Monday, December 15, 2014

In the Land of Virtual Guide Dogs

I derive great comfort from knowing that many blind people still get around the old fashioned way, by using guide dogs. Because one day way back when I was in college, I went to the office where they served crippled student and there was a guy with a robot. I don’t know if he was an inventor or a robot salesman or what but the guy did a demonstration about how in the foreseeable future, robots will be able to aid cripples in all our household tasks.

It was hard to take the guy too seriously because the robot was a clunky hunk of aluminum and flashing lights that looked like it had failed an audition for the Jetsons. And about all it could do of use to me was open a door. I don’t even think it could get a beer out of the fridge. But it was sobering to consider that someday we might live in a society where robots do all the dirty, low-wage grunt work, like fighting wars and tending to the cripples. I wouldn’t like it much if all my assistants were robots. Of course robot workers do offer some advantages over some human assistants I’ve had. For one thing, robots don’t have fake grandmothers. So they won’t call me every other weekend telling me they can’t come to work because yet another of their grandmothers died. I swear to God, I don’t know how some people end up with 26 grandmothers.

But all things considered, I prefer humans. I imagine robots are pretty obstinate. There’s no negotiating with them. They’re programmed to do certain tasks and that’s it. “I am sorry but I am not programmed to do windows.” And talk about feeling uncomfortably conspicuous. Cripples get stared at enough in public, but imagine rolling down the grocery store aisle accompanied by a robot pushing your cart.

And humans are quirky too. I know that can be a pain in the ass sometimes but I would miss quirkiness if it was gone. I supposed robots could be programmed to be quirky but it wouldn’t be the same. Programmed quirkiness is an oxymoron.

Sometimes I get scared that that glorious age of fully-mechanized cripple assistance the man spoke of in the 1970s isn’t far away. Because technology is moving so fast. Pretty soon GPS will be able to do what a guide dog does. GPS can almost do it now. It can tell you exactly how to get from point A to point B but, unlike a dog, it can’t help you sidestep a pile of shit or avoid getting hit by a semi en route. And suppose there’s a 50-foot cliff between points A and B. A dog will stop and refuse to proceed. But a GPS won’t say a damn thing until after the unsuspecting blind person merrily steps over the edge. And the last words that poor, plummeting blind person will hear will be, “Recalculating! Recalculating!”

So as far as I know there is no such thing as a virtual guide dog app just yet. But there sure as hell must be a dastardly scheme to create one being carried out somewhere out there by an evil genius, one of those visionary fuckheads who can’t leave well enough alone. Don’t you just hate those types?

And when said app is perfected, guide dogs will shortly thereafter be obsolete. And then the evil visionary fuckheads will come after me and my human helpers next.

(Smart Ass Cripple is completely reader supported. Contributing to the tip jar, purchasing books and subscribing through Amazon Kindle keeps us going. Please help if you can.)