In case you thought robots had no downsides…..
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Reasons to Hate Robots
I’ve hated robots since the 2052 Olympics. If you remember, that was the year a smug spokesman went before the world’s press a week before the opening ceremony and declared that this would be the first games that was guaranteed to be drugs free. It was no idle boast; every competing athlete had submitted blood and urine to the independent monitoring body on a daily basis from the moment they were selected to represent their country. The whole process was rigorously checked, from background checks on the observers monitoring the observers of the athletes to ensure it was their blood and urine being sampled, to the samples themselves, with DNA swabs accompanying each A, B, C and D sample to ensure they came from the person the label said they came from.
That spokesman was probably a little less smug when the viewing figures came in. Not a single World or Olympic record had been beaten by the end of the first week and a drug-free games was proving to be a turn off to the general public. That all changed when Ledley Olmos-King of theUnited Statesran in the 100 metres final. The commentator said his effort and intensity looked almost superhuman as he outstripped his rivals and broke the tape two tenths of a second faster than the previous world best.
Everyone said he had to be on drugs. The International Olympic Committee were forthright in their assertion that this games was drugs free, but to ensure there was no foul play, Olmos-King’s post-race drugs test was televised and the results of his previous samples were made public. The evidence was conclusive; Olmos-King was clean. He’d broken the record without the aid of artificial substances.
He was proclaimed a hero, right up until the point he tripped and fell down the steps of his apartment block in the Olympic village. Conspiracy theories naturally circulated afterwards as to whether it was really an accident or whether he was pushed, but what wasn’t in question was the fact that he smashed his face on the concrete landing. The team doctor for the Jamaican contingent was passing and rushed to his aid. He was the one who first saw the metal beneath the bloody layer of flesh. X-rays confirmed the unsavoury truth: Ledley Olmos-King was a robot.
The scandal raged on for weeks. X-rays were immediately introduced as an adjunct to the fluid testing. A Turkish weight-lifter, five Romanian gymnasts, and a horse fromGreat Britain’s show-jumping team were among those sent home in disgrace as a result.
Of course, everyone had known the technology existed to recreate convincing human replicas for years, but as Marvin from work said, “until you saw one of them on TV and realised you couldn’t tell them apart from the real thing, that was when the truth of it really hit home, you know?”
“Hey, one of them could be among us even now and we wouldn’t even know,” remarked Errol.
We were in the pub at the time and everyone started shifting uncomfortably and regarding each other with wary suspicion.
“My problem with this,” I said, “is all those humans trailing in that damned robot’s wake. Is that how it’s going to be? Robots first, humans coming in last?”
“Steady on,” said Errol, “remember it was humans what built the thing. Humans programmed it, humans entered it into the race.” He saw my face and held up his hands defensively. “All I’m saying is, it’s not really the robot’s fault, you know?”
“Sure, Errol. Now ain’t it your round?”
At the time we all worked for the Post Office. Packages and letters with smudged addresses still needed to be sorted despite the common misconception that it was all automated. It wasn’t a job that required a great intellectual effort or a high degree of skill, but it paid enough to cover the mortgage with some left over for drinks on a Friday night.
What made the job difficult was Louie. None of us cared that we were surrounded by conveyer belts, scanners and computers; machines that diligently and efficiently performed their tasks without a word of complaint. What bothered us was Louie, who diligently and efficiently performed any task asked of him without a word of complaint. He was a human and he was making the rest of us look bad. It was for this reason that no one was too sad when word came in that Louie had been blown up sorting what turned out to be a letter bomb bound forBuckinghamPalace. Of course, we were shocked and upset by the sudden and gruesome nature of his demise, but that was nothing compared to our feelings when we learned that charred cogs and pistons had been found at the scene of the detonation rather than lashings of blood and guts.
“I still can’t believe Louie was a robot,” Errol had said as we manned the picket line outside the sorting office.
“The signs were there all along,” I replied.
“But we were chatting about jingles from adverts we’d known as kids the other day. He knew them all, like he’d really been a kid back then. You’ve got to credit these robot engineers, they sure turn out a complete product.”
“A complete product who’s trying to steal our jobs…”
“Hey, it was management who brought Louie in…”
“You’re such an apologist, Errol. Face facts, robots will replace us all before the year is out. Now I’m freezing out here, let’s go get a burger or something.”
It actually took five years. The idea of surreptitiously introducing robots was to set an example of efficiency that the rest of the workforce could follow. Unfortunately, it turned out that the more work the robots did, the more us humans slacked off. Eventually it got to the point where economics railed against us. The moment it was cheaper to employ robots, those of us flawed by flesh and blood were given our P45s. I sunk into a pretty heavy depression after that. Jobs became harder and harder to find. I’d seen it all coming, but my foresight didn’t make unemployment any easier to take.
