At a family get-together, I went for a walk with my brother-in-law, a surgeon, and his dog, “Quizzie. Quizzie stayed about 30 or 40 feet in front of us, with her nose to the pavement in front of her. She was the most evident topic of conversation, and Geoff and I fell to talking about the evolutionary episode that brought dogs and humans together.
The conventional wisdom here, I think, is that dogs predisposed to human contact vastly increased their chances for survival and that the “domesticated gene got selected in. I think it is probably true that the human communities predisposed to canine contact also increased their chances of survival. While we were selecting them, they were selecting us. They are hard wired to like us. We are hard wired to like them. The relationship is a shared genetic endowment. We might say its a mutual genetic endowment.
But as we talked, a larger possibility occurred to us: that dogs may have allowed the human species to engage in a certain “farming out of the evolutionary process. Once dogs were a dependable part of the human community, they gave us extraordinary powers of sight and smell we no longer needed to supply for ourselves. This freed us to use the evolutionary episode to master other abilities, chiefly higher cognitive ones. (I dont know the physiology here, but I expect having a chemical laboratory in your nose takes up quite a lot of skull space.) And we could now use these cognitive abilities undistracted by the “Wait, was that a sound? Whoa, what sound was that? vigilance that is the dogs life. In the immortal words of Michael O’Donoghue, you can listen good or you can think good, and if you have to choose, its better to think good.
So, anyhow, yesterday, I got an email a friend in the capital markets who specializes in the tech sector and he asked me to comment on satellite radio, an emerging sector about which he has some doubts. Heres what I said to him in the return email:
I think satellite radio adds value by disintermediating the consumer’s access to good music. Without this delivery system, I have to find, evaluate and chose the music I like. Then I have to buy, digitize and manage this music.
Satellite radio gives me “just in time” delivery across a large spectrum of musical taste. To this extent, it seems to make good on the promise that Larry Ellison was pushing for software a few years ago: that we should only have dumb terminals with all of our software and files residing somewhere on line.
What satellite radio lacks, perhaps permanently, is the ability for me to push a button and identify a particular song I want to add to my personal rotation.
For a consumer taste point of view, it’s as if we are moving in two directions: towards much more novelty (lots more new music and more kinds of music) AND towards more repetition. Satellite works for the first but not the second. Hope this helps.
It seems to be that what satellite radio does for music, Google does for information. “Just in time access is the coming thing. Once technology releases us from having to find, sort, choose, embrace, and remember our music (or knowledge), does it also open up another “farming out of the evolutionary process. We have already seen that faster, easier access to cultural materials has encouraged and enabled the construction of larger and more complicated personal identities. What difference will it make to the way we think?
No, really, Im asking. Or, as we sometimes say in the tri-state area, “Im asking here.