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.