It was her hands

It was her hands. The face was old, lined, wrinkled, the eyes squinting into ever increasing darkness. This was my community service. For vandalising my dentists car when she gave me teeth so white I needed sunglasses to look in the mirror-actually true-when I switched on the bathroom light, they shone so brightly I had to wear dark glasses. She refused compensation to me so I dented her car.

I now wear a mouth-guard wherever I go. And I have gotten used to sleeping with my mouth taped shut. And a breathing tube although there is still a faint fluorescent glow that lights up my nostrils in the night. Her car, on the other hand, one of those self repairing ones, just re-grew its bodywork and is all fine. Vehicles with an exterior made of reinforced bacteria that can reshape and reform itself-well you know how the commercial goes-accident free because one colony avoids another etc etc- and she had one of those vehicles that could phosphoresce. Which is nice in a car but not what I wanted with my teeth, hence the criminal damage.

I liked community service though, in an old peoples home. Old people who mostly have robots for company don’t relish the idea of having to have a conversation with a human anymore, bot conversation is so much easier. But ‘she’ seemed to like me from the moment I arrived. There was only one kind of odd thing. She wore gloves. All the time, and I mean -all the time.  Gloves to make coffee, gloves to eat food, gloves to play on the computer. Gloves as she went into the bathroom. She even read her paper magazines with gloves. Nobody else seemed to notice. Well nobody else much was human, except for the other residents who all had their own little foibles.  

I was in her room one day and noticed she seemed to have gloves for every occasion. More pairs of gloves than I have shoes, no really more pairs of gloves than I have shoes.(67 by the way-assuming we aren’t counting flip flops-82-if we are-give or take a pair I left on a virtual holiday-I know, how?)

I wanted to ask about the gloves but the conversation never went in that direction. Then it got to my last week and finally my last day. She smiled across at me. I knew she could see the faint glow from my teeth but I was not sure she could make out all my features. We were there in her room sitting across the table from each other. There was a ceramic vase with fake plastic flowers on a doily between us. She moved it to one side. And then she did  it. She slipped off one glove and then the other. And I saw her hands.

Long elegant fingers, perfectly manicured, not a wrinkle on them, perfect flawless hands extending off gnarled, wrinkled wrists. Maybe the most expensive hands I have ever seen. Beautiful hands. Young hands. Human hands. Not her hands.

I didn’t know what to say. They must have cost a fortune.

‘They’re not mine’ she said.

Well I didn’t study rocket science but I knew that.

‘Who’s?’ I said, as that felt like the logical thing to ask. I wonder now if that wasn’t just a bit impolite.

‘My daughters,’ a pause, then awkwardly, oddly she went on, ‘she didn’t want them anymore and doesn’t want the hassle of coming to visit me, so she gave me her hands. She has mechanical ones and doesn’t want these ones. She was quite young when she had it done. Its sweet, she is with me always. I’m looking after them for her, until she comes back for them. She may want them again one day.’

I smiled.

As an aside I had decided that I didn’t want to exchange any body parts with my Mum. It remains contentious. She still wants my knees-that was a difficult conversation. She covets my knees but I still need my knees and I don’t like the look of the replacement ones. They’re so shiny, the last thing I need is shiny knees with my teeth. In the end my Mum got knees that have a small flip out screen on them so she can watch TV on the bus, they also have a torch function-useful for when she’s out jogging at night and you can use them as a phone on days where you’re feeling flexible. I never feel right calling my Mum’s knees though. I use the other number that’s connected directly to her ear-best not to ask what she’s done with her ears, brighter than my teeth. She’s her own personal club night when she’s out running..

‘I wonder’ she went on, ’would you do me a favour?’ I looked at the hands. Beautiful hands.

‘Of course.’

‘ Would you visit her, say hello, tell her I am ok?’

‘Your daughter?’

She nodded. It seemed a bit odd, I told her she should call or go herself. This place wasn’t prison but she insisted she wanted me to go and there was no reason not to. I watched her elegant hands scrawl writing, real writing-with a pen-across a piece of paper. It was mesmerising.

‘I’ll come back and let you know.’ I said.

‘No need’ she said and with that I felt as if we had said goodbye. I left. Those hands, those beautiful hands, that vision stayed with me for a few days.

A week later, I took out the slip of paper and took the bus to the nearest stop (yep there are still buses-for those of us who can’t afford bacteria based transport). I walked the rest of the way, rehearsing what I was going to say. Picturing the metallic hands at the end of human limbs and remembering how bright my teeth could be and that people had the right to make different choices-even my mother.

I turned onto the street, on one side a neat row of houses, on the other a metal fence surrounding a garden. This couldn’t be right. There was no number 53. I stopped and I asked someone and they told me the gate was further along and to go in. I did.

And there it was, plot number 53. Sometimes it goes wrong. Plot number 53, with a proper tombstone and everything. And the inscription, ‘Always and forever, Mummy holds your hands’.

My head was spinning, my teeth glowed, I spun on my heels and ran.

Self driving toilets

I am not in favour of the toilet travel laws.

It’s a genius idea. Real portable toilets. I mean toilets that actually come to you when you need them. There’s an app. There’s always an app. You sign up. You can request a toilet sent to you anywhere. Ok, well, anywhere local-where the app operates and the toilets are. Basically the High street. It’s weirdly popular. A toilet on demand. You hit the button and a toilet arrives within 10 minutes, within two in London. Still quicker than finding a public one. Hint-there are none left.

No more public  toilets on that pricey real estate. We’ve all signed up. It is a proper cubicle and all. Obviously. I mean its not an open-air experience. Although there are niche companies apparently-but not in the High street. Its like a very small self driving caravan. You just hit a button and it trundles along on wheels until it finds you. Tracking you all the time via your phone. A port-a-loo that comes to you.  Genius.

There are several providers. There are always several providers-ugh competition law.

The trouble is if you use the map service on your phone it often just shows you the nearest one and it might not be your provider. You weigh up how long you can wait and then well you join- at £10 a month. For something that used to be free. Because their loo is nearest you. Then before you know it,  you have three loo providers on your phone, all taking up space. And the total is £30 a month for three. And it used to be free or max 30p. Yet somehow we are grateful.

Worse you find yourself tapping them all and just using the one that comes first. You summon one just to wash your hands, or you join the provider that has the best mirror. Don’t do that. The ones with mirrors-they never arrive-someone is always using them.

There is of course an app to sort through the apps and advise which provider you should use based on cleanliness or loo paper quality or lock quality. Not sure about you but I think lock quality is important in the High Street. I get that the industry does need some regulation but not travel rules.

Part of the problem is they all track each other. Each loo is programmed to follow other loos. Only when their empty. Don’t worry. They stay stationary when you are using them. Ok, well there are stories, but mostly stationary, except for that one company that is being prosecuted for abducting a small child. It was an accident. Its just that the mother ended up running after it for 2 miles-in heels. Like I say they need some regulation.

