I was just watching a cute video of animals freaking out over toys – you know, the dog that goes into a barking fit when confronted with a plush dog, the cat not knowing what to make of a cat on wheels, a very large dog unwilling to enter a room because the doorway was guarded by a plastic dinosaur…that kind of stuff.
Nothing terribly new, except the toys get a little bit more high tech and realistic year after year. The Yoda figure wielding a light saber who could turn around might not be convincing to a human child, who has been to the movies and likely knows who Yoda is and that that is just a toy, but a dog wouldn’t know that. And this is going to be a bit more confusing to them with each passing year.
Watching their reactions was very funny, and I doubt if any of the animals were permanently traumatized. Animals are pretty resilient creatures, and they are far better than humans about living in the present.
But, they are more like us than they are different, and it’s worth noting their reactions. A lot of these toys are already well into ‘uncanny valley’ territory. That is the point were an android – you can’t say android if they are animal shaped, maybe zooid – makes people uncomfortable, because it’s real enough to fool them, or almost. If you’re this side of the uncanny valley, they don’t bother you because it’s obvious you are talking to a machine, and most people are totally fine with that. If you’re the other side of the valley, where the droids are so real you can’t tell the difference, like in Bladerunner, then you won’t be bothered because you won’t know.
But, in the middle, there are problems, and animals are giving us a pretty good clue as to how we’ll react, when the time comes. They are the canary in the coal mine, in this case.