We're all (humans and other animals) programed to explore and to learn. As a religious educator this makes me happy. As a dog trainer it makes me really happy. Dogs, like people, are hard-wired by evolution to enjoy figuring out puzzles, to like exploring their environment, seeking out, like the USS Enterprise, new life and new civilizations (or at least new places where someone peed). Scientists talk about a "seeker circuit" in the brain -- a part that is engaged in the task of exploring, discovering and learning. They've found that rats, given a choice between having the pleasure center of their brain activated or that "seeker circuit" will opt for the excitement of exploring and learning over electronically-induced bliss.
I suspect that's why people get so invested in video games, although I wouldn't know from personal experience. But hey, what is the Web if not a great big field to sniff around in. I'm sure I'm not the only one who can waste vast amounts of time "seeker-ing" amongst the intertubes. Somebody posts an interesting article on Facebook...which has a link at the bottom...which takes you to a video on YouTube...which suggests a couple of other interesting possibilities...and before you know it the morning has evaporated like footprints by the pool on a hot day.
But, Taz would point out, the one thing that makes this metaphorical or literal sniffing about REALLY exciting is when you have something in particular to chase and track down. He loves the game where I hide a toy and he has to sniff around to find it. It would be even better if we could play that game in the back yard with the neighbor cats.But the point of the game is not really so much finding the thing as knowing that there's something out there to find and hunting it down.
I realized this for myself recently as I was, once again, sucked into the black hole of ...internet shopping. It started innocently enough, with the observation that it would be nice to be able to watch streaming video from the computer on the TV. So Lynn enters seeker overdrive, looking online at how this is possible. Which leads to serious contemplation of the purchase of a Wii, which streams Netflix, and hey, you could even use it to exercise. In which case you'd want a balance board. And exercise games. And extra controllers for Mattea's friends to be able to play. Or, there's hooking your laptop to the TV, which would work a whole lot better if you had a TV with more modern connections in the back than our semi-old CRT. Maybe we need a big-screen LCD TV! Or hey, you can buy internet-ready TVs already set to pick up your wireless signal! For only $1500!
For a couple of days my eyes glazed over with seeker circuit-induced techno lust. But really, I don't need to spend hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars for the privilege of watching something from a couch rather than a chair. I didn't really want the stuff as much as I wanted the process of finding the best stuff: reading reviews, figuring out connections, exploring the possibilities of HD wonders.
This, I believe, is why there are malls. People really like to roam around hunting for stuff. Just imagine how much money people could save by thinking of a mall expedition as the kind of African safari where you take pictures of the animals you see, rather than shooting them to take home trophies. There! The perfect LBD! Quick, whip out the iPhone and take a shot to send you your friends, documenting your hunting prowess. And then on to the next store, where the perfect earrings surely lie in wait, ready for digital transfer to your admiring pals.
Hey, maybe that means I need an iPhone....