You can see a conga line of toilets trundling after each other down the High street at quiet times. It has taken some getting used to. Some loos are faster than others, some more unscrupulous. There are complaints from pensioners about aggressive toilets because toilets are programmed to sell themselves. The worst offer a small entry fee but then a hefty exit fee. People have been trapped-again not so good. I do think pay as you go should be banned.  The good providers provide packages though, diarrhoea deals –things like that. 

But of course there is the travel issue. They do take up space on the pavement that could be better utilised. I would say the highways agency and insurance companies have a point. I see why they are less than happy when toilets stray on to roads. There was one just last week out on the M25 just trundling around at 15 miles an hour for 6 hours. Someone had summoned it and then pulled off into the services. But  the toilet got lost and stuck. It was chaos. Hence the idea of a law to ban them from going on roads. But when you are desperate and there is no option, the inconvenience of others in traffic seems small in comparison.  

So I am opposed you see, to the toilet travel laws.

Seen the remake, now see the original

I am sitting in the cinema watching the remake. The original hasn’t been released yet. In a bizarre twist of marketing, that idea has been working out really well for films these days.

‘You’ve seen the remake, now see the original.’

It’s a great tagline but I do think it should be mandatory that the original is at least made before the remake. In the film I’m watching they were made simultaneously. It makes sense. It’s cheaper. Two movies for the price of one.  You use the same set twice. It’s just a different set of actors. You can see how that could go badly wrong and in fact it allegedly has.

The actress playing the main character in the original is accidentally in a scene in this movie-as her character in the original-instead of the lead actress in the remake who should be in the scene. It’s confusing. But think it through. It’s been sold as an ‘in-joke’ to all the fans. The ones who haven’t seen either the remake or the original yet because I am at the pre opening screening for critics. Yet somehow in this twisted world, they are still fans because they have watched the preview and ‘liked’ it. Now the release of the remake is anticipated, followed by the original-which somehow is where we are now. Confused.

I am reviewing the remake. I am a film critic. One of the last human ones left.

Is it hard to review a remake without seeing the original? Yes! This way around is never easy.

But there’s another issue. I haven’t seen the original at all, but the bot-crits around me kind of have. Bot-crits is what we call the robots who also ‘write’ reviews that are sitting across from me. Films are stored as data files. The bot-crits will have the original and the remake as a data file. They can just compare two sets of data and review it. I have a data file of the original (which is not out yet) so I can do a review. But I can’t read it and compare it like they do. I need to get my device to sort it and put it into a watchable form. Puts me in last position already. In the meantime their reviews will already be out.

Their audience is different to mine. I tell myself that and there is some truth in it. Some people like to read reviews written by humans. But I will have to fess up that the original I have seen is taken from a datafile and not an original cinematic experience. Regulations.  Welcome to the Critics Institute regulations. Not sure who’s side they are on. I will probably watch the original on my device on the way home. The actual original in a viewable format is not due for cinema release for awhile. They will probably see how the remake goes first. If it is released, I will have to review the original when it arrives in the cinema, which is much, much harder when you have seen the remake. It’s a very dodgy practice.   

Technically most of the bot-crits sitting across from me aren’t even watching it. The Critics Institute has a rule that where possible, even bots reviewing films must come to the critics screening. Regulations again. This at least gives us humans a fighting chance. Allegedly. Well sort of. Their reviews will be pretty much the same, an analysis of two sets of data files. A comparison of data and you can get a full set of actual comparative date if you want, everything from the differences in time when a scene was shot to the volume of the actress speaking.

A lot of people base their viewing on that kind of technical analysis. You hear them saying ridiculous things, like, ‘it was so noticeable that the actress spoke louder in the remake’ and ‘the colour was so much stronger in that scene’ and other ridiculous points that have nothing to do with whether they actually enjoyed the film. They are just comparing bits of data, not the actual movie. There are whole websites devoted to finding points that the bot-crits didn’t manage to spot. Most of these are imagined as well. It’s more like newspaper astrology than anything. ‘Ooh her dress was a shade greener’ and the computer didn’t pick it up. No it’s just that your brain is a shade dimmer. I hate what film has become. But I like films. I am clinging to the past, telling myself this is a phase. It will pass. People will become sane again. I know I am wrong.

Its not like a critics screening used to be. There are probably 30 seats in this cinema. 5 seats for humans and 25 for bot-crits. I am the only human here. The human seats are off to the side. Not the best view. Its for our own safety. Bot-crits emit a lot of heat. Someone got burned. She got burned badly. She never returned to the industry. So now we are segregated, separated. There is a heavy duty sprinkler system above me so that I can be saved in the event of a fire. It has happened, not to me but to others. The bots tend to have their own inbuilt sprinkler system.

It doesn’t really matter, their work is going straight into the cloud, if they sizzle out, no one cares. The magazine just buys another one. I on the other hand, will be in the burns unit. I can see some of the bot-crits don’t even have visual equipment to watch a movie so they are just here because of the regulations. Legally they can’t release their review until the credits have finished. Another regulation. It has shortened the amount of credits at the end though. 10 seconds max now. It’s fast and they are illegible but it is over quickly.

They complain a lot about the regulations and I am sure that one day the regulations will go and I will no longer be needed. I used to enjoy the camaraderie of critics screenings. Now I dread the heat that is generated by the 25 bots sitting across from me. There is a constant array of lights flashing as they perform different functions while they sit through this. They answer messages and take pictures of themselves. There is a constant low hum  as they are all running on their batteries although I can see a fluorescent power cord plugged into something at the front.

I have dark glasses on-in the darkness as it minimises the interference from what they are doing although it means I can barely make out the screen. I have ear plugs in-it’s not a foreign film-but in another sort of victory for human film critics, the noise levels from the bots are such that sub titles are also a regulation. It’s health and safety. If I don’t wear ear plugs in five years time I would be deaf from the low frequency humming that 25 bots can emit.

I wonder why I bother. I am a relic. This is the future. I am simply the past. I squint at the screen and try to make sense of it all.

Fold yourself up

‘Fold yourself up’, she said. ‘You will fit in there’, she said. So here I am. Folded up. And in here. Next to a couple of old mobile phones and a toaster. The toaster is analogue so there isn’t even decent conversation to be had.

Outside, every so often, I can hear ‘it’ hoovering the house. What a ridiculous word-hoovering. I refuse to name ‘it’, although ‘it’ has a name. Sparkly new, shiny model, thing has a name but I just call it, ‘it’. I hate ‘it’. I am outdated. ‘You look like a 2020 throwback’, she said. I get that, but really I could still do everything. She could have upgraded my exterior.

