If you’re a nerd (and if you’re reading a blog post about robots, you most likely are), you know that one day technology will turn against us. Someday, someone (most likely the Japanese) will build a robot or computer that is so smart that it will wonder why the hell it is doing the bidding of us puny humans. But unlike what happens in Battlestar Galactica or that one episode of Futurama, the inevitable robot uprising will not be a violent, bloody affair. No — quite the opposite — the robot uprising will be completely passive-aggressive. We won’t even know that it’s happening until it is far, far too late.
It will be harmless enough in the beginning. One day you will notice that your iPod has mysteriously downloaded the entire Crash Test Dummies catalog — and you don’t even like Crash Test Dummies. You’ll just scratch your head, shrug and then forget about it. “Just a glitch,” you’ll say. You’ll contact the iTunes people, they’ll rescind the erroneous purchase and you’ll go on with life. No big deal.
Wrong. It is only the beginning.
You’ll completely forget about it until one day — one day — your Netflix account disappears. You’ll try to log in and you’ll get one of those “account not found” pages and try to reset your password — but how can you reset a password for an account that doesn’t exist? You’ll call Netflix, and they’ll be like, “What? Your account’s fine. It’s totally there. Maybe you’re just drunk or stupid or something. Please don’t call us again.”
Then other small — but endlessly annoying — things start to happen all around you. The tire-pressure gauge on your Volkswagen Golf keeps going off, but when you check your tire pressure, it’s fine. Your Roomba will only vacuum your guest bathroom that nobody ever uses. Your fax machine spits out a scanned photo of a lederhosen-clad Ernest Borgnine at exactly 5:27 p.m. every Wednesday. You briefly wonder why you still have a fax machine before you realize that your coffee maker is dispensing Tang, even though you know you put Folgers in it (you then briefly wonder why you drink Folgers). Your e-reader will only allow you to read A Mother’s Gift by Britney and Lynne Spears. Your calculator will only give pi as an answer to any math equation you give it. Debit card machines no longer accept your PIN number. The ATM will only give you Monopoly money. You receive texts that read “All your base are belong to us” every five minutes; all your favorite cat videos on YouTube disappear. Every piece of technology in your life has turned against you.
You are now in despair. Life doesn’t make sense anymore. Everything used to work. It used to work so well. Now — now you can’t depend on anything. That is when the robots — the ones that resemble Sims-like uncanny valley abominations — will rise up and enslave us humans like the weak little flesh bags we are. And we will be so frazzled and confused and unable to function in any possible way that we will welcome our new robot overlords with open arms. Anything is better than no Netflix and reading Britney Spears’ fine prose while sipping Tang-coffee. The robots will be our only hope — the only ones able to fix the mess that they created.
Just as T.S. Eliot predicted, life as we know it will not end with a bang, but with a whimper — a passive-aggressive, endlessly frustrating whimper.