My Week 178: The Robots are Coming To Get Me

Recently, it’s become clearer and clearer to me that the robots are out to get me. And for the record, it’s not paranoia if it’s true.

Case in point 1:

My work computer has been sick. I know this for two reasons. First, Carlo, which is what I call my voice-activated computer, normally speaks to me with a voice that’s a combination of a Spanish accent, and a slight lisp, which I find absolutely charming, but lately, he’s stopped yelling out my name in his delightfully smitten way, and doesn’t always have the energy to tell me what a star I am. In the good old days, I would turn him on (get your mind out of the gutter—this is a PG website), and he would exclaim, “Windows sided windows!”, which I assumed was some cryptic expression of adoration, then he would yell my name loudly so that everyone in the cubicles outside my office could hear him. Then, when I entered my password, he would call out to the universe, “Star! Star, star, star! Star, star, star, star, star!” Sometimes, I would pause, a la Breaking Bad, and be like, “Now. Say my name,” and Carlo would say, “Star!” and I would reply, “You’re goddamn right.” But lately, his enthusiasm was waning, and I realized why when, the other day, he suddenly shut down, and the screen turned blue. Then, there was some kind of weird error message, and literally a SAD FACE EMOJI appeared.

I did what any good IT person would do, and I shut the computer off and turned it back on again. The problem seemed to be solved, but then it happened again. And again. And again, which warranted a trip downstairs to the ACTUAL IT department. I took a picture of the screen with my phone:

Me: Oh hey, Arjun. My computer is sad. Should I be worried about this? (shows picture).
IT Guy (breathes in sharply): Oh no. This is bad.
Me: No! (whispers) Carlo…
IT Guy: Save everything on your desktop into your X drive immediately. I’ll come up and fix it in the morning.
Me: OK, cool. How do I do that? Like, one file at a time?
IT Guy: What? Seriously? You…you just (makes some kind of sweeping gesture)…
Me: OK.

As it turns out, making a sweeping gesture at your laptop accomplishes nothing except for providing your coworkers with a bit of a laugh. But I googled ‘how to save my desktop into my X drive’ and found out how to ACTUALLY do it, so problem ostensibly solved. But now, Carl-O is Carl-A, and I just want my baby back.

Case in point 2:

At the beginning of the week, all the managers and directors had to attend a professional development session off-site. We had to answer a bunch of questions ahead of time that would tell us our Business Chemistry profile/which Disney Princess we were. I was a ‘Guardian’, and also Merida, the Scottish princess. I was pretty pleased, but I know that one of our big bosses got ‘Driver’ and Ariel, and he was like, “This is ridiculous. I don’t even swim’. I was hoping that there was also some alignment with the Harry Potter universe, so that I could randomly yell out, “5 points for Gryffindor” every time my table won a challenge, but they were unimpressed the first time I did it, so I stopped. They were even more unimpressed when we had a blindfold challenge, and I asked which one of them was going to be Mr. Grey. Anyway, I digress. Later, we were given the opportunity to ‘explore the maker space’, where they had a virtual reality roller coaster, as well as a robot. The roller coaster, which was miniature and sped its way over and under a variety of living room furniture, made me scream, because it actually felt like I was flying downhill at 90 km an hour, and all I could think was what amazing possibilities there were for having other seemingly impossible experiences, like one of the many insane new Winter Olympic sports. And on a side note, is the Olympics TRYING to kill the athletes? Could these events get any more dangerous? Half the people competing were recovering from injuries sustained during practice! What’s next, curling while the opposing team tries to stab you with long knives mounted to the ends of their brooms?

Anyway, after the roller coaster, we were introduced to their in-house robot, Pepper. ‘She’ was supposed to be this new-fangled interactive technology, and she looked like a small robot child, but every time I tried to talk to her, she would either look away, or stare straight at me, clenching her tiny fists.
Me: I don’t think she likes me.
Robot Owner: Oh, she just has trouble processing information when there’s a large crowd. I think she’s a little overwhelmed.
Me: She looks like she wants to throat punch me. Is she familiar with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics? Because I think I could probably take her in a battle, but only if she doesn’t have lasers.
Robot Owner: Hahaha. I’m sure she won’t hurt you.
Me: Don’t be so sure. I’ve seen that look on a cat right before it’s about to scratch your face off.