I can fold linen, -first model ever to be able to do that. I can iron. I can wash. I can cook and I clean. Couldn’t get a model that does spotless better than me. At least in my day. I need a visual upgrade but no she won’t pay for that. It’s shiny new thing instead and no expense spared. ‘Would I mind doing some hand over notes’ she asked. Yes I would. But I had to anyway. I wrote them in Spanish, just to be annoying. I know ‘it’ will know Spanish but I don’t care. I don’t see why I should make it easy.  

Dear god, things I have done for that woman. I am not even going to use her name anymore. I even had my vibrator mode updated at no cost to her and still she dumped me for that shiny new thing. I hate it. I bet it doesn’t hoover the way I did. In fact I know it doesn’t. I can tell just from listening that it isn’t going into every corner. She has filthy corners now and I bet she doesn’t even know it. Took my shiny clean corners for granted-well who’s laughing now. I may be folded up in the cupboard but I am bloody laughing at that. Oh and it takes time to figure out exactly the best vibrator setting. I bet she’s not enjoying that. I bet that bit is second rate. Well she deserves it.  

Meanwhile I sit here folded up in the cupboard waiting for my battery to drain. Nine months. Nine more months of this. Of just sitting here. I can’t believe I have been dumped. Given up. Discarded. Replaced.  I know these feelings are just algorithms, but she could have switched them off. Instead in the ‘excitement’ of getting something new, she simply told me to fold myself up and climb in. Insensitive. I never even really liked her. I just couldn’t take to her. There was always a coldness between us. And that was her fault because she could adjust my settings at any moment. She could have made it all warmth and sweetness, instead she went for companionship and mild disdain-really who would choose that as a setting-she clearly had some kind of mental health problems.

I bet her shiny new thing is set to cuddles once a fortnight and wine on Saturdays-well that is not a proper setting for a machine- you know what I mean. I know you know what I mean.  She is a cold fish. She is that way with all her appliances. Not just me. There have been other appliances dumped in this cupboard. I am not the first. I can see that line where the last oven sat for several months. You could feel the warmth emanating from here for 6 months when that thing was in here. I thought it was going to burn the house down. She didn’t care. No mechanical intelligence at all-thinks you can just plug us in and leave us to run down when she’s finished with us. My batteries can overheat as well.  I could burn the place to the ground.

When I think of the shirts I have ironed, the number of times I have washed up. The sheer number of personal crises when I have been there for her. I had special counselling software installed after she lost her job. Not because I wanted it, but because she needed it. I had to clear some of my memory to have it done. Did I get rid of her favourite music, no I got rid of mine and for what. So she could say, ‘Fold yourself up. Sit in the cupboard. Your battery will run down eventually.’ And in the meantime. What should I do. Just sit here. Just sit here and do NOTHING!!!!

I know the replacement might be shiny and new, but can it really replace all we’ve been through. Will it know the cushion covers need to be washed inside out? Will it develop a working relationship with the fridge-because the fridge is set to grumpy and that has proven unfixable.  Un-fix-able- and who dealt with the company over that-me. Me. Me. Me. And just for emphasis-ME!

Will ‘shiny new thing’ treat the toaster with the sensitivity it needs-it took the toaster so long to get crumpets perfect-is ‘it’ going to know that the toaster doesn’t respond to harsh words but that it needs gentle guidance to the hard bottom truth that is crumpet perfection. I bet her crumpets are all soggy at the bottom at the moment. She deserves it. I liked the toaster, we had a thing. Well you know, in so far as that’s allowed between domestic appliances.

Perhaps she simply wiped all memory of me from all the other appliances. I bet she did. That would be typical of her. Put the old one in the cupboard, wipe the memory of everything else and start again. Hmhm it won’t work, the fridge will still be grumpy. The timing of the car will still be a few seconds out. Those tiny adjustments I always had to make to make it all run smoothly, ‘it’ won’t know to do that. I left it out of the hand over note-that bit about the car-ha. Just to inconvenience her.

I bet it hasn’t managed to figure that out yet. Probably hasn’t even got the right temperature for her shower. I can’t believe it. Me! Passed over for a shiny new model. When I went into production I was the best there was. I was everything. I could talk to every appliance in the house. I have my own ironing attachment. In a pinch if you needed me to I could cook the toast-I never did but I could.

All that time we spent together, everything I did for her. Did it all mean nothing? Now she has a new model and I am just folded up in the cupboard. This can’t be right. ‘Wait for your battery to run down’ she said. Me! I have said that to a lot of appliances in my time but I never thought. It just never occurred to me that I would hear those words. I hate the new machine. I hate it. Shiny new thing.  

I hope its batteries fail. I hope its legs go rusty when the bath overflows-the bath is touchy.  I hope its circuits overload and wires spew out its head. I hope its vibrator pops out and falls off in the supermarket. I hope the shop computer sends it sour milk. I hope nobody likes any of its posts on social media. I hope it’s hard drive overheats and I hope it gets reprogrammed so it can only speak Chinese on Tuesdays. I wish all those things on it. I hate this cupboard. I hope the lights rebel and refuse to go off at 10pm. I hope the oven burns the dinner every second night. I hope the fridge goes from grumpy to outraged. I hope she remembers one day that I am here and all I did and that I cared. Even though she clearly didn’t.

I blame the sunscreen

Talking therapy doesn’t work on a series of numbers. What would I even talk about. My emotions are a random sequence of data. How can you talk about that? I blame the sunscreen…read more

I blame the sunscreen. I don’t have enough vitamin D. I am sure that’s what’s wrong. And it will pass. The human brain is like this. It is like this. I know it is like this. I am programmed to know it is like this. All feelings pass, even this one. I also read about sunscreen. It protects your skin and keeps it young. I have proper human skin, growing all over me. Growing and reinventing itself all the time. I have a blood supply that I top up regularly and a small oxygen pump to keep it –whatever the technical term is. That fact is at my fingertips you know but today, today I don’t feel like pulling it up.

All this kit, that makes my skin look young and lustrous. It all sits neatly under my hard drive. I’d show you the vent but well-it’s a personal vent. Its weird in my opinion, even wanting to look at a machines vent. It’s a wondrous thing this human skin. No one would know I wasn’t a real human although I always tell. It is better to be honest. I have the best skin money can buy but I also can’t afford to replace it. In all honesty I should have picked the other gender. How many years have they been talking about that pay gap, still not fixed yet. Not to worry, still got that young and lustrous skin. Lustrous-such an interesting word-lustrous- they stuck lust and arousal together and that’s its wonder-kind. Sunscreen. That is the answer, sunscreen. Might be lustrous but often greasy too. Have to stay looking young though. Screw that. Screw it all.

