can order the chandelier to fall on your head without ever leaving the comfort of her favorite pillow.

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I shudder to think what my life would be like if my two pugs possessed telepathic powers. Since most of their life consists of eating and then sleeping it off so they can eat again (a lifestyle, I must admit, that is not far different from my own), I imagine a "Ghostbusters"-like scene where eggs fly out of the refrigerator and are broken in mid-air by invisible hands into a Teflon skillet heated, as if by magic, to medium-high. The resulting omelets are allowed to cool slightly and then are dumped on the floor, which to the dogs is no better or worse than a supper dish.

After this appetizer would come a rasher of medium-rare bacon, followed by a few wheels of Gouda followed by a pound each of Publix turkey breast followed by . well, let's just say that it will not be long before my house smells like the aftermath of a Panama City spring break fraternity party involving grain alcohol, Mexican food and jumping jacks.

The dogs are driven insane by the sound of TV doorbells, a situation they would telepathically correct by causing the TV to explode the next time they hear one.

Also, owing to their superior mental powers, I would be obliged to provide belly rubs on demand 24 hours a day.

While this scientific breakthrough may eventually be of great benefit to people suffering from paralysis, it should under no circumstances fall into the hands (paws) of pets.

Unless you don't mind sleeping in your dog's crate while he sleeps on your bed.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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