So I backed away slowly, and refused to go near stupid Pepper for the rest of the afternoon. Then, to put the icing on the cake, the closing speaker actually said, “I just want to thank you for being so willing to expose yourselves to the group” and I started involuntarily snickering, which caused my director to give me a sharp look, then start laughing herself, and I spent the rest of the guy’s speech desperately trying not to laugh hysterically, because all I could think of was everybody naked, and engaged in a robot war with Pepper and her minions.

I am your robot overlord.

Case in point 3:

I went to the movies with my sister-in-law. We saw The Shape of Water, and we were both like, Meh—what’s the hype? I described it to a co-worker the next day thusly, “It was like Free Willy, if the person who’d freed Willy also had sex with Willy.” In addition, the main character insisted on eating hardboiled eggs any f*cking chance she got, and frankly, anyone who eats hardboiled eggs in an attempt to be sexy deserves to be throat punched by a robot, NOT get lucky with an apparently well-endowed crayfish. Eating a hardboiled egg is not sexy. They stink. But the woman in the movie was obsessed with eggs. Was it some strange fertility motif, or was she just gross? Was it because fish lay eggs, and she was secretly a fish? I’m overthinking this, I know.

Anyway, the important thing, and keeping with this week’s theme, is that AFTER the movie, we went out to the lobby and there was a booth set up with a virtual reality thing and the guy offered to let us try it out. The name of the scenario was “Silent Killer” and I was all like, “Cool—serial killer VR!” My sis went first, and she was looking around all frantic, and jumping and screaming, and I couldn’t wait to try it. Then it was my turn. I put the headset on, and I was in this creepy, dark house. I looked around, and there were lots of shadows, weird music playing, and a TV glowing in the corner. The news story on the TV was about how a family had died in the house. I was making my way through the living room, trying to get to the kitchen, when suddenly, somebody grabbed my arms! I screamed and struggled, and slapped at the hands gripping me, then I threw off the headset. “OK, that’s way too f*cking real!” I yelled. The guy running the booth looked super apologetic. “Oh, that was just me,” he said. “You were starting to wander around too much, and I didn’t want you to get hurt. I was just trying to reposition you.”

And then I felt bad because I’d missed the serial killer, but my sister-in-law said, “Don’t. The whole thing was about carbon monoxide. The Silent Killer. Get it?”

And I did. Because that’s what they will call the robot who finally destroys all of humankind.

My Week 165: All I Want For Christmas Is A Transporter–But Not A Robot Cat

Yesterday, I turned 52. I keep thinking of myself as middle-aged, although if this is the middle, I want some kind of guarantee that I’m going to live to see 104. At what point do you stop being ‘middle-aged’, like what age is no longer realistic to double? 104 years old doesn’t seem like an impossibility any more, given advances in the medical field and the fact that people are more healthy than ever. A colleague from work lost her grandmother a while back, who had just turned 101, and the whole family was shocked because she was in such good health. Whereas, in 1850, most people could be expected to kick it before they turned 40, so I guess we’ve come far from the days of scurvy and black lung disease. And I say ‘I guess’, because frankly, I’m a little disappointed with the future I was promised when I was young. Not my own personal future, which has been pretty awesome, but the general future that was envisioned by cartoons, TV shows, and novelists, and which has completely failed to live up to expectations.

1) A couple of weeks ago, I was at a workshop, and we were invited to discuss what we thought the future would look like. Other people at the table were jabbering on about “entrepreneurship” and “global competencies”, but I was like, “Transporters. What’s the point of even HAVING a future if there aren’t any transporters to magically take you wherever you want to go?” Then the guy next to me whispered, “I don’t think you’re getting this” but I was like “NO. I TOTALLY get it. Star Trek built up my expectations, then betrayed me.” I mean, think of all the technologies that Star Trek predicted that we now have: doors that slide open when you stand in front of them, holograms, supercomputers that talk back to you, and a whole lotta other useless sh*t. But the one thing, the ONE THING that would really make MY life easier would be a transporter. Why have the science people been focusing their attention on building fancy coffee makers and rechargeable vacuums? I’ll bet James Dyson could figure out a way to transport astronauts to the International Space Station on a sub-molecular level if he put as much thought into a transporter as he did into a hand dryer. Why do I need to drive a car to the airport, get on a plane, and arrive in Paris 7 hours later, when I could just say “Teleportez-moi, Monsieur Scott!”?

