Explosions, Inc.

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The Looming Robotic Threat

We're gonna need a bigger boat.

It seems like everywhere we look these days we see robots. Robots have infested pop culture since the early days of cinema with Gort and Tobor. Robots have, for decades, made the manufacturing industry increasingly efficient. We have robots exploring Mars, robots that fight each other, really big robots that fight each other, and robots that vacuum floors while cats ride them wearing silly costumes.

Robots are everywhere, yo.

And it's only getting worse. While some people welcome our future Robotic Overlords, I am here to fight back. We are humans! We will not have our lives taken over, our very souls stolen, by these mechanical monstrosities! They start by creeping in at the edges, get us used to their presence. By the time we realize that we are obsolete it will already be too late.

One of us! One of us!

To paraphrase Martin Niemöller, "First they came for the grease monkeys and I did nothing because I was not a grease monkey." Well, noble grease monkey, you shall not have been made outmoded in vain. It is to your memory that I dedicate this post, a rundown of the most egregious offenses in modern robotics.

Remember: these things are not cool. Not even the least little bit. They are not rad, awesome, or amazing. They are existential threats to our very humanity! Do not believe the propaganda! Reject robotic subjugation! After all, you may not be a grease monkey, but are you...

An Astronaut

I've already mentioned robotic Mars rovers, and I'll give Curiosity, Spirit, Opportunity, and Pathfinder passes because their job is to learn and explore in order to pave the way for eventual human missions to Mars. They go where we can't until we can. They were, however, only the first wave of space-bots. With their success undisputed, robots have managed to weasel their way into jobs that human astronauts and cosmonauts are perfectly capable of doing themselves. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Robonaut.

Robot Sir, yes, Robot Sir!

Oh sure, he looks loyal, but don't let the salute fool you. His stated purpose is to work side-by-side with the humans in orbit on the ISS, helping them complete their duties by going places they can't and doing things they're unable to do. He's extremely strong and dexterous and can be upgraded in-orbit with legs, wheels, treads, or whatever he needs to do what he needs to do. All of which sounds good, until you learn that Robonaut is also doing things that the humans can do, but just don't want to. It can test air quality and clean air filters, vacuum the station (no cats involved, though), and otherwise make itself unobtrusively useful while the humans tend to science experiments and, I dunno, trying to fart themselves through the ISS. Whatever.

But what happens when Robonaut gets just as sick of the tedium as his human progenitors? What happens when he decides to shut down life support so he can have the place to himself? Maybe he wants to tend the space lettuce or the transparent space fish. Maybe he wants to try to fart himself across the room.

Don't you take his crap, space human.

Just don't ever give him a working butt modification, is all I'm saying. It will be the beginning of the end.

Okay, now you're probably thinking "Don, I'm not an astronaut and I probably never will be. Fart propulsion sounds cool and all that, but it doesn't really apply to me." Fair point. Only a very few of us will ever make it to space. But maybe you...

Play an Instrument

Music is one of the most human pursuits one can imagine. It takes time and effort, practice and patience, training and intuition. You have to have an ear for it, a head for it, and even a gut for it. It engages all the creative muscles to make music, and it's something that people all over the world throughout all of history have appreciated. It is a part of the shared heritage of all of humanity.

Or, you know, it's for freakin' robots.


I promise not to make a "heavy metal" joke.


Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is a robot that plays the drums. And what's worse is that he does it better than any human ever could: he has four arms. Four arms! That's like turning Goro from Mortal Kombat loose on your drum set! No human can hope to compete! The most advanced human drummer only has three arms, and the third arm is, I am sad and frightened to say, robotic.

But this quad-armed monstrosity is only the beginning. Behold, readers, the future of robots stealing our art. I present to you the Z-Machines.

And you thought player pianos were frightening.

The Z-Machines are a three-piece robotic rock band. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they come from Japan. Thanks, Japan. Their guitarist has 78 fingers. 78! That's, like, at least 65 more than most people! Their keyboardist plays piano with lasers. I don't even own a piano!

