I've always suspected that scientists were one marble short of ... well, having a marble, really. But real proof emerged earlier this month from Boulder, Colorado, where a clutch of the spherically challenged white coat brigade announced they were building a robotic cat.
There's nothing wrong with robots. I can't wait until they invent a RoboShopper that whizzes round the aisles in Safeway on a Saturday or a RoboParent that conducts violin practice and mops up vomit - preferably simultaneously - not to mention a RoboColumnist that can turn out 500 words for PC Dealer once a fortnight.
Animal robots could be handy, too. We could get wire wool from a RoboDolly and spreadsheetable butter from a RoboDaisy, while a RoboBonzo would retrieve any sticks we carelessly threw away while out for walkies. But no, the wooden-headed boffins had to come up with a cat.
RoboMoggy will probably be about as well behaved as the average clone PC. He will get infested with bugs, have dumps on your lawn, awaken you at odd hours of the day and night and crash out whenever you want him for anything. Smaller pets, like Furbies and Tamagotchis, will be viewed as tasty snacks, while other RoboMoggies will have their ears shredded, fortissimo, in the garden at three in the morning. But when confronted by any larger machine, like the office Notes server, RoboMoggy will take fright and flee.
If such behaviour doesn't make you love him enough, he will catch mice and other peripherals and leave them on your bed; pretend to be stuck up directory trees, but only until the fire brigade arrives; and sharpen his claws on your Chippendale (furniture, not muscular manservant).
Perhaps most worryingly of all, RoboMoggy's brain will be left to evolve in self-replicating software, so it will probably end up looking something like Microsoft Office.
And to think of all the other animals that could have been chosen. A robotic bee, for example, would only be a quarter as complex to build, according to the Coloradans, and far more useful to PC users.
RoboBee would be hard-working and would be able to find her way back to any place she had been to before - handy for all those little features you once stumbled across in your word processor, but have never been able to repeat. She could also communicate with other RoboBees just by waggling her body, so there would be no need to mess about with LapLink or infrared transfers.
And - unlike many people in the PC trade - she would only sting you as a last resort. All this as well as manufacturing a delicious spread and pollinating fruit crops.
Still, it could have been a lot worse. The Buffalo boffins could have produced an electronic Colorado beetle. That would really have been the mother of all bugs for the millennium.
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