Tinpot Gods: The Tyranny of Robots

And this little pig ran wee wee wee, all the way home Madam

And this little pig ran wee wee wee, all the way home Madam

In my youth, I was bombarded with stories of how the future would be. My comics told me we would travel and settle on other planets. The Jetsons told me we would have flying cars. Geoff Tracy and his sons on various Thunderbird craft communicated by video telephone, and space age pens used by astronauts allowed me to do my homework upside down should I choose.

But the thing that excited me the most was the prospect of having my own personal robot, a slave to my every whim, who would regard me as his lord and master. (And for some reason my Robo-Butler was always male, perhaps the influence of the genie in Aladdin or a secret desire to live a Bertie Woosteresque existence with Jeeves forever at my elbow).

But then something horrible happened. A new generation of films and comics conspired to turn my dream into a nightmare. First came the future-horror flick Westworld, penned by Michael Crichton. In a near future, an adult theme park populated by robots would allow those rich enough to act out their fantasies by journeying to MedievalWorld, RomanWorld or WestWorld. There they could banquet like kings, shag willing slavegirl-bots and face the town baddy in a shootout at high noon. Unfortunately, in this case the town baddy was Yul Brynner and a computer virus turned the robots from compliant victims to human-hating killing machines. Needless to say, chaos ensues and the feckless humans are forced to sing the entirety of The King And I at gunpoint.

"I want your huge co...*^#fsszzst... please insert credit"

"I want your huge co...fsszzst... please insert credit"

Then came the cylon hordes in Battlestar Galactica, saucy deadly pleasurebots in Bladerunner and the Terminator series and my visions of having slippers delivered with a perfectly mixed Old-Fashioned were rapidly discarded.

These thoughts all came back to me yesterday while I was driving around the labyrinthine Sydney road system under the guidance of a talking GPS system known as TomTom. “Turn Left”, a computerised lady’s voice badgered, “then in 100 meters turn right”. Neither a please nor a thank you came from her silicon lips and I thought, “Is this it? Is this how they take over?”

I cast my mind back a few days and remembered my experience at the bank. I had walked in and, despite there being an actual human in the “reception area” it seemed they were only there in order to instruct me to “use the machine”. The machine was a tall, imposing looking pillar with a flat touch screen at eye level and a slot half way down. The touch screen invited me to select a reason I was in the bank. Unable to find a button marked “To talk to a human”, I pressed International Business, thinking that sounded the most impressive, at which point the machine spat a ticket from its slot onto the floor!!!



Whatever happened to the robot role models of yesteryear? Are we now raising generations of metal bullies when we had the opportunity to program them to be servile and meek? Why does an ATM instruct me to “Take Your Money” instead of “Allow me to present you with this small gift, Oh Master, I am your humble and worthless servant, a thousand blessings be upon you“.

The human race needs to take another look at Santayana’s Law of Repetitive Consequences and give it a contemporary spin…

“Those who cannot remember the future are condemned to repeat it”

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Further robot reading at Notes: Robot hookers in our future


2 Responses

  1. […] Further reading at Notes: Tinpot Gods: The Tyranny of Robots […]

  2. brilliant 🙂

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