What the robots will never replace | VailDaily.com
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What the robots will never replace

Sometimes I think about how, when robots are more advanced and commonplace in our world, what things they’ll be able to do and what tasks will be beyond even the most advanced microprocessors.Already, we have the “Roomba,” which is a robot vacuum cleaner you can now pick up for a couple hundred bucks. While I’m sure it’s a wonderful thing for, say, a childless single or couple with pristine floors and hallways, I just laugh when I think about such a device trying to navigate the treacherous shoals of our house. The four flights of stairs aside, the Roomba would have to have some kind of Mars rover-like claw and advanced jumping action to work its way around the multitudinous toys, backpacks, remote controls, GameBoy cartridges, errant socks, tossed-aside jackets and all the other familial detritus that comprises the topography of our living space.Roomba, you’ll have to wait until we’re empty nesters – or until you have a companion named Pickerupperbot, which has the ability to trundle through the house collecting things that don’t belong where they lay. I envision the Pickerupperbot as a smaller version of those Imperial Walkers in “Star Wars,” combining the ability to relocate things as well as a low-power laser to zap things like saltine shards, wads of gum, holy socks and the like.One thing I know robots will never replace is me in my role as the person who fills the fridge and pantry. I used to think I was a simple man with limited brainpower – that is, until I discovered my frontal lobe’s ability to construct complex algorithms concerning the vast array of comestible preferences contained in the brains of other family members. In City Market, Safeway and Wal-Mart, I deploy all this knowledge I’ve acquired – meaningless to anyone else – and weigh BBQ vs. ranch-flavor chips, creamy vs. chunky peanut butter, Special K with Red Berries vs. Cinnamon Life and white vs. wheat.All of that information must then be compared to the sales flyer, the time of the month relative to the next pay day, checkbook balance, available free time to actually cook, etc. etc. Shopperbot might be able to record all those preferences, but could it also make impulse buys, like Sobe bottles for the kids or a “ladies’ magazine” for my wife?One android we’d all like to see is Pottybot, which would possess the ability to go in daily and scour the tub, toilet and sink. Even if it occasionally sucked up a perfume bottle or twisted a shower curtain into a Gordian knot, it’d be worth it. If it could knock out the kitchen floor as well, we’d pay a couple months’ salary for it.I know my kids would like very much to hand off the duty of emptying the dishwasher to someone or something else. It’s such a terrible flaw in an otherwise useful machine: The damn thing just always stands around waiting for us to empty it. That’s a daily event in our house, and on weekends it’s often run twice a day. If someone were to come up with some kind of Rube Goldberg contraption to move the plates, glasses and flatware to the drawers and cabinets, I think the kids would come up with the money to buy it.Robots, yeah, they’re coming. But will they really make life any easier? I can hear my kids arguing now over whose turn it is to hose down Bathroombot, or how so-and-so forgot to program the dishwasher droid to run twice that day. We’d have to employ a Bitchbot just to keep up with all the extra slackers in the house.Hmmmm … maybe that’s not such a bad idea?Alex Miller can be reached at 748-2931 or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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