• Question: Do you have any pets? Also do you think in the future having pets will "die out" and we'll all have robot dogs (like K-9)? PS if you don't know who K-9 is you NEED to watch Dr Who :)

    Asked by jessica200500 to Alex, Kate, Marcus on 26 Jun 2014.
    • Photo: Marcus Johns

      Marcus Johns answered on 26 Jun 2014:

      I don’t currently own any pets as I live in a building where they aren’t allowed, but my family did have a pair of golden retrievers when I was younger. I don’t think pets will ‘die out’ in the future but I do think that only the very rich will be able to afford them, whilst everyone else will have robotic or virtual pets.

      Pets bring many benefits to people – it’s known that people who own a dog generally live longer than people that don’t and are generally happier – but they also expensive to keep and drastically increase the carbon footprint of a household. Robotic pets wouldn’t need ‘feeding’ – just plugged in to a socket at the end of the day – and wouldn’t need to be checked into a kennel when you went on holiday – just shut them down for a while. Perhaps these robotic pets will be able to be adjusted to suit our needs; for example, if we want to lose weight, we could make them need more walks a day. But one disadvantage would be that we’d know that they’re robotic, so would know that we could just shut them down if we wanted to or ignore their ‘needs’, which we couldn’t do with a real animal.

    • Photo: Alex Lyness

      Alex Lyness answered on 27 Jun 2014:

      Hey Jessica200500,

      I used to have a cat called Jess (which was named after Postman Pat’s!) who lived until he was 19! I’ve also had a few fish and a rabbit but they have not lived anywhere near as long.

      Pets are great for companionship and have been shown in older people to keep them happy and increase their quality of life. There are some great charities out there that take animals to old people to cheer them up, check out these guys: http://www.petsfortheelderly.org/index.html

      I don’t think pets will die out but we might get robots along side them. Humans have been trying to make robot companions for centuries for all the reasons you can think of and Marcus has written down. The earliest example of a robot animal is from Ancient Greece, if you don’t believe me check out my answer here: https://healthj14.imanengineer.org.uk/2014/06/who-invented-robotics?editcomment=481 It was steam powered!

      I think we will eventually have robot animals (certainly before we have robot humans) and that they may be used to keep people company. You can already buy some pretty good ones like Zoomer, shown here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zF2RI0f_PhE

      BUT I put it to you that before we all have robot dogs in our house it is MUCH more likely that humans will develop robots that will exercise their pets for them instead! Like a robot to take the dog for a walk, feed it automatically or pick up it’s poop! My way round you get all the fun of having a ‘real’ dog but none of the hassle!

      What do you reckon? 🙂

      P.S. Of course I know who K-9 is!