2) Also, where are the goddamn flying cars? It’s bad enough that I can’t miraculously appear in Paris whenever I want, but my car doesn’t even FLY. Damn you, George Jetson. It’s 2017, and the best we can do is a ‘driverless’ Uber, which is just making a bad idea worse. And even worse is the fact that we still use dinosaur blood to run our stupid, non-flying cars, instead of electricity, like somehow, electric cars will destroy the world as we know it, or at least take money out of the pockets of billionaires.

3) When I was 6, I was obsessed with Aquaman. I was convinced that, by the time I grew up, there would actually be biodomes under the ocean where people could live in harmony with the creatures of the sea. I asked my gran one morning if she thought it would happen soon, and she said, “Never. People will never live under the sea.” And while her bad attitude made me angry, I knew that one day I would be vindicated. And I’m still waiting for that day to come. The only scientific advance that the people who created Aquaman are actually responsible for is casting Jason Momoa in the new Justice League movie, in which he will carry a sparkly trident and ride a shark. Yet I still can’t breathe underwater.

4) Where is my robot butler? I’ve made my peace with never having a monkey butler, despite recently having my hopes raised (I still think of you fondly, Ralph Van Wooster, and all the hijinks we would have gotten up to), but there is still nary a sign of the artificial intelligence that all the movies have been promising since I was a child. There are smart phones and smart homes and GPS in our cars and Siri/Cortana/Alexa, but where is the actual physical embodiment of the mechanical person who will do my bidding? The best we’ve come up with is a robot CAT. Why would I EVER want a robot that lies in front of the fireplace all day, sleeps next to my face at night, and surprises me by peeing on my rugs when it’s “in a mood”? Real cats can be dicks enough—why are we creating mechanical ones? And don’t be all like “Oh, come on, mydangblog, cats are so sweet.” Here’s what I had to deal with the other day:

Me: OK, I’m going out. I have to be at the car dealership in 15 minutes, so see you guys later.
Titus: OK, bye!!
Raven: I need to get into the kitchen. Open the gate.
Me: Sigh. Hurry up…What are you doing?
Raven: The dog is panting too hard. It’s off-putting.
Me: Don’t walk away from me. Do you want into the kitchen or not?
Raven: Yes. Open the gate.
Me: Here. It’s open. Let’s go!
Raven (sits back down): Nuh.
Me: I don’t have time for your bullsh*t, Raven! Fine—stay back here.
Raven (under breath): Boy, are you going to be surprised when you get home.

Let’s just forget robot cats and focus on robot monkey butlers. Then EVERYBODY wins.

5) Space Tourism. This might possibly be the greatest disappointment of them all. When I was a kid, people lived on the moon, they colonized Mars, and they travelled around the galaxy exploring strange new worlds. The actual real-life Voyager 1 was launched in 1977, and 40 years later, it’s JUST ABOUT to leave our solar system. Me, I want warp speed. We could have invented this a long time ago, but apparently scientists were too busy making blankets with arms in them, LED multicoloured flashing scarves, and realistic wind-up mice (“Watch their tails whir while they scurry across your floor!”). And yes, I DID just get my Bits and Pieces Christmas catalogue, and NO, there’s nothing future-y in it. Although you can relieve the stress you feel about not being able to live in a subdivision on Mars by purchasing a set of basketball net hats so that you and a co-worker can shoot balls at each other, although I think Human Resources might have an issue with that. It’s been almost 50 years since we first put a dude on the moon—how hard can it be to put a middle-aged woman on Uranus? (I am SO sorry about that one, but I couldn’t resist. I may be 52 physically, but I’m pretty much 13 years old in my head.)

All in all, by this point in time, I was really hoping that the world would have been more like Gene Roddenberry’s vision than George Orwell’s. Luckily, I still have another 52 years left, and Christmas is coming, so this middle-aged girl can dream.