Homo App-iens: Robot’s “Best Friend”?

Can you spare a moment?  (Me? I’ve got nothing but time, “free” time — and that’s the whole point, isn’t it?).  It’s just that I’m really excited: I’m now the first on the block to be living in a “Fully-Automated Home” (FAH)!  I’ll bet my neighbors are green with envy (though I’ve never actually seen them — they rarely come “outside”).  Just lately, most everyone has been thinking of making the final conversion, haven’t they — if they can afford it!  Sure, there are still a few “relics” around here, lumbering about with silly, “labor-saving” contraptions like leaf-blowers.  (Primitives, I’m told, even used a crude implement called a “rake”!).  Old geezers who are stuck in the past, like fossils-in-amber-reminiscing about pushing self-propelled lawn mowers, sweat dripping from their brows and all!  Can you imagine that?  Just yesterday I said, “Peona, cut the grass!” — and, presto! that was that.  Labor-saving, time-saving, allowing us to live the leisure-class lifestyle we deserve!  But you know all this.  What was it I wanted to mention…?

Oh yeah.  Remember the old days, when all this was a real novelty, exciting — remember that shivery thrill (frisson?) of empowerment?  It was a real “high” (at first): “Alexa, I feel like hearing some Muzak!”  I’d stretch out, lean back and relax, sipping my tasty “meal substitute” drink!  And most nights, if I’d been especially “good,” I’d treat myself to a deliciously munchable treat!

It was a soothing, soporific, halcyon time!  But that was just the beginning, wasn’t it, of this whole new age of domestic “restivity”!  You know, just this morning, lounging about on my lounger, I was wondering about ancient Rome — such as what “leisure services” the patrician-class might have enjoyed in those distant days.  “Biblia,” I commanded, “read something about ancient Rome — subtopic: services for the patrician-class.”  “Affluent people,” she promptly intoned, “were carried in a litter or a chair”.1  She started to read more — about banquets, the arena, chariot-racing — but I asked her to stop.  Not a bad life-style, no doubt, but, of course, primitive compared to ours!

Why, these days, if I feel like going out, I just say, “Mobilia, turn on, unlock” — and, in the-blink-of-an-eye (so to speak), off I go!  (“Not NOW, Mobilia; turn OFF; re-lock; CANCEL!”).  Sorry, I sometimes forget to de-activate, before I… oh, well, no sweat!  Now where was I?  Oh yeah, well, we’ll take a spin around Central Park — though, what with those “needle-skyscrapers” they put up years ago, it’s not much of a park anymore.  And then, well…we come back Home.  (I know, not much of an “excursion.”  But why go out anyway when I have everything I could want right here!)

Believe me, now that my FAH is up and running, I feel so liberated that I could just take a nap…right here on the sofa (…zzzz…).  What?  What’s that you said?  Sorry, I must have dozed off.  Anyway, I’m getting hungry: “Servilia, make me a bologna sandwich.”  You know, it’s almost like being a king, reclining here on my (well-padded) throne or, something.  A master-of-the-realm: I wish, I command, and then… (“NO mustard, Servilia!  How many times have I…!”).  Sorry.  Bit annoying how she sometimes does that, even though I’ve told her a thousand times… Oh, well, nothing’s perfect, and sorry for the distraction.  Where was I?

Of course, like everybody, I do get a little bored sometimes — that’s only “natural”!  Say I feel like some stimuli.  I just say, “Aphroditea!  Soft-porn — exotic setting!” (“No, not NOW, Aphroditea! De-activate, cancel!”). Sorry, again!  You can see that I haven’t, quite adjusted to the all-round, labor-saving convenience of a Fully-Automated-Home (FAH).  It takes time: you have to pay attention and exert effort, yes, and like any set of skills, practice!  Specific on-and-off commands, and also different vocalizationsm, for instance, (with deep intonation!): “Epsilonia, vacuum living room!” (“No, no — not NOW!  De-activate — Cancel!”).  What the FAH?!

Okay, okay.  I just haven’t yet mastered all the “whens-and-the-hows”!  But YOU try to deal with all these devices and commands!  You think it’s easy — try it!  Takes a lot of concentration, even alertness!  So don’t tell me that…!  Geez, what’s got into me? Sorry for “flying-off-the-handle” like that! (Is that what they used to call it?).  Guess I’ve been a little on-edge lately.  Odd, because my life these days couldn’t be better!

Anyway, you know, it’s getting late…I’m feeling a bit drowsy…time to stretch out on the sofa here.  So I’ll have to say so long, for now.  Oh yeah, almost forgot — tomorrow’s the scheduled pick-up day.  “Dronea!  Take out the garbage — now!”

  1. J. Balsdon, Life & Leisure in Ancient Rome, October 1969, p. 51. []
William Manson is the author of The Psychodynamics of Culture (Greenwood Press). Read other articles by William.