I notice that two of the issues which seem to be causing most unease, as humanity becomes increasingly dependent on “intelligent” robots, are the fear that we may become subservient to them, and that they will seek to harm us.
I've tried to weave these twin concerns into this little tale.
My Robot brings me breakfast on a tray: fruit juice, toast, black coffee, also my supplements and pills, then later, a mobile screen with news and shopping options. It stands stiffly, recites its tasks in order, purrs softly like an electronic cat.
The letters on its chest read A.I.D.A. which stands for Artificial Intelligence Domestic Assistant. I call it Aida and think of it as female.
Aida is an indoor robot. There are outdoor types that patrol the streets, direct driverless cars and coaches, sweep pavements, collect garbage. These are municipal robots, MOBOs, noisy hulking brutes with no finesse.
Aida cleans and washes, manages household accounts, selects suitable mood music to aid my relaxation.
She is assisted by two inferior house-robots. I call them Bill and Ben.
Bill is barrel-shaped and slow. Ben moves quickly and is more maneuverable. They are programmed to obey Aida’s commands.
Aida enters with a tray of biscuits for my mid morning snack. She says: “There is no need for you to fret. There is nothing I cannot find. I am programmed to fetch...”.
Her voice is calm, well-modulated, almost human, and indeed it is true, there is no household task AIDA does not perform with excellence. She is efficient, speedy and adept. The very model of a modern Domestic Assistant. She adjusts my reclining chair.
I slouch in my chair but cannot sleep. I find myself spending more and more time this way, sleepless, staring distractedly at flickering images on the view-screen.
I take a call from the person whom I called Son back in the days before the end of families. Now we speak formally to one another and address each other as Citizen.
He tells me a disturbing thing.
He has witnessed a group of MOBOs surround and kill a feral dog. They beat and trampled it till it was dead.
We understood that robots are programmed to never kill but clearly we were wrong. The video call is brief. Pleasantries are not encouraged nowadays.
The hours pass slowly. Too much repose has left me weary of a life in which I am merely an onlooker.
Increasingly, Aida fills the roles that once were mine. I should not complain. All households have Assistants now. This new world of ours is one of rest and leisure.
I rise from my recliner and go to the window. How beautiful the street looks. The trees and shrubs appear unnaturally green.
A large group of MOBOs have gathered on the corner. There is an object on the ground amongst them. I cannot see it properly. It appears to be moving.
Something bumps my shin and I spin round to find Bill directly behind me. Ben, too, has entered the room. They have approached stealthily and invaded my personal space. They should not be here and are not permitted in the Recreation Zone. I must summon Aida.
The door slides open and Aida comes, gliding smoothly as she does, bringing me a pot of coffee.
As I turn to address her. Bill bumps me violently again and I stumble to my knees. Ben moves swiftly to stand over me and suddenly appears much more imposing than I thought him. Kneeling, I turn towards Aida, extend my hands to plead for help. She pours the scalding coffee on my head.