Every dog owner has had the same thought: What are they saying? According to The Future Of, Netflix’s newest science docuseries, the answer to that age-old question may arrive sooner than we ever imagined. “Dogs” explores the progress being made when it comes to animal linguistics in an episode that is every pet lover’s secret dream.
Like Netflix’s other futurism documents, The Future Of follows a simple format. Every episode the series takes a regular part of everyday life, from dating and houseplants to video games. It then dives deep into the innovations lurking in the near and far futures of these seemingly mundane topics. How close are we to inventing wearables that tell us how romantically compatible we are with another person? Will we really be able to take space vacations one day? It’s all very Black Mirror-esque as each episode explores new, well-intentioned technology and glosses over its potentially creepy consequences. But honestly? It’s really hard to wring your hands and fret over unintended chaos when human-to-dog communication is on the line.
Halfway through the episode, Dr. Con Slobodchikoff appears, an animal behaviorist and conservation biologist who is also the founder and CEO of Zoolingua. The company has been working on an AI-driven software designed to translate dogs’ barks, sounds, and movements for humans.
“Eventually what’s going to happen is that somebody will have an app, probably on their cell phone, and they will record the behavior of their dog. This app will send information up into the cloud where the AI model will analyze the behavior,” Dr. Slobodchikoff explains. “With this app we will know for sure what the dog is trying to tell us.”
As the episode explores, if this increased communication came to be, it would fundamentally change the way we interact with dogs. Vets would have an easier time diagnosing their patients and catching the mysterious, undetectable problems that sometimes infect animals. Also, you would finally be able to tell your furry best friend that you aren’t in fact leaving forever but are just getting groceries. There is also a chance that dogs’ rights would increase if this technology was successful. Once scientists realized that chimpanzees could communicate, they were no longer used in experiments. Learning the full range of canine communication would likely make us rethink how we treat our furry friends, and that understanding may even lead to the end of puppy mills.
“Dogs” doesn’t live in a completely delusional world. The 19-minute episode also acknowledges that knowing what your dog is saying could be deeply upsetting. What if you found out that your dog doesn’t like you? That would suck.
But for a moment, let’s live in the perfect world we all imagined as children as we were snuggling with our family’s fuzziest members. The dream of having a full conversation with your dog? The Future Of argues that it’s not nearly as outlandish as you may have thought. Just keep this technology away from cats, for the love of all that’s nice in the world.