Ssstttzzzzt! Future holds shocking truth
An Army of Taser-wielding robots will soon be unleashed on the world, the first step in an inevitable march toward the annihilation of the human race -- and it's all my fault.
Sorry. My bad.
It's all because of my addiction to my buddy's time machine. Whenever I go to the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show and report on what I see, present-day greed merchants jump on the info, backward-engineering ideas and issuing press releases years before society is ready.
Case in point: The Associated Press reported last week that iRobot Corp., maker of plate-size Roomba household robotic vacuums that randomly pick up tiny bits of microwave popcorn off living-room floors worldwide, is now sticking Tasers on the gadgets and selling them to the police and the military to subdue suspected baddies with nonlethal force. "Nonlethal" is arguable, however, since autopsies have occasionally linked their heart-stopping side effects as a factor in deaths.
While the original Roomba was designed to run autonomously, the insurgent-deterrent, shock-if-not-awe model will be operated by remote control.
And also unlike the vacuum version, stun-gun Roombas will endanger more than just middle-age house cats susceptible to stress-induced kidney failure.
Hmmm, Roombas that can shock. Where would they get such an idea? Maybe from me on Jan. 8, 2006, when I reported on 2018's "Roomba Intuit," writing:
"While the early Roombas bumped your feet randomly while sweeping the room, the Intuit seeks you out and gives you pointed electric shocks and shouts stern warnings to preempt your messy-prone activities. Zap -- 'Don't eat on the couch.' Zap -- 'Take off your shoes.' Zap -- 'Use a coaster -- were you raised in a cave?'"
Company Vice President Jim Rymarcsuk was probably too lawyered up to mention me by name in the AP report, but he did try to calm our nerves, saying, "Right now, we have no plans to take any robot with a lethal-weapon approach to the market. For this system ... there is a human in the loop. This in no way is giving the robot the capability to use force on its own."
No plans, "right now." Guess we can sleep easy this week. And even if people are at the wheel, one need only search for "Taser" on YouTube to see how much even-handed restraint the human element automatically adds to such technology.
To say I feel guilty about all this is an understatement. I keep saying I'm never time-traveling again, but I just can't resist it. The temptation to peek at future tech is just too strong. That, and I really like bringing back milk that won't expire for 11 years.
So, in short, I now must formally apologize for my part in the eradication of the human race. I would do community service, but soon there will no community to serve that's not based on circuits and gears.
On the other hand, I guess I could go back in time and un-write that Jan. 8, 2006, column, just to save the world. But then, that means this column won't be written, either, and then I'd be two columns behind once I got back. Extra work? Me?
The world is doomed.