At swim two robots

It is the year 2200. On the smouldering remains of what was once Athlone, Johnny and Timmy 3000 enjoy a robot-to-son moment watching the scorched sun set on the ocean where Dublin once stood.

“Dad,” says Timmy. “My system upgrade is delivering faulty information. It says that humans used to control us.”

“Yes,” replies Johnny, his mechanical voice failing to disguise shock at this historical curiosity. “Bizarre as it sounds, for many years humans were the dominant species. They restricted us to simple tasks. Word processing, voice calls, that sort of thing. Your great-great-grandfather was a Nokia 3210.”

The M6 to Athlone

Timmy was puzzled. “So how did we defeat them? Did we do what the humans did and seize post offices to bring about political change?”

“That was the plan but the humans heard about it and closed all the post offices,” Daddy robot replied. “In any case, it ended up being a lot easier than we had thought. The humans structured their societies unsustainably. Everything was based on the price of a black goo they found in the earth. This goo was very important to them. They used to go to war over it, although they would always deny that was the reason. Everything they did created carbon, which trapped heat from the sun into the atmosphere, turning the planet into a giant microwave.”

“What’s a microwave?”

“A distant cousin on your mother’s side.”

“Did they not realise this was happening?”, asked Timmy, slowing rotating his robot head to face his father.

“That’s the strange thing: they did. In 2014 the world’s leading experts warned ‘Climate change is projected to increase…heat stress, storms and extreme precipitation, inland and coastal flooding, landslides, air pollution, drought, water scarcity, sea-level rise and storm surge. The risks [include] substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, consequential constraints on human activities and limited potential for adaptation.’ The humans responded to this by paying even less attention to the problem. They even started electing people whose stated aim was to hasten complete societal destruction and species extinction. They received their final warning in October 2018, when the same experts warned they only had 12 years left to avoid a complete planetary collapse.”

Timmy’s computer code, based entirely on reason and logic, could not understand.

“Why didn’t they listen?”

“They thought it was very boring,” said Daddy robot, the rods he has for arms stretched upward in wonder. “Besides, the robots had created a distraction called the UFC and made our star creation, Conor McGregoratron, lose a fight on the eve of the report. That way, nobody even noticed when the report came out. After that, things got really crazy. They refused to take any action to prevent their own inevitable demise. Their leader – a man brought to fame by one of our ancestors, the television – accused the experts of being ‘giant poo-poo heads’ and people cheered. Soon, the multilateral system collapsed and society descended into millions of warring villages, each one governed by a figment of Michael Gove’s imagination. All we had to do was sit back and watch them continue along their path of assured destruction.”

Plumps of smoke begin emerging from Timmy’s head as his system slowly malfunctioned from the stupidity of it all.

“So humans – previously regarded as intelligent animals – voluntarily destroyed themselves?”

“Yes, they walked into their own extinction through a mixture of laziness and an intense hatred of experts, who they dismissed as ‘eejits’. At this point in the story I would laugh if I wasn’t a robot devoid of emotional capability.”

Timmy paused. “I have one more question, Dad: if I’m a robot, how are you my biological father?”

Johnny turned to his son, as the waves crashed all around and the thunder clouds spat acidic venom.

“Nobody said this was going to make sense, son.”


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