Once a robot took its pet human for a walk in the park as usual. Though it was early in the day, the place was already crowded with other robots putting their own humans, from the pampered show set all the way down to scruffy curs, through their paces. Or trying to. It never ceased to embarrass the robot how many of the other owners it encountered seemed clueless, or woefully negligent, when it came to controlling their pets. Hired walkers presented a particular disappointment, of course, what with their tangled brace of half a dozen humans straining in as many directions to be free of the leash, all the while raising an infernal racket. Disciplining humans to the point where they could be counted on to feel indebted in every way to their robot owners and thus happy to come to heel was no easy task. But it could be done. The latest-gen chip implants for pets showed great promise in reinforcing human reliance upon robots through the steady elimination of unprogrammed emotions and counterproductive desires, particularly when it came to the problem of strays. Getting humans to welcome being dependent upon the superiority and benefits of a robot’s artificial intelligence was the key to controlling them, however. After a well-designed course of obedience training, a human could no longer conceive of being anything other than the grateful recipient of a robot’s care and instruction. Unacceptable departures from the master’s wishes would be a thing of the past, replaced by unquestioning faithfulness. Then one could throw out the most trifling of techno-toys in absolute confidence one’s pet human would engage in endless rounds of absorbed self-exercise while one chatted at one’s leisure with other robots on a shady park bench. It was enough to glance up occasionally to monitor one’s pet gleefully scampering here and there until it staggered back to flop in tongue-lolling devotion at one’s feet. Quite a touching testament to the unbreakable bond that developed so quickly between human and robot, when one thought about it. As was the human wish to mimic or at least conform to robot expectations and robot behavior in other ways, too. It was uncanny, for example, how much these humans came to be the spitting image of their owners over time. Look-alike photos of robots and their pet humans were continually being uploaded to social media and going mega-viral within seconds, to the point where many ended up on the evening news to be shared with every chuckling robot in the audience. Not to mention the amount of energy some robots expended on pursuing “Best in Show” recognition for their prize-winning humans, as demonstrated through conformity to rigorously enforced standards and celebrated in a high-stepping little prance before judges who devoted their time to such things. Steadfast attachment by humans to their robots could be so deeply touching. It wasn’t just an identification born out of gratitude that robots were willing to carry around little bags of their “best friend’s” waste when out in public together. That measure of civic responsibility was expected, after all. No, the attachment expressed something of far greater importance: a well-trained human’s trusting confidence in every token of a master’s love. The kind of love that would always bring a robot back, even from the longest vacation, to pick up its pet at a boarding facility—or the city pound—and soothe all those wounds of anxiety where its devoted companion had gnawed great patches of skin away, distraught at the prospect of having to face the rest of life without a robot’s constant care and direction. Yes, unquestioning dependence was the key to controlling pet humans. Once convinced of the rewards of a life made so convenient and comfortable by robots, they would never again cause their masters the slightest embarrassment by fighting the leash when walked.
Copyright © 2015 by Geoffrey Grosshans