DRIVEN people are a mystery to me. I interview them, I socialize
with them -- heck, I even married one. Maybe I’m part snail, but I just don’t
see the point of knocking yourself out every day just so you look good in a
tank top and have something to boast about at dinner parties.
Oh, I know, there’s the money-making aspect of a driven life, too. There’s the thrill you get from achievement -- or so I’ve heard. And there’s the “giving back” element of a Type A’s community/philanthropic work, which, naturally, I admire. But I’ve figured out a way to get credit for that while lying down. I’m a blood donor; it saves lives, and you can read while doing it. Afterward, you’re given a little sticker that firmly instructs others to be nice to you. You don’t get that from being CEO of Telus, Mabel.
Anyhoo, if you’re like me -- and more people are like me in the summertime than they’d care to admit -- you’ll be pleased to learn that engineers have been busting their pinky rings to enhance our feckless lifestyle. Pretty soon, we laggards won’t even have to show up at work. That’s because, finally, after nearly a century of empty promises from futurists, robots will be available to do everything that we slackers imply we’ll do whenever we get around to it.
According to the Globe and Mail, a California company called Anybots has developed a “telepresence robot that allows users to see, hear and speak to everyone at the office from a laptop.” This metal underling, called the QB, comes loaded with cameras, microphone, and a sensor that prevents it from running into furniture – something I wouldn’t mind having installed in my own hardware. Most importantly, from a loafer’s perspective, it’s capable of buzzing purposefully around the office all day, allowing the at-the-beach “telecommuter” to maintain a virtual presence. (Regrettably, the Anybot cannot yet dole out high-fives.)
The chief executive of Anybots told CNN that within about a year, one of these robots will be available to every 10 employees in Silicon Valley.
Why stop there? Couldn’t we all use one of these doppelclangers? Who wouldn’t want to delegate all his or her least favourite tasks, at work and outside of it, to a faceless drone? Back in the days of Mad Men (the TV series based in the 1960s), the office drone was a woman -- for a few dollar bills, you could get her to do pretty much any menial job. Eventually, women got wise. But robots won’t expect a penny, won’t care a bit if you fondle their buttocks, and, presumably, will have no need of fulfillment beyond the occasional extracurricular re-boot.
Think of the freedom. The ability to use a robot to fill in for us will allow us to live the life of Reilly. No more standing in line at the bank; no more serving the schmucks who are standing in line at the bank. No more trips to, or from, the dry-cleaner. No more lawn-mowing or house painting or putting the house back together after the paint has dried.
It’s true that this development will make old books even harder to understand. Trying to plough through the famous scene where Tom Sawyer tricks his friends into painting a fence for him, the modern reader will ask, “Why didn’t he just get the robot to do it?” Let’s face it, though -- the classics are, by their very nature, the opposite of au courant. Nowadays everybody reads Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series on Kindles. Hasta la vista, Mark Twain.
Robot-enhanced, we will have much bigger fish to fry. Not having to squire our children to the dentist will leave the least motivated among us plenty of waking hours in which to realize our most unlikely aspirations, provided we have any.
Usually, the followers of big dreams are the high achievers, who squeeze circumnavigating the globe by balloon in between their company’s annual general meeting and getting knighted. At their peak, they’re the Richard Bransons and the Malcolm Forbeses, the Oprah Winfreys and the Martha Stewarts.
They’re also people like the bank manager from Greater Manchester who recently decided he wanted to become the fastest blind driver on earth, thankfully not in heavy traffic. With his dad giving him navigational information by radio, he planned to steer a Keating TKR -- at least, they told him it was a TKR -- at 200 km/hour on his own.
While he did not realize his objective in the end, this was an impressive ambition. But honestly, that race would be another task that I, as a self-disrespecting underachiever, would delegate. I’d simply tell my robot, “Please break the world record in visually impaired driving today on my behalf. Come here, so I can tie on your blindfold.” Presto, I’d get the trophy.
It won’t be long before robots will go beyond doing our most lowly work and replace us on any and all occasions. Imagine: even we lazy slobs will be able to do whatever gratifies us, and we’ll finally win the public acclaim we’ve never had the energy, skill or interest to pursue.
So little to do, so much time. Now that I’ll be able to farm out my column and any other typing projects that trickle my way, I’m sure I can work a few new “goals” into my regular routine. I could, for example, hunt for the body parts of major public figures. St. John the Baptist’s bones supposedly just turned up on Sveti Ivan Island in Bulgaria, prompting international fanfare and pious quotes. I don’t like to get too involved in religious matters, so I’ll steer clear of trolling for the carcasses of saints. On the other hand, finding Jimmy Hoffa might be wearying.
Instead, I’ll set my sights on tracking down the fossilized remains of Jiminy Cricket. That should take a while. If it takes too long, I can always delegate it to my robot.
I can’t wait for my Anybot QB to “thumb” its way here from California. Though I know it will be sadly under-employed in the paid work department, it’ll be kept obscenely busy when it comes to housekeeping. Imagine that: my work done, plus a clean, freshly painted domicile, and stories to tell of my amazing super-sleuth exploits, besides.
One thing I certainly will not delegate is the boasting. It’s about time I got me some of that.