Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Aaaaye! Robot



Register columnist

This year marks the 85th anniversary of the robot, which begs the question: Why do I have a cold?

Robots were supposed to be our faithful servants. They were supposed to scrub our toilets wearing French maid outfits with nary a whisper about minimum wage or wedgies. At least that's what Karel Capek had in mind when he wrote his 1921 play "R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots)." He used robots as a metaphor for humanity's capacity to torture and our natural leanings toward depravity.

Or whatever. The point is, I'm sick, and if the robot has been around for 85 years, why hasn't it figured out a way to make me better?

Better yet, why didn't a robot - Secret Service-style - intercept the nasty germs that made me sick in the first place?

Where are those magic wands of "Star Trek" fame to shoot nano-love bits into me to eat up my virus? Where is my "Jetsons" machine to conveyor-belt me from my bed through the shower, closet and breakfast table without me having to lift a single, aching digit? I'm too sick to move, so where's the robot nanny who can comfort my crying child, feed him, dress him and teach him to be fluent in over 6 million forms of communication?

Nowhere. That's where.

You're going to tell me that the chick in your dashboard tells you when to turn right to get to the supermarket, and I'm going to tell you that she should do your shopping for you. Especially when you've got the chills and the very thought of the refrigerator section makes you weep.

Let's face it, my human brethren, robots have largely been a disappointment.

In fact, the Cambridge Robot Project, which launched this month in England to celebrate the bloody bloodless creatures' birth, is so at a loss to find cool robots to extol, they've had to define "robot" as any machine that'll do your work for you. Less "Terminator," more calculator.

This should offer some comfort to people who fear robots will one day take over the world. They needn't worry. My dishwasher has been making funny noises, but I doubt it's telling my coffee maker and microwave to rise up in revolt. Instead, it's probably telling me that it's sick and that I'm going to have to call a humanto come make it better.

That's how it is with these robots, isn't it? Whine, whine, whine.

To my dishwasher I say, "Shut up and make my throat not hurt.

"Can't, can you? Stupid, useless robot."

My animus toward robots might just be displaced frustration with my physical exhaustion and the fact that my cold forced me to give up my ticket to Madonna. But who cares? I feel lousy, and if I want to beat up on robots, I will.

After all, they haven't become, despite Capek's prediction, thinking, feeling circuits of artificial intelligence. They don't know that I'm casting aspersions on the whole of their miserable, mechanical race.

Or do they?

Come to think of it, no one else in my household is sick, and I'm the only one who has recently cursed my water heater. What else but sinister robots could explain the fact that Hoobastank is still releasing albums? And, really, how can I prove that my dryer didn't infect my duvet with typhoid?

Maybe robot-fearers are right. Maybe it's not bird flu we should dread but human-hopping computer viruses. Nano death rays shooting out of our laptops. Mucus-smearing hands-free car washes. Maybe the robots are staging their revolution one feverish, delirious human at a time.

It's too late for me. Save yourself.

If your throat starts to tingle or your nose starts to drip, hug your vacuum cleaner, look deep into its nozzle and say, "Happy 85th birthday, robot."

I pray it takes pity on you.

1 comment:

  1. Well done,you sure did show those s.o.b's(Silly robots Of Below intelligence) didn't you? You are too funny. I laughed so hard at this one.