To continue in the theme of gadgets you'd expect to see in the Christmas edition of Private Eye (" Say goodbye to cold soap misery with HottiDish! Electrical elements carefully warm your soap without charring, to make winter bathtime soap shivers a thing of the past! Plays theme tune from Have I Got News For You, £1999.95") , we now turn to Pollyvision. This is a DVD containing eighty minutes of parrot-themed content, with our colourful avian pals disporting themselves through jungle and sky. The idea is to cheer up those parrots and budgies who pine away while their owners are out at work: social animals to a fault, they really don't appreciate silence and loneliness.
While this is a good idea, it's only the beginning. What we need as a matter of urgency is an Internet for the animal kingdom: Polly may tire of the same 80 minutes of pseudo-psittacines, but a decent video link and some sort of beak-centric input device and they can connect up to their friends worldwide and entertain themselves endlessly. With a little more work and a satellite link, terminals can be dropped into jungles around the world and the captive birds enjoy a virtual freedom. Who can say -- perhaps this may become the preferred method of existence for the birds: all the social interaction and stimulation of the wild state, and a nice, well-supplied comfy place to sleep in well away from predators.
It shouldn't stop at parrots. Any social species may benefit from online interaction -- after all, why should it just be humans who get off with online dating, chatrooms and all that other good primate stuff? There should be a crash programme in developing ways of transferring information over IP that hasn't previously seemed important -- odours, for example, and the tactile business of pulling lice out of fur. And I don't really want to dwell on what might be needed to get bonobos interested, except to note that it could outstrip any Attenborough BBC nature programme in the ratings.
This could be the brand new market the world is looking for -- and at last a way to exploit the animal kingdom in a morally defendable fashion.