So a friend of mine is building a robot. Most things that get called robots are really nothing more than remote control cars with a few smarts, or telepresence vehicles. But this guy is all about the soul of the machine, the way the robot will consider things. And his model? He plans for his robot to think like a cat. (Disclosure: I’m not a “cat person”. I appreciate them, though.)

  • Cats Don’t Care About Details- When a cat enters a room, it looks around for: threats, creatures, food, places to sleep. There’s probably a process in their minds to determine how bad a threat is, who the creatures are (are they in my pride?), what type of food, but I think the details get fuzzy beyond that. (Any cat shrinks in the house?). How would you apply this to your life? Are the details of every little thing important? Or can you abstract things to the point of: “what do I need to survive, connect, eat, and sleep?”
  • Cats Don’t Need Maps- Programming a robot to move around is a pain, but cats just know the basic laws of physics (insofar as those apply to them). They know that up is often safer than ground-level, but that ground-level is more often where the food is. Everything else is just a navigation path, but not a map. Maps are too static. They don’t account for dynamics. Google Maps doesn’t tell you (yet) that a truck rolled over (is there a mashup for this that’s really good?). How would your day change if you threw away rigid schedules in exchange for a path that got you through to what you need?
  • Cats Exert Little Energy- Why search over and over for food? Find a source that seems easy to reach, easy to consume, and reasonable in taste, and call it good. A lot of what we do in life ends up drawing more energy out of us than necessary. Sure, we don’t have to be slugs and sleep 70% of the day, but maybe cats offer a great model for exertion with regards to reward. Make sure you’re not working too hard to get what you need. (We’ll cover this in an interview I plan to post).
  • Cats Don’t Deduce- They Just Take What’s There- Sometimes, we get into a habit of over-thinking things. We over-clock our ideas. This leads to double-guessing, reworking, and all other kinds of non-catlike behavior. One interpretation of Occam’s Razor is this: if it looks that way, it probably *is* that way. (WAY oversimplified, I admit). That’s similar to the power of Google. You know why Google works for most of the “weird” requests we give it? Because it’s “good enough.” And that’s often all we need to complete our task. Ditto for cats. How about you?
  • Cats Network Well- When a cat comes into the room, they “own” the room. They make an effort to move around, see who’s there, maybe rub legs with a few folks. They spend just enough love and attention with everyone (maybe not little folks) to give everyone a chance to connect with the cat. When you go to events, do you remember to own the room? Do you try to network and meet all the people in the room? What if everything you did in that room were an assessment of threat, ally, food, or recreation? Would that change your view?

You guys are great for letting me launch so many metaphor posts at you (analogy? – help me, grammarians!). I like them because they help me think about things in a different way. I am fond of saying: If I want to learn about new ways to do business, the last thing I’d do is read a business book. I hope you concur.

–Chris Brogan writes about self improvement and creativity at [chrisbrogan.com]. He’s helping to organize Podcamp Boston.

Love this article?