21st century master & servant

Playing god to mobile mechanical workhorses

You think we’re ready to live alongside these types of contraptions inside of our homes and in other intimate settings? If a company seriously thought about rolling out products such as these on any sort of a mass level, I think its success would hinge in large part on its marketing department, which would have to work craftily to extinguish our fear of the machine, which is age-old but certainly subsiding thanks to computers.

My point is that people who might be creeped out about letting this type of technology become a part of their household would likely require some — ahem — creative reassurance that it really is OK to have an automaton wandering about one’s abode. Then again, slap a reasonable price tag on merchandise like this and sales may surprise us all.

Ideally, what I personally would do is incorporate a robotic replica of a human into my daily routine — until I find a living equivalent — in order to obediently take care of all of the annoying and time-consuming details that go along with orchestrating existence:

  • buying groceries
  • taking the car for an oil change
  • doing laundry
  • going on lunch runs at work
  • making meals
  • taking out the garbage
  • cleaning the apartment
  • etc.

The need to be in charge, use and abuse
Because let’s face it, if we strip away the euphemisms, such as the term “assistant,” what it really boils down to is that I in fact want a slave. And if it has to come in mechanical form, it has to come in mechanical form. Like I said, such a purchase would have to make do until I can find a full-on human willing to function in the same capacity. And I think a hell of a lot of people feel similarly, only not everyone is willing to admit it.

That’s why I think that as these sorts of robots start to increasingly resemble full-fledged humans, then you’re really going to see sales take off. Then the objectification factor — the consumer’s newfound latitude to fully have his or her way with a pseudo slave, and in turn enjoy the cathartic benefits — will really play a role in encouraging people to part with the necessary cash for acquiring a mechanical underling. Simply put, for a price, even the average Joe could play god to a surrogate subordinate.

Perhaps these computerized beings also might one day be realistically useful in a sexual context. I in fact think that the day will inevitably come when the potential for such a phenomenon will exist. And I see a similar trajectory as far as how people might employ virtual reality once it becomes as common in the household as computers and television.

Speaking of television, I think robots also would be an asset in the dwelling particularly for senior citizens who live alone or far from their relatives. A robot would make sense from a practical standpoint as far as helping around the house with day-to-day tasks, and it also can provide its owner with company. Yes, I really believe that if TV can provide some semblance of companionship, a robotic housemate certainly can do the same, if not better.

Who are you calling lazy?
Some people might think that the desire to purchase a mechanical slave can be traced to laziness. But no, I am not lazy, and that’s not why the idea of a robotic helper appeals to me. Would a product like this appeal to the lazy and compound the current shiftlessness that plagues a good portion of the population? Probably to at least some degree. But I personally think that the market success of robotic assistants would be fed much more by people’s pursuit of convenience and self-interest, not their laziness. The same holds true for any technologically advanced product as it becomes available to the consumer.

There is a measurable difference between laziness on the one hand, and self-interest/the pursuit of convenience on the other hand. Just look at me, for example. I am far from lazy. But I am intrigued by the idea of a mechanical servant because my time is in fact way too important on this planet to be appropriating it for menial tasks. I do indeed spend my time taking care of mundane details, but it is out of sheer necessity. It is a matter of survival, to break it down to Darwinian terms.

To put it in the context of a cell phone: why does one use a cell phone? For its convenience. Out of self-interest. The alternative would be dependency on landline phones, which can be extremely inconvenient in many circumstances.

Would you rather whip out your cell phone when you’re outside somewhere, for example, and needed to make a call, or would you rather spend your time and energy trying to access a landline phone? I would certainly not call you lazy for using your cell phone. I would call you savvy. Why spend 20 minutes trying to make a phone call when you could do it in one or two minutes and get on with your life?

Meet Asimo the robot and friends
Pictured just above is Asimo the humanoid. Generally, it’s the type of thing I’d personally like to have access to on a regular basis, although I’d probably go for something much less clunky, perhaps closer to the Partner Robot that Toyota Motor Corp. is involved with. They come in walking, rolling and mountable models and are designed to assist humans. The one pictured at the very top of this post is a walking model. Asimo also is quite impressive. But I don’t know how much he would fetch in terms of dollars. Same goes for the Partner Robot. What I do know is that Honda has been working on Asimo for 20 years, and the project involved 18 years of research. He also was designed to assist humans.

After logging onto the product’s official Web site, I glanced over some of Asimo’s capabilities and I liked what I saw: “ASIMO can comprehend and carry out tasks based on simple voice commands given in English that have been preprogrammed into its onboard memory. The number of commands that can be programmed is basically unlimited. Individual voices can also be registered to increase the performance of the voice recognition function.”

Asimo also runs and dances, among other capabilities. I could see where the running would come in handy. Anyway, see more details for yourself. You also could see him in action by downloading some video clips. I admit it’s a bit creepy watching him get around.

GeckoSystems makes a product that is similar to Honda’s, only there are models designed for either home security or family care. You have your choice between a CareBot or a SecurityBot. Here’s a jargon-packed product overview, along with a variety of videos and pictures. For some reason, these mobile service robots remind me of an old school marm. No? The model you see at your left is the CareBot MSR 3.0, whatever the hell that means. Again, I have no clue as to what the price tag would be for something like this. But something tells me I would be unable to afford it.

Truthfully, I don’t see how these particular models can be of any help to me. For starters, they have no arms. How would they conduct menial tasks?

– Noche Kandora

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