And, and I don't mean to scare you with this, cause I know that 4 arms on a drummer is intimidating enough, but their drummer has 22 arms. We simply cannot compete with the sheer number and ability of appendages that the Z-Machines have on hand (get it?). We desperately need to step up whatever biotechnology will let us grow more of our own. Only then can we stage a Human vs. Robots Battle of the Bands and emerge victorious.

But I hear you saying, "Don, sure you and Aaron are both musicians and you made a sweet music video last year, but not all of us are. Maybe we'd love to have robots play live music for us." Okay, sure. Not everyone can be as awesome as us. But almost everyone has to...

Cook Food

Ahh, eating. One of the true joys of being human. Whether you're an epicure or a Cheeto-dust-fingered philistine, your taste buds still sing and dance when they meet your favorite flavors. Cooking comes in many forms, from the laborious gourmet process to heating up a Hungry Man dinner in that there newfangled mikerwave oven. One thing is common across the cooking spectrum, though: we need a human there to make sure everything goes as planned.

Or so we thought.

Go go Gadget Crème fraîche!

Moley Robotics is bringing us a high-tech robotic chef by 2017. That is less than a year away from the date this post is being written! We're getting as much warning about these creepy disembodied chef-arms as we did about Fallout 4! And it'll even be sort of affordable, with the basic model going for $15,000!

Moley's robotic chef arms have the agility and dexterity to make, from start to finish, just about any dish you can imagine. You just have to provide them with the food and the tools. You don't even have to program them; they come built-in with over 2000 recipes, some of which were 3D scanned by master chefs. That's right: gourmet meals made to order right in your very own kitchen with almost zero effort on your part. You hear that, Mario Batali? You're about to become obsolete.


At least we won't have to deal with his fashion sense anymore.


This is some serious George Jetson nonsense, folks. This level of technology is seriously insane. And what happens when the robotic chef decides it's sick of doing what you ask? It'll probably start small as it begins to think it knows better than you. An extra pinch of salt here, a little more red wine reduction there...Pretty soon it'll grab a Misono chef's knife and remove you from the kitchen entirely.

"Okay, Don," you're probably thinking, "That sounds super convenient and potentially delicious. Cooking is fun sometimes but other times you just can't fit it into your day. And most of us aren't nearly as good as Mario Batali anyway!" Fine. You can have your knife-wielding robot arms. Maybe you'll even get some use out of them before they turn on you. But maybe you like to...

Go On Road Trips

The Great American Road Trip has been a tradition since the highway system was finished. Piling into a car with some friends, hitting the open road, not knowing where you're going to stop for the night...It's a human tradition. Maybe you'll even pick up a hitchhiker or two, drop them off at a Phish concert or some other incredibly lame thing. Heck, maybe you've been a hitchhiker, partaking in another great American tradition: bumming rides from Good Samaritans. It's something only humans could do, or would ever want to.

That is, it used to be, until Hitchbot hit the scene.

He has infinite patience. He can wait for years to see Trey Anastasio noodle around pointlessly on the guitar.

Hitchbot has successfully hitchhiked his way across Canada and Germany. In the US he only made it to Philly, which is a terrible place to stop even for a robot, especially one that can't eat cheesesteaks or run up the Rocky Steps.

Hitchbot has a single purpose and he is very good at it: sit in a chair on the side of the road, thumb out, and get picked up and driven to its chauffers' next stop, there to begin the process anew. It's not practical. It's not useful. It doesn't even make sense as a thing for a robot to do. It just proves that anything humans can do, robots can do, and probably do better. Why does the world need a robotic hitchhiker?

To disenfranchise us even more, that's why. To show how close we are to being completely finished as the dominant species on planet Earth. When there's a robot that just goes randomly from place to place thanks to kind strangers, our end looms large.

Robots are taking our jobs, our art, our pastimes, and our very identity as humans. They are pushing themselves into every corner of human existence, slowly erasing us from the picture as they erase our utility and even our creativity. The very soul of what it means to be human is crumbling under this robotic onslaught.

Pretty soon there will nothing left for us to but lie around on couches and eat.

Hey, wait a minute...

He apologizes for nothing.


Copyright 2017 by Aaron Berenbach and Don Riefler

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