Life with Klatu
Richard Szlosek with is dog, Breezy, at his home in Northampton. JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »
I hate to admit it but I am getting old. It now takes me longer to recover than to get tired. My back goes out and I stay home. Accordingly, I spend a lot of time thinking about what might make my life easier in my “golden years.” (Whoever thought up that term deserves a special place in Dante’s Inferno.) As I peer into the future I see robots everywhere.
Google already has driverless robotic cars on a few city streets. I recently saw an article by a writer who predicted that it will be illegal for humans to drive a car in about 50 years. Those robot cars don’t fall asleep, don’t get drunk and don’t suffer from road rage. I couldn’t help wondering what planet that writer came from. If you think it has been hard changing the gun laws, just imagine what will happen when you try to take cars away from people.
Perhaps in a decade, instead of going to Roberto’s for pizza, we will go to Roboto’s for a meal. I can see it now. “Hello, I am your droid for the evening. Would you like me to synthesize our specials?” I can hardly wait.
As you might have guessed, this was originally going to be a rant about robots and the jobs they take away from humans. However, I have recently had an epiphany about robots and now realize their proliferation is inevitable.
In fact, I want to know where I can place my order for my own personal robot.
I wilI call it Klatu after the alien from “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” I realize the robot in that film was called Gort but that is such an ugly sound. Klatu is at least somewhat musical.
I could invite someone over and have tea for two brewed by Klatu. I wouldn’t want Klatu to be too human-like because that would be creepy. Something along the lines of 3PO from “Star Wars” would be fine, but with a less annoying voice. It should be a little less tall than me. (Not that I have a complex about being short or anything.) It would call me “Master Rich” and be programmed with vast amounts of history and literature. I could say, “Klatu, what did Shakespeare say about mercy?” and it would quote the lines from “The Merchant of Venice.” Klatu should be able to store my entire music library in its memory and, when I request a medley of Joan Baez songs, instantly produce them. Hey, this is starting to sound better and better.
Today, when I take my dog for a walk, I almost always meet other folks exercising their pets. While we chat, the dogs spend their time sniffing around. Perhaps someday when I take my droid for a walk (or will the droid be taking me?) and we meet others with their personal robots, that scene might look a little different. Will the droids gather in a little group and exchange electronic cyber gossip about their humans? That could prove embarrassing.
Of course, Klatu will have built-in GPS so that we would never get lost on an outing. But I wonder about a scenario like this: Klatu says, “In 50 feet we will turn right onto Franklin Street.” I say, “I feel like going further. Let’s go up to Massasoit.” Will Klatu take me by the arm and say, “You will turn right on Franklin and like it,” or will it utter a resigned “recalculating” and follow along with me on the longer route?
My robot will have to know how to play cribbage and chess and, if it is smart, allow me to win. I would also insist that it be programmed to laugh heartily at my endless supply of corny jokes. But I’m curious about what would happen at bedtime. Will Klatu have an on/off switch so that it will be immobile while I sleep, and will it be necessary to plug it in every night? (If Klatu did laugh at my jokes, I certainly would keep him charged every day.) Will I have to install a special outlet like those for electronic cars? If Klatu’s charge for the day wasn’t used up, could it wander the house at night or sneak out and visit the robot next door? Well, those are problems to be worked out. I hope Radio Shack or Best Buy starts selling robots soon, because I am ready to be the first in my neighborhood to have one.
Richard Szlosek lives in Northampton.
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