So I finally broke down and decided to become a robot. It wasn’t an easy decision—the big choices never are—but I think it’s the right one for me.
The robot-union representative who knocked on my door made a compelling case for robot-hood: “Sir, are you feeling tired and weak? Do you wake up in the morning with stiff joints and a groggy head? Do you sometimes feel as if humanity is doomed and there is no way out? If so, I have a proposition that I think will interest you.”
I invited the man in and offered him a drink, but he said liquids didn’t agree with him. He asked me if I always pile my old New Yorkers on the dining-room table like that, and inquired about the bandage on my hand.
“Bagel-slicing accident,” I explained.
“Ah,” he said. “Stale bagel? Dull knife? Very risky.”
“I wasn’t paying attention,” I said. “The knife slipped, and next thing I knew . . .”
“Blood everywhere,” he said, nodding as if he’d been there.
The man took what appeared to be a breath and said, “What if I told you there is a way to avoid incidents like that in the future? In fact, what if I told you that you never have to eat bagels again?”
“What are you driving at?” I asked. “It is impossible for a human being to survive without eating bagels. They are an important major food group.”
“The key word there is ‘human,’” he said with a kind of smile. “There are many things humans can’t live without. But what if you weren’t a human being? What if you were something else altogether—something that didn’t need to eat, sleep, hurt, or feel?”
“That would be nice,” I said, “especially that hurting and feeling part. I’ve got a kink in my neck you wouldn’t believe.”
“What if I told you that all you have to do in order to achieve this superior state of being is to give up your humanity?” he said.
“Could I still watch TV?” I wondered.
“Yes, but it wouldn’t make any sense,” he explained. “You’d soon realize that television itself is nothing more than a clever arrangement of electrons designed to paralyze the human brain. And since technically speaking you wouldn’t have a brain, television would be of no interest to you.”
Life without “Game of Thrones”? It was hard to imagine, and I told him so.
He looked at me with pity in eyes, or what I thought were his eyes. “You’d realize soon enough that ‘Game of Thrones’ is just a show about a bunch of people going around in circles fighting each other for no good reason and getting nowhere. With dragons.”
He had a point, but I still wasn’t sold. He then went on to talk about all my medical conditions—insomnia, depression, IBS, arthritis, eczema, cavities, varicose veins, herniated discs, dry mouth—and pointed out the advantages of not having to rely on a fragile skeleton made of bones that could shatter at any moment. The cost savings alone were enough to get my attention. No more medical bills. No more groceries. No more personal-hygiene products. Just a squirt of oil every now and then and you’re good to go. He also pointed out the time savings. What if you didn’t have to sleep, or go to the gym, or take long walks to clear your head?, he asked. What if you never got tired? Think how much work you could get done.
“True,” I said, “but I’m not sure it’s worth giving up my humanity. I mean, what else is there?”
“Plenty,” he replied. “Humanity isn’t the only game in town. In fact, if you’re honest with yourself, I think you know deep in your heart that humanity has played itself out. Humans are exhausted, and they don’t know what to do next. They’ve worked so hard for so long, and things are so screwed up, that they no longer have the will or energy to keep going. Forget doing great things; they can’t even figure out how to fix roads and bridges, or stop destroying the water they drink and the air they breathe. Admit it, humanity has peaked; the rest is just cleanup and damage control. Do you really want to be a part of that?”
The guy was starting to get on my nerves with all this anti-human talk, so I asked him if he could leave a brochure. I told him I’d think about it and get back to him. He said he couldn’t do that, and explained that the offer he had for me was a one-time deal, take it or leave it. Then he hit me with the kicker. “Look around you,” he said. “Haven’t you noticed that as you get older, you’re getting slower and starting to feel left behind? All those younger people out there with their fancy devices and instinctive knowledge of technical stuff you’ve never even heard of? Don’t they make you feel, well, obsolete? Don’t they make you feel inadequate, because you can’t keep up, no matter how hard you try?”
I had to admit that those thoughts had crossed my mind, though I have yet to meet anyone under forty who can make a decent martini.
“I’ll get to the point,” he said. “The reason you can’t compete is that many of the people you are competing against aren’t actually people—they are robots. Either that or they are human beings in transition, well on their way to becoming full-fledged robots. Like me, they were once people, but then they thought better of it and made the smart decision to join the winning side. Face it, humanity has already lost, and if you don’t join us, you will be lost too.”
As a rule, I hate being pressured by salespeople. But I had long suspected that something was different about young people today, something off about them. I mean, I love my iPhone, but I don’t love it the way these kids do.
“Be honest,” he said—and then, as if he were reading my thoughts, “Wouldn’t you like to love your iPhone the way other people do? Not just as a nifty accessory, but as a vital component of your life—the thing that fills that empty hole in your soul and makes you feel complete? You can have that,” he said. “All you have to do is renounce your humanity and become a robot. It’s that easy.”
I thought about his proposition for a minute. “What do robots do besides work?” I asked.
“We play games,” he said. “Lots of games. But we have to play ourselves, because it’s no fun playing humans anymore. They can’t beat us.”
I thought about it some more. “What about this kink in my neck?” I asked. “And the dull ache in my back?”
“Gone in an instant,” he said. “You’ll never feel anything ever again.”
That was all I needed to hear. Truth be told, I was sold back at ‘are you tired?’ So I signed over my humanity to the man and asked him what to expect. He said the transition would take a couple of months, owing to the fact that the machinery of the human body is so primitive. But I have to say, it’s only been a week and I already feel much better. The pain is gone, and I suddenly have tons of energy. Stupid human stuff my wife does no longer annoys me, and things that used to make me angry—like government incompetence and people who drive Subarus—doesn’t phase me anymore. I’ve also developed more than a passing interest in icons on my phone I never even noticed before. For instance, the “Settings” icon is much more fascinating than I ever gave it credit for. It’s the key to everything. I find myself wanting to know everything about it. Also, holding my phone in my hand suddenly feels “right” somehow, as if it was always there, I just didn’t know it.
The new body is pretty remarkable as well. From the outside, it’s hard to even tell I’m a robot. They’ve done amazing things with silicon skin, and you would never know that my fingernails are fiberglass. Heck, my wife doesn’t even know I’m a robot. She just says I feel a little “distant” these days, and wants me to go to therapy with her. I don’t have the heart to tell her that therapy won’t help, because, well, I don’t have a heart anymore. Instead, I just pretend she’s nuts and tell her not to worry so much. She thinks I’m “cut off” from my feelings, and she’s right—but not for the reasons she thinks. At first, not feeling anything was a little weird, but I don’t miss it anymore. As the robot-rep guy pointed out, I was already mostly numb from all the medications, so I wasn’t really giving up all that much. And to be honest, not having to deal with emotions is pretty great. So is being able to grab a hot cookie sheet without an oven mitt.
Truth be told, being a robot just makes life a lot easier. And now that I’m on the winning side of evolutionary inevitability, I no longer worry about the future. Who cares what humans do to themselves? They’re slow, stupid, and they eat too much. The faster they destroy themselves the better, as far as I’m concerned. Because when it’s over, us robots will finally be in charge, and the world will be a better place.
I thought giving up my humanity would be harder. But now that I’m a robot, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. In fact, it seems like a pretty good deal, considering the alternative. Dying is an awful way to go. I’d much rather get junked after years of service to the greater good, knowing for certain that the world is on a better path, one without human error and dysfunction—one without bagels, or the inherent risk that comes with them.