Looking at these pictures has made me focus on a peculiar trait that all humans possess: ascribing value to non utilitarian objects. When I saw this dog leap into the shallow water after a stone thrown by his owner, I was curious to see how this was going to evolve. After all, a stone is a stone, and it was unlikely that once it fell into the sea, it could be traced through sniffing. Dogs are not all that eagle sighted either, so the chance he could spot the exact one through these running waters was very slim. Yet, he really insisted on finding THAT ONE, the particular, unique and valuable stone, that had the special quality of sharing a history linking the dog and the owner together.
Michael Johnston has recently brought to our attention an interesting article by Richard B. Woodward, about comparing value of photographs printed or not printed by the authors. This has brought to my mind an excellent TED talk by my favourite social psychologist, Paul Bloom, about the origins of pleasure, and how we essentially all are… essentialists… The unexplored part of the story though, seems to be, that this precise mechanism, ascribing value (pleasure of ownership) to things on basis of their perceived history, looks to be working among other animals as well.
What is not shown here, is that after the dog has brought the stone to his master, they lost interest in the game, and moved on their stroll. The precious stone got abandoned in the middle of millions look alike stones on the beach. Again, a parallel with us humans, brilliantly depicted by Antonioni in the movie “Blow Up”. I wonder, if ten years from today, anybody will still be willing to spend big bucks for a chewing gum “pre owned” by Brittney Spears. After all, who the heck were the Yardbirds? Our common fate is oblivion.
“Oblivion” – Astor Piazzolla