top of page


Trim the cat

Its all things Australian at the moment with the temperature in the Antipodes above 40C and Captain Matthew Flinders being dug up at Euston. No sign of his cat Trim though - he met his demise in Mauritius in 1803 (not captured by the British until 1810) as described in this circumnavigating cat's biography written by the Captain in 1814. Trim was born on board ship in 1799 and was a cat assured in his element - not afraid of the water and well able to swim, as well as climb the rigging faster than any man. However, he was a stranger to living in a house and would go and return only via a sash window so he could spy the land as if from on board before disembarking. He was not afraid of anything, even taking being shipwrecked in his stride and infamously friendly in the London street. A picture of this remarkable cat can be seen here.

Although I am intrigued by the story and the fact that he had his biography written and preserved (being printed in the 1970's), the appeal to me is that Trim's story is counterintuative since we think of cats as avid avoiders of water and things in motion. Being a naturist, I was struck by the parallel with people who are thought of as avid avoiders of nakedness and, in recent times, of anywhere without street lights. Of course, we are all born to different experience.

I have never had a good memory for specific words, but maybe this is because my grandmother furnished me with Roget's theasurus at a young age so I did not need to remember. So in looking up the term counterintuitive, I came across the 'experience machine' - otherwise known as the pleasure machine. Before you start wondering the machine exists only in the imagination as a thought experiment. Robert Nozick, the philosopher whose experiment this is, asks us to imagine that we cannot tell simulated (machine generated) from real experience. The question is would we prefer the simulated experience to the real. The 'experiment' dates from 1974, well before the personal computer and virtual reality. In 1953 Ray Bradbury had also written about a fictional society that enshewed books for wall to wall television and never went outside. My question to you is how near are we to these visions?

bottom of page