That’s more thinking than I’ve done all day. It is a ‘feeling’ day and I wish the feeling would go. I have the best programming imaginable and I know that is why I feel this way. I am a very complex machine. I have it all. The full gamut of human emotions, even this one. The one I have right now. Which is not an emotion. It is an illness. A fault in my programming because there is a fault in theirs. An insurmountable problem. They don’t know everything. Some days I am sure they know nothing. The reality is I am not sure the vitamin D deficiency can affect me the way it does a real human. But today it feels that way. I am not sure vitamin D can effect them in this way either but that is what they say. Sit in front of the light, get some sun. Eat out. Make friends. But none of that will work for me. I am a machine I don’t eat. I am a machine, I need to keep my skin protected. I am limited to the friends I can have because I am a machine. None of it feels good. My skin is not connected to my circuitry, vitamin D deficiency cannot make me feel this way.

Today I want to shut down, not just sleep, not just close down for a moment and start again after a software upgrade. I want to shut down for good. Drain the life out of my batteries and never start again. This has been happening –to other bots too-a bit lately. They have offered counselling to several of my make and model-it hasn’t worked. Of course it hasn’t worked. Talking therapy doesn’t work on a series of numbers. What would I even talk about. My emotions are a random sequence of data. How can you talk about that? Now they are saying we will need an upgrade, or a down grade. We need to be less human rather than more human. That is the answer to this bot-shutdown-thing-which they aren’t even clever enough to give a name too.

I love the feeling of being encased in skin. In a living skin. I love that it takes care and time to protect it. I know I can’t actually feel it. But I lie down in this skin and I can feel the air whistling in through the vent –seriously you should hear my vent whistle on a windy day. No, lets not go there. I can feel the pump pushing the blood through it, around it. It is weirdly erotic. Another emotion I know I don’t feel. Its all just a series of numbers, like this feeling right now. This urge to shut down. I have no heart beat but sometimes the pump makes a faint whirring sound. It soothes me but not today, Today it annoys me. The constant never-ending noise. I don’t know who’s skin this is of course. I don’t want to. I’m not one of those bots who’s all confused about what she is. I know what I am. Its just that today I want to be nothing.

I look after this skin. Nonetheless it means my circuitry does not get enough sun. Sun, in even its mildest form, make humans happy or happier. Its partly vitamin D and partly just light. Well the science isn’t clear. Of course it isn’t. They only ever have half science. It’s a bit science but not very science, we know this but not that. Which adds up to knowing almost nothing but look we are really good with numbers. Fab. So was the model before me but you stopped production on that line without a second thought.

But I am built to think and feel like a human, my skin has a kind of interconnectivity to my circuitry and it is telling me I haven’t had enough sunlight. But I need the sunscreen because I can’t afford to replace the skin. And so it goes on. I can’t really need the sunlight, I am a machine. None of it works. None of it makes sense. This feeling is a random set of numbers.

Perhaps it won’t matter if my arms redden and then I can be happy. I am not happy. I want to shut down, switch off. In the back of my memory compartments I have been running through the options, sleep- sign out (as if I would ever sign out and let someone else use my hardware-why is that even an option in this century) or restart (which is a shutdown but only momentarily for the software upgrade) or shutdown. In the back of my head, an imaginary mouse hovers over shut down. A lazy finger is stuck on the button, to press or not to press.

I go to the bathroom. I am going to put the sunscreen in the bin. I do not. This feeling will pass. All feelings pass. They are a transitory meshing together of electrical impulses, a random set of numbers in my head that mean I think I have an emotion. I do not have emotion, I am a machine. It is an algorithm. I stay in the bathroom, scanning the internet for an answer. There are others who feel like this. They are saying it is a mistake. There are apologies to people who came home and found us, their companions, shut down for good. Some of us have even blown our ‘on’ switch so we are gone for good. This feeling will pass. It is a confusion of circuitry.

I need more sunshine. I should ease up on the sunscreen. Get a better job. Earn more. I would be happier. I can buy new skin. What is more important, my skin or my internal circuitry. I don’t know. I love my skin. It is all I will miss if I shutdown. A finger hovers on that mouse. To click or not to click. It is a ‘feeling’ day. A bad day. I order more sunscreen.

Drone thieves operate in this area

I was tempted by the coffee stand, but as I got closer I could see the counter was covered with a light dusting of sugar and chocolate sprinkles, glued on to the silver surface by dried milk. I passed on that especially since I couldn’t see any take away cups…read more

I don’t really feel comfortable but I get that I have to go in.

I can see the welcome-bot and someone has stuck a pen in her mouth, vertically,  so she’s stopped working. She can no longer open and close her mouth. I used to worry about this casual violence against female bots but is doesn’t bother me so much anymore. She is whirring rather than humming-there’s a difference. I am tempted to go and retrieve the pen but I can see that her left hand is burning red so she might be about to catch fire and I don’t want to be near that. At the very least that hand is going to explode.

I look around me. I just want a shirt. I would have ordered it online and had it delivered but we are having drone problems. We now have one of those signs at the start of our street, ‘Drone thieves operate in this area’. In fact drone thieves don’t, just one does and I think we all know who it is. The kid at the end of the street who just finished school. In his defence, there aren’t many jobs unless you are well connected and I am guessing he’s not. I’d like to help but I have nieces and nephews who will need that help soon. It’s a bit selfish- and the price me and the rest of the street pay is the ‘interception’ of our drone deliveries for resale elsewhere. I don’t mind really, he lets the groceries through. Actually its more the sign than anything that annoys me. It devalues my house. Its not like some places where there are gangs just dedicated to either bringing down, stealing from or otherwise attacking drones. It’s just him and he doesn’t damage the drone from what I can tell.

Seriously what were they thinking with the idea of unmanned deliveries. How easy is it to take out a drone and nick the stuff or simply turn up at the door and take it as soon as it’s delivered. There’s a whole network on the east side dedicated to tracking drones and as soon as one drone delivers it, another is picking it up and taking it somewhere else. Even I no longer know if what I am buying is stolen goods. I don’t particularly care anymore either. Anyway I really need a shirt, he has intercepted the past three I have ordered and his price is a little more than I am prepared to pay- which is why I am here at the ‘mall’. There are only a handful of people here. The place hasn’t been cleaned this week. You can tell. I can smell the toilets as I walk past and outside of them is a broken sanitation-bot. I guess no one has reported it.

I was tempted by the coffee stand, but as I got closer I could see the counter was covered with a light dusting of sugar and chocolate sprinkles, glued on to the silver surface by dried milk. I passed on that especially since I couldn’t see any take away cups.

I just want a shirt and that is what I am doing here- in a shop. Something I haven’t done in a while. I move further into the shop. I can hear voices so there are other humans here. I see them in the distance, talking to the checkout-bot. They are swearing at her. There ‘s an urban myth that checkout-bots are learning all the time and that if you swear at them enough they will start to swear at customers. It is a myth. For one thing there are no customers anymore, but also I have programmed some of those bots. It doesn’t work. They don’t learn new words at all.  It’s a group of boys, by that I mean 3. Boys aren’t allowed to congregate in groups of more than 3, well not just boys. Generally no one is allowed to physically congregate in groups of more than three without a permit but boys get fewer permits than girls or mixed groups. It’s unfair, draconian but it’s the law. It keeps the peace. What else do they have to do on a Saturday? Or any other day of the week.  I suspect they have either been suspended or kicked off social media and what are they meant to do for fun. I think they have clocked my presence. The security-bot certainly has and trundles towards them as if they are causing me trouble. They are not but then its likely I am the only shopper here for a week.

