I’ve managed to vex my friends with my repeated talk of uplifting cats, of giving cats near-human or human levels of intelligence (along with thumbs, so as to give them the ability to manipulate tools). A civilization-ender for humans? Perhaps. But it would be a cute civilization-ender, and furry and purry!
Seriously, now, pets do say a lot–my Demography Matters post exploring the connections between feral cat and human demographics in Taiwan was made mostly in earnest. We’ve things in common.There’s something wonderfully satisfying about being a pet owner, particularly the owner of a pet that can express its affection (or otherwise). Shakespeare’s handsome, yes, but he manages to combine his handsomeness with a mind of his own. Nothing human-capable, true, although cat intelligence shouldn’t be underestimated–he can play fetch and use toilets–but there’s something there. (Someone?) The sense that there’s mind in animals is, I think, the factor driving animal rights, the concept that there are beings there deserving of protection. Empathy has broadened, not only including human beings (who, we are discovering, have much more mixed origins than we thought in other hominid species), but other primates and cetaceans and (increasingly, I hope) those mysterious cephalopods made of smarts and magic. The hope for mind is also key in the search for extraterrestrial life: other minds out there would be wonderful, having them at hand would be grand.