Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mandatory Exoskeletons

I’m pretty fucking depressed these days. It seems like my nightmare, dystopian vision of the future for cripples is rapidly becoming reality. And there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

All over the world, evil, mad scientists are working with feverish, sadistic glee developing robotic exoskeletons. Check it out. Google up some exoskeletons and you’ll see what I mean. A lot of these scientists are pursuing this research in the name of using exoskeletons to enable cripples to move their limbs again. They’re making tremendous progress and it’s pretty damn scary. Because soon those super-charged exoskeletons like the one that guy flies around in in the movie “Iron Man” will be an everyday reality. And as soon as that happens, every cripple will be required by the state to have one.

When you look at it from a cold, bureaucratic bean-counter’s perspective, it makes perfect sense. Why should the public trough pay for cripples to have human assistants accompany them all day and help them do stuff when you can make those same cripples wear exoskeletons and suddenly they can move everything they couldn't move before and do stuff for themselves? The more crippled the person, the more of an exoskeleton they’ll need. Like a single amputee would just get a corresponding bionic arm or leg and they’re off to the races. But someone who’s really really crippled, like me or Christopher Reeve, if we’re supposed to do everything for ourselves we’ll have to be assigned a full-body exoskeleton like the “Iron Man” guy’s. And we'll need a voice-command operated exoskeleton, which is the part that scares the hell out of me most. Because you don’t have to be crippled to know how fucked up voice-command technology is. All you have to do is call any random customer service number and try to maneuver past the robot-voiced gatekeepers that stand between you and another human. I absolutely hate calling AMTRAK because you get this ebullient robot voice named Julie. And here’s how it goes:

“Hello, my name is Julie. What is your destination city?”


“Okay, Peoria.


“I’m sorry. Let’s try again. What is your destination city?”


“Okay, Lubbock, Texas. And what is your departure date?


“Okay, Wednesday.


“I’m sorry. Did you say Memphis?”

And then I want to smash the phone into a billion pieces with a GODDAM SLEDGEHAMMER!

It won’t matter if voice-command technology still sucks in the future. They’ll make cripples use it to pilot our exoskeletons anyway, just like they make everybody use it now for customer service. My human assistant places me in my suit-of-armor exoskeleton in the morning, latches me in and boots it up. Then he leaves and my exoskeleton takes over.

“Good morning, sir,” says my ebullient exoskeleton. “Where would you like to go?”

“Let’s go to the bathroom. I have to piss.”

“Fly to the North Pole? Yes sir, right away!” And before I can say squat I’m skyrocketing through outer space, trapped in a runaway exoskeleton! We land on the North Pole. My exoskeleton says:

“Where to now, sir?”


But it’s fucking cold on the North Pole and my exoskeleton’s robotics freeze up so he collapses into a useless heap! And there I die of hypothermia.

In this dystopian future, crash–landed exoskeletons with dead cripples inside will be a common sight. When you look at it from a cold, bureaucratic bean-counter’s perspective, it makes perfect sense.


  1. Though I concur with the spirit in which this post was written (mandatory exoskeletons would suck), I must take issue with the idea that they would use voice recognition to accomplish it. We're already beyond that.

  2. We know voice recognition technology will suck in the future because that guy in the Carousel of Progress keeps burning his Christmas turkey.

  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nmatsnkd2Lk

  4. Yes, sophisticated military-grade technology dished out to all the cripples. I'm sure any bean counter would see that as a viable alternative to a simple carer and keeping someone in a job.

    Do you suppose there will be LESS people on earth in your imaginary future?

    What a weird post.

  5. Screw exoskeletons (Rule 34, sorry). I am holding out for having my mind transferred to a fractal bush robot.

    But I'm with you on voice recognition. I don't have any teeth, and rarely wear my dentures at home. Voice-bots can never understand me. My exoskeleton would take "make a microwave burrito" to be "maximum attack: Toledo"

  6. Just like you're forced to get a driver's license and adaptive car controls. Sorry, the leap of logic here is one too far.

  7. Laughing my butt off at a big pile of exoskeletons at the North Pole? Santa scratching his head with a wtf expression. Crippled or not, this post was funny!

  8. I have to be honest. I never in a million years would have conceived of a human exoskeleton being a bad thing. Now you have me terrified too. I don't require one myself right now, but say in the future as we age, to keep us working rather than collecting social security, we strap on youthful exoskeleton suits. Lordy, something else to thing about late at night. Yeesh.

  9. eye half know alms sew use a Voight half debated devious 2 right this you are sew Wright because missus reeling Punxsutawney


  10. I love how the ads on your blog offer ceramic body armor and robotic palletizing. Hey you can get a job in a warehouse now!

  11. I'm amazed at the number of posts here from people who don't get sarcasm.

    What are they? Morons?

    I'm just sayin'...

  12. Glenn: It's not cost-effective now, but give it ten or twenty years. If an exoskeleton that allows a severely disabled person to function without assistance can be made available for, say, $100,000, and even assuming it needed to be completely replaced every five years, it would be more cost-effective to buy the suit as long as the carer makes more than $20,000 a year. (The replacement suit would, of course, be even better and/or even less expensive...)

    Of course, for many, having some measure of independence would be priceless.

  13. Glenn- are you talking about your own post? because last time i checked....this blog is called SmartAss Cripple. Open Up, Bro.

  14. I hate when I go to stand up and my leg braces fling my knees into a locked position. I dread the thought of an entire exoskeleton, especially one that is voice controlled as I have a bit of a lisp that freaks out computer systems. I would end up doing some disabled version of twister when the exoskeleton got confused and overheated.

  15. Sounds like somebody didn't get their proper amount of time in Lubbock TX. We will have a car ready to pick you up tomorrow morning, 4:30 AM.

  16. Oh great another contraption we can never afford and would be danger to so many of us my curoisty wants know what would happen if someone had seizure in one of these things

  17. Oh great another contraption we can never afford and would be danger to so many of us my curoisty wants know what would happen if someone had seizure in one of these things

  18. I'm pretty sure one of those would cost about 1 million dollars, something no aide would ever make.

    But I like your conspiracy theory-ish version better.

  19. Great post as always. I too have railed against the exoskeleton at my blog Bad Cripple. I quoted from this post. Love your acerbic wit.

  20. Have you seen Wallace And Gromit's The Wrong Trousers?
    Quick summary: an inventor makes a pair of programmable "trousers" to take his dog for a walk without the effort. But a baddie takes over the controls! I won't spoil the ending, but I really empathised with the scene where Wallace has been force-marched around town all day and is passed out from exhaustion while the Trousers keep going...

    As for the military-grade tech for cripples, I have military-grade tech in my house right now. Look up "iRobot". One section of the site deals with government and industrial robots. The other section deals with domestic robots. Same company, same technological principles, except one is doing unmanned missions in space and in war zones and the other is getting crumbs off my carpet.

  21. I hope they come in different colors..

  22. Not only will you have to do everything for yourself, but I'll bet they'll make you save our butts when we get in trouble, just like that Ironman guy. Hello free police force!