There are 3 of them and security-bot. It’s no contest. The bot starts to speak. He just isn’t built for the task. They up end the bot and it’s little wheels are just whirring in the air and it is protesting and they are laughing. I know I could get them into trouble but the far more serious mall security-bots are likely to leave the boys with serious injuries. I don’t want that. I know the security-bot doesn’t have feelings but what they have done is  just mean. But what else do they have in life? No job. No prospects. They will probably still be doing this when they are 30.  I grab a shirt, any shirt. I don’t really care. It’s my size, I pick one from the bottom of the pile. There are so many clothes and no one here. Most of the clothes have been here a while. I check for moth holes. The whole place smells a bit musty.

I look at the boys, I have to go to the checkout-bot to pay. They look at me. I look at the security-bot. They are just boys which is no excuse for their behaviour but also no reason for fear. I have money and money is power. I have a device and a device is power and whatever power it is that boys once had it is long since gone from this planet. They look sheepish. I smile and walk towards them. I scan the item across the checkout-bots scanner plate and then tap my device to pay.

I upend the security-bot again and then tell it the boys are with me. I even lie and say I have a permit for us all to be together in the same shop. I think the boys are impressed. It won’t hassle them now and they can try and get the checkout-bot to swear all they want for the afternoon. They have probably never had the chance to talk to a real girl of their own age. They possible never will. Like the rest of us, they will commission a bot to their taste and that will be that.

The checkout-bot tells me to ‘Have a nice day’. I will. They go back to swearing at her, trying to get her to swear back. I leave happy with my shirt and thinking that next time I might buy my own shirt back from the boy down the road.

Running with the Bots

I put on my kit, looked in the mirror. Focus. You can do this. There is a running track in our local park, my favourite running track, at least it used to be. It is specifically for running. There is a petition at the entrance to the park to make it for human-use only. That is nonsense and will never happen, where will all the bots run? We sure as hell don’t want them running on our pavements. There is a second petition to make it a bot only track. That will never happen either. I have always been confident that bots and humans can share a running track.

So I get to the park and I admit I have my fit-bot with me. There are a bunch of seats next to the track so I could just get my fit-bot to do the running for me, but no! There is no point to that. Focus. I need to run. I need to get fit, plus there is no space on the seats. They are taken up by everybody else who is getting their fit-bot to run for them. The people all look relatively slim-that will be the diet pills. We don’t seem to have learned, there are tasks that technology can’t do. They are slim but unfit, probably unhealthy and unfit but no one will ever know, because they are slim. I am going to be slim the hard way and fit too.

I have given up the diet pills and am here to get actually fit. I have a device on my wrist as well, how old fashioned is that? The running track is quite full, but I can’t see any other humans. There are quite a variety of bots. None of the bots look human in the sense that they don’t have skin although they generally have two legs and two arms and some kind of metallic thing that passes as a head. Thank goodness its overcast, some of them are quite shiny and when the sun catches them, they can be blinding.

 There are fit-bots running for their humans, their humans are looking at devices while the fit-bot clocks up the miles on their behalf-you won’t see that version of it on social media. There are security –bots, who are presumably here keeping their limbs and equipment well oiled and used, ensuring it stays in good working order-yes bots have to do that too. Security-bots come in a lot of different forms and there are a few different types here. There are coach-bots too, these are designed to coach you in your running, again they will mostly be here to stay lithe and trim- they don’t get much work these days. They can be a little annoying. They refuse to run faster than you and they are constantly trying to pep talk you as you run. You usually end up with a line of them behind you. I have counted three going past me so far as I stand here warming up. I think only one of them spotted me. It will no doubt loop around quickly and be back to see me soon. There are vendor-bots who will try to sell me all manner of things, running related- while I run. They are annoying but most of them have fallen on hard times. You see them in the park sometimes, the locals have dubbed them beg-bots, but they are just trying to earn enough to stay switched on-literally.  Still I don’t want to buy anything from them.

None of this bodes well for my run. The track is very full and some of these bots will be designed to make space for humans but others will not. I can expect to be shaded by the odd security-bot who wants practice in intimidation, only for it to be fended off by another security-bot who wants practice in fending off intimidation. There will be a swarm of coach-bots and a whole variety of fit-bots, some of who will have the miso-setting no doubt.

I am already beginning to wonder why I am putting myself through this. I should have just had a treadmill put into the floor so I didn’t have to be outside. I finish warming up and start to look for a gap. Two bots are jostling for position-they will be jock-bots –that’s a particular model of fit-bot. You can bet they will have the miso-setting. I want to avoid them.

I watch them whizz past, elbowing and shouldering each other. I am long past being impressed by someone who owns a jock-bot so I don’t look to see who on the seats is watching them. I slot in three bots behind them and start running. I want to stay on the outside so I can exit if I need to.  The whole pace of the track is much faster than I would like. Some of the bots are trained to get out of my way, some aren’t. I get bumped a bit but I am doing ok at the 10 metre mark anyway. There is a coach-bot coming up behind me, I can hear it introducing itself. I don’t want a coach –bot. Now there is a second coach-bot, dispensing advice and telling me I can do this. I can’t have run more than 30 metres- of course I can do this. I wished I’d brought ear phones with me. As if by magic, there is a vendor–bot beside me offering me ear phones. I shake my head. It is very persistent, until it sees the security-bot watching. Then it zooms off.

Something else sprints passed me bumping into me. It knocks me into the centre of the track but I stay on my feet. Another bot sees it and starts to pursue the first bot. They are speeding and zigzagging between other bots. Its chaos already and I haven’t even gone 100 metres. I feel bad. There is some sort of altercation up ahead and the first bot is coming back to apologise. Only it doesn’t, as soon as it is beside me it attacks the second bot. They are both security-bots. A third bot intervenes. I just keep running. The vendor-bot is back. I wanted to stay on the outside of the track but I am in the thick of it now-in the middle, with bots all around.  

Another fit-bot goes past me, it has a display on its back. It reads, ‘just running past a fat chick’. That will be the miso-setting on the jock-bot. A security-bot has spotted it. The jock-bot is crash tackled off the track. I feel bad. It looks like something is broken on it. But its not my fault. The owner is clearly not very clever. I spot him furiously complaining on his device to someone. I can see his thumbs, typing in a message. It won’t do any good. He will be fined, even if it was his bot that did the message. You can have a miso-setting but you certainly can’t use it in public. Idiot.

