Contrarian Attraction Theory

There are dog people, and there are cat people. They tend not to be the same people.

In my experience, dog people value the enthusiasm and loyalty of their canine companions. I have never witnessed a more pure or focused love than the emotion conveyed by a dog to his or her human.

Cat people, on the other hand, cherish the elusive mystery and independence of their feline friends. As my friend Athomas put it yesterday, “People don’t train their cats. Cats train their people.”

Which leads me to my theory.

Athomas’ comment came up during a meeting with a colleague in which we were discussing a potential project involving a virtual interactive cat. One key question that comes up in any such project is: How should a virtual cat behave?

A common question in human / computer interfaces is “How can I get it to do what I want?” But this is not quite true if you are trying to simulate a cat. After all, an interface agent that does everything you want requires only a theory of “Digital Obedience Gestalt” (DOG).

But in this case, we need to develop more of a Contrarian Attraction Theory (CAT), to describe a creature that appeals to us largely because it is so eloquent at expressing its approval or disapproval — at being so capable of not doing what we want.

Cats do what we want them to do by not doing what we want them to do.

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