I’ll admit I got some things wrong. I thought the end for humanity was nigh when ICI announced a robot had been promoted to its board of directors. Menial jobs weren’t enough for them any more, they wanted power and control. ICI began rising back up to the top of the Fortune 500 and others companies followed suit. A free energy start-up calledStarlightRIwas the first company entirely run and staffed by robots. Inevitably, it was a huge success and its Chairman became the first robot to run for public office. I thought that was the beginning of the end, but I was wrong. The beginning of the end came after Errol blew off our Friday night drinking session in favour of seeing a new robot beatnik band performing at the Red Lion. I went out anyway, drank a lot, didn’t talk to anybody and came home early.
I entered the flat I shared with my girlfriend Lucy to hear bizarre noises coming from the bedroom. I approached warily, calling out Lucy’s name, but receiving no reply. The door was open a crack and a gentle orange light from within told me her bedside lamp was on, but the main light was off. Deep shadows stretched toward me as I reached out and pushed the bedroom door fully open.
Lucy was nowhere to be seen, but even if she was, the giant purple sock writhing on the bed commanded my full attention. I stood there, shocked and confused and unable to utter a word. It was only when Lucy’s head popped out of the top of the purple sock, moist with sweat, hair bedraggled over her face, that I managed to speak.
Her expression transformed from one of smug self-satisfaction to horror on seeing me at the door. My brain finally caught up with what was going on. The computer on the desk by the window was on and a USB-10 lead ran from its fascia and plugged into the giant purple sock, which I abruptly recognised to be a cheap, sensory-immersion device often advertised on Auction Gaming TV-On-Line.
I stormed over to the computer. A messenger window was open with a chatbot fromDenver,Coloradocalled Roger69. A webcam revealed that the robot eschewed a human face in favour of a chrome smile and corrugated steel eyebrows.
“Lucy, what do you think you’re doing with this… robot?”
“Mmm…” Lucy’s eyes flicked open as if she’d been distracted from something. “Err, nothing. Nothing at all. We’re just good friends.”
“Are you naked inside there?”
“Oh, that’s so good… What? Naked? No.”
“I hope you and this Roger69 haven’t been…”
“Oh God, Roger, yes! Give it to me!”
“Are you listening to me, Lucy?”
“Give it to me! Give it to me hard!”
I stared at the purple sock as it contorted this way and that with Lucy’s head swaying back and forth on top. I looked at the computer screen. The webcam shot of Roger69 showed a black rubber tongue hanging out of his chrome-lined mouth and a lecherous gleam in his glassy eye-lenses.
I turned back to Lucy.
“If you can’t give me a straight answer, I’m leaving.”
“Well, I’m leaving.”
“I’m out the door.”
“I’m… almost… there…”
“Well, I’m gone. Good-bye, Lucy.”
I told all this to the pleasurebot at Errol’s party. She hung on every word, just like she’d been programmed too. Not once did her eyes flick away to the carousing taking place beyond the games room windows around the swimming pool outside. Her green eyes were a shade too vivid to be human. Her blonde hair rippled gently in a breeze I couldn’t feel, but I knew emanated from vents cut into the side of her skull. I did not look at her lips; they were too full, too ripe. I tried not to look at her breasts, which heaved and jiggled each time she gasped in surprise at a twist in my story, but on that score I failed. She didn’t seem to mind.
“And now it’s all over,” I said, tearing my gaze away from her cleavage and onto the drink I had resting on the bar. “It’s over for all of us.”
“How do you mean?” asked the pleasurebot.
“Human existence is a sham. Robots like you have taken away from us everything that made life worth living.”
“I’m still not sure I understand,” said the female facsimile sitting on the barstool next to me. I know some guys like them to act stupid, but I just find it patronising.
“I’m not sure you could understand. Can a robot actually understand anything?”
“That’s not what I meant,” said the pleasurebot. “I don’t understand what it is you think you have lost. Do robots not produce everything you want?”
“Sure they do! They produce everything that doesn’t matter! They work in the factories, they sit in the offices, they run the governments and give us humans food, consumables, durables, entertainment and sex. We’ve become mindless hedonists, who don’t actually do anything of value or purpose. Humans are defined by what we do. I used to be able to say I contributed to society. I worked for a living. I sorted the mail. I could take pride in that, but now it’s gone. You’ve taken away everything I did and what’s left? I’ll tell you what’s left: Nothing, that’s what.”
The pleasurebot listened to my tirade with an algorithm of sympathy written across her face. When I was done, she reached out a warm hand and touched me on the shoulder. She offered what her programming told her was a reassuring smile.
“But you do have a purpose in life, don’t you see? There is something you do that no one can take away from you. Not man, woman or robot. You were born to moan, moan, moan, whinge, whinge, whinge about every little thing. I’m a pleasure droid. I’m programmed to have a high tolerance for maudlin self-pity, but you’re too much. Humans have never had it better, but you just can’t see it can you?”
I started to argue, but she just got up and walked away, giving me the finger over her shoulder.
I took my drink and knocked it back in one. Errol came over, fully-dressed, but soaked from the pool. He watched the pleasure droid sashay away to the dining room.
“Mate, when you can’t pull a sexbot, there is something seriously wrong with you.”
He punched me playfully on the arm and then bounded off to the dining room.
Yes, I hate robots, but humans are just as bad.