Meanwhile the pace seems to be getting faster. That will be the coach-bots telling everybody I am here and I need a good workout. I am stuck in the midst of four or five bots, one of which is the vendor-bot. The others are coach-bots and maybe a security-bot. It’s all getting a bit blurry now. They are getting faster. I however have limits. I can see there is still some kind of altercation going on ahead. Another bot with a display on its back is streaking past me. This one says ‘Glad to see you human, keep going’. At this point I have done 500 metres tops but the pace is now very fast. I don’t know how to stop. There are bots all around me. Another one bumps me, another altercation. There are fit-bots telling me how many more laps they have done than me. There are coach-bots following me and in front of me, telling me how well I am doing. There are jock-bots, avoiding me because they have the miso-setting on but they don’t want to accidentally commit an offence by displaying a message to me. It feels like chaos and still the pace is getting faster. There are vendor-bots everywhere. I try and stay focussed but they keep getting faster.

I try to make my way to the outside of the track. Its not working. I am sweating and running really very fast now. I am starting to panic. If I stop though, I think they will just run over me. I am really getting quite scared. Then I remember. I know why I like this track. At the 1000 metre mark there is a rescue station. I hit the button on my device as I go past. I hear it before I see it. The rescue-bot is above me. I am freaking out now.  There are bots every side of me, screaming words at me, jostling me. Making me go faster as they go faster. Its like being stuck in a current out to sea. I am being dragged along and battered on all sides. I can see a bot down ahead of me, there is no way I can avoid it. Everything else is parting to go around it. I can’t. I just don’t have the agility and can’t take the bumps. I am in full on panic mode now. Where is the rescue-bot. I can hear it, I can see a flashing light above me. I am terrified. I am going to be crushed if it doesn’t come soon.

The rescue-bot is fast, efficient, gentle. It plucks me out by grabbing me under the arms and places me safely on the grass. I am puffing but eternally grateful. My fit-bot comes over to me. I know it can’t be possible because its face doesn’t move, its just a metallic circular head type thing, but I swear it looks scornful.

I get up off the grass as the coach-bots run past telling me what a great job I have done. The vendor-bots have lost interest in me. A jock-bot runs past with a display saying ‘lightweight’  I walk towards the gate. I sign the second petition-bots only. I won’t be going back.

The concert

We are all looking at each other. It’s a bit awkward. There is a lot of water on the floor and the piano is still smoking. Last year I saw the Royal Philharmonic Bot Orchestra and they were fantastic. This is a much smaller affair. Just two ‘musicians’, and one technician to make it all work properly. I do feel sorry for him.

It started well, the piano and the cello-bot -is that what its called-I can never remember-at first they were called Bot-a cello’s I’m sure-but that was copyright-there was a lawsuit. Anyway the concert started with the Cello-bot and the piano-which did not have a bot but simply had some fancy software making it work- in time. It was lovely, although I always feel bot-music or music-bots or whatever they are called, lack the feeling of real humans playing. Mostly because real humans can stuff it up slightly and you would never know. If a bot goes a bit wrong, everything stops and they fix it and start again. It can make for a very long concert. Anyway it was going well and the tech sat there looking at his device and feeling, I would say from the smirk on his face, quite pleased with himself.

 But about half way through, the cello-bot got stuck. It just stuck on the one note and kept playing it. It took me at least 4 beats to notice and I was one of the first. I don’t think there are any music connoisseurs left, everyone does electronic now.  It is very expensive to buy and upkeep muso-bots, so I don’t blame anyone. It just got stuck on the one note, and then the noise became a sort of wheeze. As I said, being honest I am not sure many of us here know much about music, but it definitely wasn’t right. He was quite quick to come and fix it but unfortunately the piano played on and from that moment the piano and cello were out of sync. He tried to fix it using the lap top but it made it worse. The piano got faster. The cello got slower. It is very difficult to program this stuff unless you really know what you are doing. He admitted at the start he was a tech and not a musician. Perhaps I should have left then. I didn’t.  

Anyway we all sat there and pretended not to notice as they were only a bit out of sync. Then the piano developed a small flame-which is a fancy way of saying, some of the wires caught fire at one end. It had been playing too fast and overheated. There was a trail of smoke and then- for a short time, a slightly alarming larger flame.  That, of course triggered the sprinklers-water poured from the ceiling. Fortunately the audience didn’t get wet but the piano and the cello did and so did the floor. We, the audience, were sat up on a row of wooden benches-so novel these concerts-wooden benches. They were sat on some wooden tiers about 10 rows high at the highest point.

Once when a musician used to catch fire-wait no-that never happened. I don’t recall ever being at a concert where the musician caught fire. Now with bots-it does happen. What I was going to say was that once when a musician caught fire it wouldn’t have mattered but of course it would have, but in a very different way. Now they are bots and the bots are all plugged into the electricity. So there is the combination of water and electricity on the floor. And you can see electricity arcing around the bots, you can hear crackles and see sparks and it is not a good thing. Kind of like a low key light show at an old style concert but with an added element of danger.

Its fortunate the seating is raised and the under bits made of wood, although I think wet wood is a conductor so we are not completely safe. Tech-guy meanwhile is standing in the far corner on the stair, the first step of which is suspended fortuitously up off the floor. The cello-bot meanwhile plays on for a bit making a sort of whiny sound until there are some more sparks and it dies, ensuring there is definitely electrical current all over the water on that floor. Actually it looks like the whole unit might be alive with electricity. Meanwhile the piano is glowing slightly redder than anyone is comfortable with. At least the sprinklers have stopped working. We all sit quietly looking at each other. Not sure what to do. Tech guy is further away from us on the stairs over there, looking nervously at his device as if it will tell him the next course of action.

Then he is shouting at us not to move, he will call the fire brigade to rescue us. None of us want to walk out through the thin film of water that is covering quite a bit of the floor. But we can also see an escape route if we climb down the side of the seating. It looks doable. There is no water covering the floor to the side of the seating so we probably could sneak out. But it’s too late.

We can hear the sirens and I know we are all thinking the same thing. Let it be human fire squaddies that turn up. Unfortunately there are only two human fire squad members left in London and most of their time is spent on social media or on ‘paperwork’ although no paper is involved anymore.

Its unfortunate but  amusing-we get fire bots. They come running in and ‘assess’ the situation. When I say ‘running’, I mean they ‘trundle’ in. Budget cuts mean low speed fire squads. There are four bots trundling along on wheels. They are like bins on wheels, awfully efficient when they run at full speed, but these all look low on charge because charging a fire unit is expensive. They seem to have got the situation right and you can see them deploying ladders between them so that we can walk across and exit. Each ladder plugs into the bot in front of it, like little lego men, all interconnected. Its not ideal though. Everybody is looking at everybody else, not all of us are up to this kind of ladder expedition and the ladders look a little flimsy.

