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February 24, 2005

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Call me a softie (unless you're Peter Beinart), but I found this post of Berube's weirdly poignant:

First the laptop goes, then the coffeemaker...I wouldn’t bother blogging about such a thing if not for the fact that the coffeemaker in question-- one of those nice steel carafe things that keeps your coffee warm without having it sit and stew on a hot plate-- succumbed, like the laptop, to a Mysterious Malfunction while insisting that it was actually in working order. (The laptop is still in denial about the loss of its USB ports; the coffeemaker continues to tell time and to insist that it will make the next pot of coffee at 6:38 AM even though it no longer heats water and brews coffee.)

Now I might simply be anthropomorphizing (that's an 18-letter word, y'all) some gadgets, but I found that touching. Like an aging, crippled dog that weakly barks at perceived intruders, or an old man who keeps coming into the office despite long ago being relieved of his work. The laptop and the coffeemaker are both making herculean efforts to remain useful, even as their usefulness has been effectively extinguished. I'll bet you that each morning, right at 6:38 AM, the coffeemaker starts trying to brew a cup of coffee, trying to heat the water, only to fail at the task and fall back, exhausted, but desperate to be given another chance the next day...

Update: Fixed the title.

February 24, 2005 in Web/Tech | Permalink

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Comments

*sniffle*

Posted by: TJ | Feb 24, 2005 1:26:29 PM

That should be "androids", Ezra, not "robots".

Posted by: bombadil | Feb 24, 2005 1:53:26 PM

...which assumes, of course, that he actually wanted the coffeemaker to try to heat water every morning at 6:38am; it would be even sadder, after all, if the coffeemaker just decided that 6:38am was time to try, each morning...

Posted by: weboy | Feb 24, 2005 3:29:59 PM

Ezra, pal, you gotta get out the house more.

Posted by: The Fixer | Feb 25, 2005 8:41:42 AM

It is never a good idea to let a machine know you're in a hurry. Even at 6:38 AM (is there really such a time?).


Ed

Posted by: Ed Drone | Feb 25, 2005 10:21:44 AM

I hadn't thought of the poignancy angle. Now that you have me thinkin' about it, the literary reference that strikes me is "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Ray Bradbury. After nuclear war, an automated house continues to perform all of its programmed tasks to care for inhabitants that no longer exist, except as carbonized silhouettes on the outside wall...

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