Breaking News; Robots Take Over Planet!
-Fred Stock

          Sat down to watch a bit of TV the other evening. Other than the current issue of Natalie Holloway or Anna Nicole or O.J. or the “Tot-Mom, the TV shows seem to be more and more fraught with people who solve all problems with a Mack Ten Submachine Pistol or a major explosion. Following the trilogy of the Godfather we had a brief respite, then came CSI and the Sopranos. The terms “whack somebody” and “Whaddah hellsdah maddah widchew?” returned to our screens with a vengeance. Muggin’ and thuggin’ that make the “Cops” episodes seem mild. No wonder we have remotes with mute buttons. Amidst the brutalizing and “blood and guts”, the wife and I commented “There ought to be an electronic gadget that silences commercials and violence, and switches to Larry King to see who’s on, automatically!” That got me thinking (difficult as that may be to believe.)

          We live in robotic-trending times. I sat in a friend’s car the other day. The seat adjusted itself, the steering wheel tilted as he likes it, the car doors locked themselves and the windows slid down about a quarter inch just as he prefers! All I did was sit down and insert a key! After a drive, we stopped, the car doors unlocked and the steering wheel moved out of the way to allow us out! Wow! But think about it.

          Our dash board looks at a map and says, “turn right in 500 feet.” I know a guy who has a car that parallel parks itself without his help. They’re working on a nationwide system of devices implanted in the roadways so you don’t have to steer or watch the road. The car drives itself, and watches for obstacles and competition for highway space! Your cruise control adjusts your speed and takes over control of the highway hills and slopes. The gas fill nozzle shuts off the flow when the tank is full and the fumes are supposedly suppressed as well. ATM’s hand us money and take our deposits.

          We already have completely automated systems for traffic tickets! Run a yellow/red light in Loma Linda and you’ll get a totally automatic set of photographs which show your face, license plate, and the sequence of your violation. It sends you a hefty traffic fine invoice, and allows you to pay by credit card. That means Loma Linda just looks at it’s bank account and sees your money! No humans involved at all!

          Closer to home everyday, we have windmills at the North Palm Springs wind-farms that adjust themselves to the wind direction, note the velocity of the winds and set their own blade pitch so they don’t over-speed, but use maximum wind energy to crank out electricity.  If there is no wind, they shut themselves off so they don’t load down the system, and restart when the breezes pick up again. Your CD and DVD players pull in and push out the discs when required. The lights and sprinklers in the yard go on and off at sunset or when somebody comes into the driveway. The lamps in the living room turn themselves on at dark and off at bedtime. The telephone answers itself, records the name and number of the caller, and makes a tape of his message if he’s smart enough to leave one. Our cell phones respond to voice commands and dial themselves. “Call Barbara” and there she is. If she’s not these, her voice mail picks up! The fax machine receives the paperwork your supplier wants to send you, and the cameras record everything in the yard while you are asleep or away! GPS tracks criminals and tells us where we are, even if we’re not smart enough to know if we are coming or going! Our “blackberries” notify us when the Dodgers win or my KC Royals lose again, and the batteries in all these portable things tell us when they’re running out of juice, and you’d better respond because they are relentless, won’t let up until you do. 

          There is an old joke by a comedian whose name escapes me – maybe Bill Cosby I’m not sure – about a guy who got so mad when the toaster burned his breakfast that he smacked it. Then he became angry at the television because the cable had gone out and he hit the TV on its top, and walked away fuming. As he got into the elevator to leave his apartment, the doors slammed shut and locked and a voice came over the speaker saying, ”Aren’t you the guy who hit the TV set?” as the car started shaking up and down! Yes, Robots are everywhere. Don’t tick ‘em off!  -fhs