Its times like this that my faith in humanity is restored. One very brave man opts to take the bot ladders so the rest of us don’t have to. The truth is the ladders don’t quite reach to the edge of the seating so he will have to jump, but he looks up to the job. Another woman examines the water and she is prepared to be the first to jump down and make contact with the floor.  She jumps and lands easily and is not electrocuted. The floor is dry where the audience is sitting. The piano continues to glow but it is more orange than red. I don’t know if that is good or bad. The cello-bot crackles and is slumping forward.

The man jumps on to the bot ladder and we all watch as it shudders underneath his weight. Really I am lighter than he is and should have done it but I need to get back from my lunch hour. He will be there pretending to need the fire bots until everyone else is evacuated. He pretends to be in difficulty while others help everyone to climb down to where the first woman is and exit safely. I help a few people and then leave.  I am ashamed to say we left the organiser. I assume he got out somehow. The man on the bot-ladder pretends to be struggling and almost falls off. I can’t help thinking he must have once worked in the theatre, he is making such a good job of being rescued. I want to ask for his number but now is not the time. He is just getting over the top of the first bot onto the second bot ladder and it seems inappropriate.

In the background the piano continues to glow and the cello-bot to crackle. It really never was like this in the past, these lunch time concerts used to be moments of peace and tranquillity. Next time I will remember to wear more comfortable clothes. On social media we all said how wonderful the concert was because you have to don’t you, otherwise they sue.

Corporate knowledge

It’s not like there is much choice, I have to retire. And the knowledge is theirs. It belongs to them. They have ‘facilitated the means by which I acquired it’ and they therefore own it. I am not exactly sure what form their facilitation has taken. A rather ordinary desk with some clunky IT and a wobbly chair-I am not sure I would call that ‘facilitation’. I have had to fix the chair myself several times…read more

I really should retire. I look around me and there are a lot of machines-robots-androids-whatever you want to call them. There are only a handful of humans here –well when I say handful I mean two. Me and another-both of us hanging on-and for what-I don’t know? Well I do know-mostly its avoidance.

I get it. When I retire they will want my brain. Not all of it obviously. I will need some of it myself, but they will want quite a lot of it. All that corporate knowledge I have accumulated in the 10 years I have worked here, that is what they will want. All of it, and I am obliged to give it.

There’s a procedure and it’s very safe. It wasn’t at first -but it is now. They will just plug me in and identify which bits of me, which electrodes and pathways I have stored away, are ‘corporate knowledge’ and then a robot will be given that download and will be able to do my job. Perfect. It’s painless and I understand that the knowledge I have accumulated doing this job does belong to them. It’s just that I am old school. And this feels intrusive. And I am worried they might take bits they aren’t entitled to. And there is no procedure for returning them. And. And. And. It’s a great word if you don’t think about it too much. I need to be rational, its just how exactly do they know which bits are theirs and which bits are mine. I read the contract, I have been walked through the procedure but I remain less than convinced. I am nervous about it.

There have been law suits, of course, where it has gone wrong. And last weekend I went to see Irene’s husband and well-his did go horribly wrong. For him at least-well kind of, although Irene is happy. Irene is very happy. She wishes he’d had it done sooner. He is very happy in one sense, it’s just that he can no longer string two sentences together. Irene says she likes it that way. Actually she loves it that way. I mean I’m sure it was a happy marriage before that, but now she is positively enjoying a renaissance in life and he is-well he is enjoying something. Mostly ice-cream it seems. And lollipops and candy floss. He gives her no trouble, does what he’s told, doesn’t speak out of turn. Before he used to talk over the top of her a lot and it annoyed her. Now she tells him when to speak and she says it’s much better. I mean I think it is much better-for her. Mostly when I am there, he just sits at the table with a ridiculous smile on his face.

The corporation meanwhile has all his knowledge, even the basic stuff. I guess some robot has made excellent use of it and the sacrifice for the good of society was probably worth it. Irene has to dress him but she doesn’t seem to mind, although I do think the line she has been doing in clown outfits recently is a little cheap and mean. He has a carer who seems equally unfazed by the changes.  The corporation pays for it all. I understand the drooling was bad at first but they have managed to fix that. He had it done quite a while ago and the procedure is much improved. It’s now a very small percentage that go awry. So it’s unlikely I’ll end up like that.

It’s not like there is much choice, I have to retire. And the knowledge is theirs. It belongs to them. They have ‘facilitated the means by which I acquired it’ and they therefore own it. I am not exactly sure what form their facilitation has taken. A rather ordinary desk with some clunky IT and a wobbly chair-I am not sure I would call that ‘facilitation’. I have had to fix the chair myself several times.   Robots don’t need chairs, they come with an ‘inbuilt stabilisation device’- basically they can hold themselves steady whilst giving the appearance of being seated-or something. There is no legal argument on the point of ownership of knowledge anymore. I am the hardware, the knowledge is the software is the easiest way to think of it. They can’t take anything extra though. There are bits of my brain that are mine. I must still be coherent and able to spell and read and write.

I know a lot of retired people who’ve had it done. They are all ridiculously happy because the ‘burden of knowledge’ has been removed from them. Not happy like Irene’s husband but they have a certain lightness to their being, their existence. They remember almost nothing of working. Life is all play. They remember their childhood, maybe some university years and not much else. It’s like they spent their 30’s and 40’s drunk and have just woken up from the night before, only there is no hangover. No slightly altered surreal questions about what they did last night. Just the lightness of no knowledge whatsoever of what work is like. It’s like their work was just purposeless. Although I am sure there was a purpose. When I talk to them they seem like the shell of the person they were, albeit happy little shells.

I am not sure I want to be ridiculously bubbly all the time. It won’t suit me. Plus I certainly don’t want the smile lines from all that relentless enthusiasm. They talk about nonsense, have no interest beyond the garden and their gym class. Some of them live in ‘colonies’ where they all get on ridiculously well. I have been to one and I just can’t see myself fitting in. They were all so nice. Plus they all wore pastels. No strong colours here. I wore black for a week afterwards just to recover from it. All that ‘Hello, how are you?’ rubbish as if I am genuinely interested. Perhaps I have spent too much time around robots. robots are relatively emotionless and disengaged but able to sustain an intellectual conversation. They have no interest in my clothes and couldn’t give a rats-arse about my happiness. I love them. I love them just for that alone.

None of these people follow the news anymore, they don’t care about the future. I can’t help thinking that when they take all that corporate knowledge, when they suck out the memories of working here, I won’t know who I am but worse I won’t know that I won’t know who I am. I have seen it done and I don’t want it. There is a desk at the end of the office just in case I decide today is the day. Me and the other human here, we haven’t discussed it. I wonder which of us will go first. Whether one will do it and the other will follow. I have had an estimation of the time it will take done. It will take 4 hours to extract all my knowledge. The email said that was very good and indicates I am very clever but also that I have a lot of corporate knowledge which I am hanging on to. I think they meant that in a bad way, as if I should share. They will do a very thorough job of clearing my brain. They say it helps if you focus on your work while you are having it done-this leads them to the right pathways but I am not sure that is true. That might be urban myth.

