Axolotls: brilliant things. Not only are they constantly smiling, they are baby salamanders that have miraculously avoided having to turn into adults. No wonder they’re constantly smiling.

Neoteny is an interesting phenomenon in nature. It’s when an animal remains to a greater or lesser extent in its juvenile phase rather than maturing fully. It’s a notable characteristic of domestic animals when compared with their wild counterparts. If your cat likes chasing and sometimes killing things but doesn’t seem to quite know what to do with them once they’re dead – if, in short, it is more kittenish than catlike – that’s neoteny. The ability of some humans to drink milk into adulthood is neotenous. Arguably our lack of fur is too, as is our large head size and phenomenal brain plasticity. We remain in “learning” mode for far longer than most animals our size. If you think people who sit at home pretending to shoot people in the face are juvenile, you are of course right, but surely it’s preferable to having them do it in real life. I look forward to an era in which just mucking about and having fun and learning new things is seen as the noblest possible state for humanity. Neoteny rules. When I spend my time playing music and games and relaxing with friends, I am often seen to be constantly smiling.


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