I have a cat. It’s semi-friendly most of the time but has a tendency to make demands while appearing to be friendly. It likes to bite when it doesn’t get what it wants – which is hard to know as has cat-communication issues. I still feed it, look after it as best I can and take the occasional happy-rub with the random swipes and bites. The cat doesn’t seem to do this in a pre-meditated manner and if I read it correctly, the follow-up rub is a sign of remorse. The cat reserves this for those who live here, it generally ignores visitors as the cat knows, they won’t feed it. I find myself studying the cat too much, trying to figure out if there is a pattern here, or what triggers it. Overall, I think the cat just likes to do it on impulse as it’s a solitary creature pre-wired to knock things off tables because it can or dissapear for few days on whatever adventure it’s on.
The cat is somewhat predictable. It’s general attention seeking mode kicks in about 10pm when our pack of hounds have found a child’s bed to curl up in and the ground is far safer to walk on. It’s not a big cat and our gun-dogs are more than happy to scoop it up and carry it around until they get bored. Of course, the cat is a fascination to them as it has superpowers. It can leap on any surface and unlike them, is allowed to sit in places they’d be kicked out the house for. It can also vanish into thin air or ambush them from dark corners. I pretty sure the hounds don’t study the cat the way I do, but they too have a weird relationship with it – except the cat’s wise enough not to bite the dog and to high tail it when caught in the open ground.
Most of all, the cat doesn’t care. It care’s about stomach-o’clock, getting the odd pat and being on the high ground – preferably in a food-coma. It doesn’t provide much in the way of service from its lofty existence. We had a rat in the kitchen who ate plastic pipes – the cat didn’t care. There’s no cat-brain connection between other animals and it’s bowl. The humans will fill the bowl on demand. The shallow cat rationale seems to be – I am a cat and I am here. To the cat, the rest of us are there for one reason – to feed it. It shows up when we unpack the weekly shopping. I can see it judging us, as it sifts through the bags with disappointment. I’m sure it doesn’t know what it thinks we should bring home or care – but it just likes to maintain a sense of under-whelming gratitude.
I’ve come to think that technology if it were an animal, that it would be a cat. Perhaps in a different time, factories were also cat-empires that we – the working cogs – serve. The difference between the adults of the 1950s and today is that we have a much more demanding, smarter and punitive feline to deal with. I also think that the instant-nature of technology promotes cat-like behaviour in some people. The obvious one being the keyboard warrior – which I am sure is something my cat will evolve to do at some point when it feels the need to mess with people at a distance or we run out of objects for it to knock off shelves or benches.
As I say, I’ve been watching the cat and I’m onto it. I’m also increasingly trying to observe my technological-cat and not be on call to feed it or feel like I have to respond positively when it bites me or decides to be a jerk. I can’t control what people actually do with technology – when they use it; how they use it or what their intent is. It’s a waste of time, other than to accept thinks amazingly appear before me – which the techno-cat would like me to attend to – now. It might genuinely be hungry, but it’s just as likely to be messing with me for its own amusement.
I think our relationships with our inbox is a lot more like having a cat and far removed from our relationships with other humans. It’s hard for us not to pay attention to it – and it doesn’t care about what we think about its demands. The inbox is there to make demands of us, whenever someone feels like it. I’m sure I’m not alone in experiencings a ‘ding’ of an email notice and then minutes later someone says “did you get my email”. Then there are those mass-emails, where dozens of people are saying “did you read THE email” … as though we all get just one a day. Most of my time in my kitty-litter box is trying to get rid of turds to be honest – endless spam that I try to ‘unsubscribe to’. Yes Twitter I’m looking at you.
I’m going to tame the cat-inbox to create a calm inbox. I’m going to give Inbox Pause a go and see if it has any effect on me and others. I am aware that I am also guilty of being a techno-kitty pressing SEND at the end of every technological interaction. So I want to send less in order get less. I have over 30,000 un-read messages. I actually paid $25 to add more storage to Gmail today – which the point I thought – you are an idiot – the cat is running your life.
I’m not so important that I have tons of important email anyway, most are junk as I said, but as a human, I really think that other humans can call me or visit me when things are super-attention worthy. If I convince myself that 90% of inbox messages to various systems I’ve stupidly learned to use – and see as important – are the work of cats – it might just help.