Sep 7, 2014

Flowers for Algernon

Almost a decade ago my family bought our first robot; an iRobot Roomba.  We lived in a big open church-turned-house then, and I used to joke that cleaning the floors took a riding vacuum. We named him Algernon, which derived from the Normal-French soubriquet Aux Gernons, meaning "With Moustaches." He had these little sweepers on his underside that looked like twirly moustaches.  Dan asked for Algernon when we split up the household goods. I got the old fashioned vacuum.  I wonder sometimes if Algernon is ok, if he's still charging and whisking crumbles up off the floor at my exes house.  And that's hardly a thing I remember to ask when we speak on the phone; "Hey how's your vacuum? and your blender?" But I still wonder, because he was my first robot.

My second robot already named Siri was a gift one Christmas.  I didn't know I wanted a smart phone, but now I know I love having it.  I use it for all sorts of brain activity that smart humans used to have.  Like "which element is seventeenth on the periodic table?", "where's the nearest pharmacy?" and "what time are all the appointments in my whole life?"  I found that if I changed the voice of Siri to a man, I was more patient with his inability to understand my wicked mid-western accent.  Apparently I have more patience for dumb men than an uppity sounding dumb woman. I'm sure I should blame the patriarchy for that.

I watched perhaps one of the greatest robot marketing videos of all time this morning.  Or maybe I just love robots.  But I have a ton of questions before I order one of these.  Can I change his name? Does he have a motion detector? Can I program him to bark like a dog when the motion detector detects motion in the middle of the night? Would he talk to my Roomba (if I had a new one)  Can he play Simon Says? Can he help the kid with her homework without just giving her all the answers?  Can he track where all our i-devices are?  Can he do accounting and update my blog?  Can he live with a rambunctious and raucous family without getting his face broken? If his face gets broken how can I have him repaired?  Where's the robot doctor? Would he make my life $500.00 better?

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