I have a recipe for building a better caregiver. It turns out that my 13-year-old daughter is having a profound impact on my worldview affecting everything from politics, gender, and parenting to lifestyle. She recently introduced me to two things that led me to believe that I can define what it takes to be a better caregiver. First, we watched “The Mitchells vs The Machines“, a 2021 animated story about a dysfunctional family that becomes the world’s last hope during a robot apocalypse.
I often reflect on how robots should be able to take over many of my caregiving duties. We’ve tried a robot named Obi to feed J that didn’t work so well for her, but I saw potential. Ultimately, I hope there will be a robotic exoskeleton that can help J regain all of her lost motor control. However, after watching this movie, I’m having second thoughts — no spoilers here, you’ll have to watch the movie.
A Dad Who’s an Octopus?
Next, my daughter introduced me to a video game called “Octodad – Dadliest Catch“. Again, another dysfunctional family that doesn’t recognize that their dad is, in fact, an octopus! Being an octopus has pros and cons. Octodad can slip through tight spaces, grab objects with his suckers, and knock things around with tremendous strength. On the other hand, Octodad is not all that coordinated, especially when controlled by multiple players, and has difficult doing seemingly simple human tasks. Plus, he is unintelligible, in a mumbling gibberish kid of way.
These two events convinced me that I can design a better caregiver, one well suited to all of the tasks I face during the day. This is a work in progress but I’m certain that as genetic manipulation, evolution, and robotics come together, my vision will be realized.
A Design for a Better Caregiver
I like the idea of starting with an octopus. Eight arms! N.B.: Octopuses have arms not tentacles. These arms would be able to act as both human arms and legs facilitating better stability and multitasking. We need a better torso than a floppy octopus so I’d probably stick with a human torso — since we have eight arms, two arms could go at each human arm and leg connection point. A human torso gives our caregiver an upright stature, stability, and flexibility. Plus there’s the added benefit of compatible genitalia.
Now, on to the head… I’d like to enhance some senses like vision and hearing and reduce the sense of smell, or at least make it controllable. I like the idea of an owl head that can turn 270 degrees! I initially considered eyes in the back of the head but that might make sleeping difficult. Talking about sleep, our caregiver needs to have a minimal requirement for sleep. Luckily, and surprisingly, there are multiple animals that don’t require much sleep and offer a good model for us. I think I’ll go with sharks! Since there’s no physical characteristic for this, let’s stick a fin on our caregiver’s back for good measure.
Finally, we need a lot of intelligence to control this new physicality and keep track of all of our caregiver duties. We could just stick with a human head/brain which would make the most sense, but it’s interesting to look at the animal kingdom again. There are many intelligent animals, some well known like chimpanzees and dolphins, and some less well known like goats and crows. Of course, octopuses are thought to be intelligent so it might be the best choice to control our hybrid body, yet if Octodad is a valid model, his brain has a hard time dealing with typical human scenarios. Chimpanzee brains might be the next best choice given their similarity to humans but I’m not so certain about their caring nature (thanks to the Planet of the Apes movies), which brings me to dolphins. I grew up watching “Flipper“, and there wasn’t a more caring creature in the world, except for maybe “Lassie“. Sadly, dogs didn’t make the intelligence list so let’s go with a dolphin brain. Note: Elephants might have been a good choice given their caring nature but with a brain that 3 times as heavy as a human brain, we’d need a much larger head, neck, etc.
A dolphin brain is a good choice as dolphins have acute vision, a decent sense of taste and touch, good hearing, and no sense of smell. Plus there is the bonus of the sixth sense; echolocation which would come in handy during those mid night no light traverses to help our loved one. So, as a nod to the dolphin, let’s do away with a traditional nose and instead put in a blowhole.
Help Wanted: An Artist Depiction of the Better Caregiver
I am not an artist, at least not in the visual sense, but I know many artists! I’m putting out a call for creative depictions of our better caregiver. Completing this assignment will likely not benefit you at all, unless this “creature” becomes the basis for a future science fiction novel, or happens to actually evolve into existence over time — then we’ll both be considered visionaries.
Obviously, this all was just an exercise in wishful thinking but it does serve the purpose of highlighting just how specialized the caregiver role is and how poorly our existing configuration fills those roles. Who knows, maybe I will develop some of these characteristics over the next few decades. Honestly, I’m hoping for the shark fin!
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