THE ROBOTS

07 Mar 2021

So, when they said robots would one day destroy us, I pictured square steel monsters shooting laser beams from their eyes. Or, something more eerie and android: superhuman, zombie armies of cyborgs in the vein of I, Robot or Terminator. I never imagined these robots would sneak up under our noses in the shape of phone apps and home assistant devices with people names. Recording our behavior, selling our data off to corporations so that they could find us and drown us with material distractions and debt.

These robots would feed our insatiable appetite for information, and once we were hooked, indulge us with an impossible amount of news and content to absorb – ungodly helpings that drive a human mad with anxiety or worse, contempt with self-righteousness.

These killer robots powered “social networks,” which were put in place to further isolate us into our echo chambers, turn brother against sister, and dupe us into baring our most private and unformed thoughts with total strangers. Social networks stoked our primitive desire for acceptance by coaxing us to share our darkest secrets – the ones meant for our community to help us face and process – not suitable for a public square or even less forgiving, the court of public opinion.

Robots removed context from our narrative, they stripped us of nuance that makes us complex and human. Robots auto-tuned our art, they made us comparative instead of competitive. We traded brilliance for convenience. We didn’t want the best of anything as much as we wanted it fast and plenty, so that we could have more time. To do what with exactly? Tend to our robots.

Robots made us mediocre and unhealthy – not just in body, but of mind. They stole our most valuable asset – our attention –and made the world endless and exhausting, so we were never fulfilled. We assumed we weren’t enough for ourselves, but really, we just weren’t enough for a robot world.

These robots convinced us that our disagreements were irreparable; ideas outside of our own were laughable at best, and at worst, to be extinguished. Only the loudest and most severe voices were given preferential treatment by the robots, not the factual and prevalent as these were construed as pedestrian. We only had time now for splashy headlines, not bodies of stories. A newspaper that runs solely on headlines is neither fair nor real, but we took them for truth. And with the aid of the robots, we then published our own news and truths and nobody cared about news and truth anymore.

The robots didn’t sleep or rest. They worked forever, without food or vacations or healthcare. The men who hired these robots were happy with their choice, so that they could make more money to buy more robots. These robots took on the work we didn’t want to do, and then they stole the work we needed to do, and so we were left purposeless.

And in this way, robots defeated us. It didn’t happen one day, but over many, and it wasn’t the robots at first, but our greed, our narcissism, and our apathy that walked the robots in. Until one day, we sat up and realized that the robots surrounded and controlled us, and we didn’t know how to manage our lives without their guidance or assistance. They were as much a part of our identity as we were of theirs. As with a dogwalker who is being dragged by a wayward beast, it became trickier to determine who owned who.

The one thing these robots could never be was broken. Conversely, we needed to be fixed always. The only ones who could help us do that, we remembered, were the others like us. We were naturally equipped with tools like empathy and compassion to heal. With arms to hold and eyes to tear. The restorative process, the human bonding, were inefficient in the robots’ opinion. There was no financial incentive in bridging relationships. It took too much time. It was boring. Yet, we were engineered to need Love and give Love and in this way, the robots were confounded and useless.

We were reminded then that robots are made better and perfect and exciting. And we were never meant to be so. What made us valuable were our imperfections and shortcomings and failures. Because in those errors – those weaknesses – was room for growth, which is what life is all about, isn’t it? Progression. Our existence isn’t just about winning the race or knowing the most. It’s about running and tripping, and then learning and advancing.

The next morning, we awoke and acknowledged the greatest collective mistake. We had granted the robots too much room in our lives and far too much credit. They made us faster and stronger, but we were already fast and strong. They made us money and showered us with glory, but we had enough and were inherently glorious. The robots needed us to have purpose, not the other way around. From then on, we lived with them and still used them, but we were glad to not be stainless like them. And, we were happy to realize this together.

—X—