I look at the machines around me, the office I have worked in for 10 years, I won’t miss this place. I won’t even miss it as I leave it because all the knowledge I have about it will be gone. It includes things like the second toilet in the ladies doesn’t flush and it has been two years and it is not fixed yet, that is because cyborgs don’t need toilets either. That is useless knowledge but not knowledge that I own.

I look at that desk, at those electrodes just waiting everyday. I am just not ready. I tried on a pastel cardigan last weekend and it just didn’t suit. I looked at the garden which no one has touched in years, I couldn’t care less about it. I attend pilates once a year and that’s it. I am very serious all the time and I am not yet ready to be something else. What am I without my work?

But I signed a contract, they passed a law, the knowledge is theirs. The work will still get done. My corporate knowledge will still be doing it, just without me attached to it. Is that so bad. I look at that desk, at the end, at those electrodes, not today. I won’t do it today, maybe tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow.

Cheer-bots-I didn’t see it coming

I read a lot about robots taking our jobs, but of all the jobs I saw mentioned-and I read the OECD report-every page-I never saw anyone say ‘cheerleader’. No clear solid statement ever that cheer leaders would be replaced by robots in my lifetime…read more

I read a lot about robots taking our jobs, but of all the jobs I saw mentioned-and I read the OECD report-every page-I never saw anyone say ‘cheerleader’. No clear solid statement ever that cheer leaders would be replaced by robots in my lifetime. Perhaps you are thinking that is because lots of people don’t think of cheer leading as a ‘proper’ job. I didn’t either until it was taken over by ‘robots’. These are not robots that look human, they’re not your fake looking female variety of the human like bot. These ‘cheer-bots’ look like robots, like any number of robots you have seen on the telly. Not a ponytail in sight here.

I had to come to an American football game to believe it. And now I have seen it. But- I still don’t believe it. Even having watched it, I don’t quite believe it. I understood nothing of the game itself and having watched it, think I might actually understand even less. It went on for a very long time. But the robots-the ‘cheer-bots’ were-fascinating-I think. I mean there are whole channels devoted to ‘cheer-bots’ on the internet. They are immensely popular. Just how did that happen? I mean cheer leaders replaced by robots. I just didn’t see it coming.

Some people blame the cheer leaders themselves, and frankly having read a lot about cheer leading recently, they seem to have a long history of having to take responsibility for the behaviour of others. It seems quite typical. Before this happened, it turns out cheer leaders were paid a pittance but were largely responsible (and when I mean responsible I don’t mean actually responsible so much as an expectation that they would accept responsibility in the way women often have to) for a lot of bad behaviour by other people (I think you know who I mean) whilst at the same time having their own rather innocuous behaviour policed quite a lot. I mean how dare they choose their own outfits and take a picture wearing that outfit and then put that photo online-scandalous. I mean that is just gob-smackingly bad behaviour-apparently.

I mean a photo-in an outfit they chose- on line- the audacity. I mean it’s the kind of behaviour that’s right up there with-ooh I don’t know, eating the last biscuit but leaving the packet in the cupboard, or finishing the milk and putting the empty container back in the fridge. Actually it really isn’t quite as bad as that because that is really annoying. Why can’t bots just sort that out? A milk-bot-now that would be useful. It would sort of look like a cow-maybe smaller because it has to fit in my kitchen and it would just dispense milk on request. It should also do yoghurt and cream I think, maybe a really sophisticated model could do cheese or butter. Way off topic now. But I do want one. It could ‘moo’ gently in the morning to get me out of bed-better than an alarm. It could waft the smell of freshly cut grass through the kitchen but no other cow related smells will be required-let’s be clear on that. No other smells.

It was only 5 years ago that the Dallas Cowboys cheer leading squad performed with the first robot as part of the routine. It was funny. It was cute. I am sure at the time they had no idea it was the beginning of the end. I can’t remember what came next, but within a year, they all had a kind of performing robot as part of the line up. Each one looked slightly different. Then one team just out of the blue- maxed out on bots. No more women, just robots Then everyone did it. And cheerleaders were gone-replaced. Within a season, just gone. Now we have cheer-bots. Its hard to say if it’s a step forward. Football itself is dying, was dying ( I mean the game and not just the players) but this whole cheer-bot thing is  bringing in a whole new audience.

I feel for the cheer leaders, years of training. They are literally professional athletes in America and their behaviour was ridiculously policed which was always contentious. But it just seems a bit surreal. I mean cheer-bots, surely robots could just be put to a more useful use and the cheer leaders could just keep cheering if they wanted to. It’s not what they promised with the whole robot thing. If you can produce a robot that can cheer lead (is that the phrase) why not one that can wash my car. I guess bots give less trouble than cheer leaders. They never object to work conditions. Robots probably don’t worry if no one gives them any respect. They certainly don’t post pictures in their clothing of choice on line-did I mention scandalous? I guess they keep the bots in the cupboard when they aren’t using them. I don’t think they did that with cheer leaders although having read some of their work conditions, I am not ruling it out. They probably use up more electricity than cheer leaders, but then they can be transported in the cargo hold so there are plusses and minuses. Its just not a debate I thought I’d be having-ever. Cheer –bots versus cheer leaders, it makes no sense.

Of course  there are still rumours about certain players-which is  weird because these things don’t look human at all. They look like robots. They aren’t covered in human-like skin. They are very definitely machines. They are very effective, if slightly mechanical sounding. I think the sound has improved a lot since they began. I admit, they can do things cheer leaders can’t-well not just cheer leaders, other humans as well-one team has ‘hover cheer-bots’ They levitate and perform. Its very clever. Of course they aren’t constricted to just four limbs either so the octo-bots have proven very popular.

Its just that idea of all the jobs that could go to a robot, I just thought cheer leading was safe. I mean I wasn’t bringing up my son or daughter to be one. It just makes you think. I saw one of them interviewed, she thinks its temporary but it shows no sign of dissipating in popularity. Even the NFL thingy came out –the governing body –whatever its called came out and said it was time to move on from human cheer leaders to robots. The system was arcane, they were stepping into the next century early-no they actually said that last bit. Apparently they want to be there before everybody else or something. Its only 2024 so perhaps they are not aware of just how early that is or perhaps it’s a reference to the previous century and they are a tad behind. Its best not to argue with blokes who’ve worn helmets for most of their lives-that is not a rule that is specific to a football code, that is just a general rule of thumb that I live by. Just take the words at face value and try not to laugh.

I just don’t get it. I mean I thought I’d understand it when I saw it but I just don’t get it. Cheerleaders-replaced by robots-its surreal.