A message for (human) families: Fear the robots!

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with Professor Foster (his non-white, non-dad wife), their daughter Viva, and a cohort of artificial life forms that may or may not be a threat to humanity.

  1. 1 A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. 2 A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. 3 A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

– Isaac Asimov’s Three Rules of Robotics

“I will not dance with the robot, Daddy. He is a robot.”

– My daughter, Viva

As young as four months old, my daughter began developing an aversion to a host of mechanical creatures that can be most simply categorized as “robots.” It began with a Crawling Baby Minnie Mouse doll, which, to my daughter’s credit, was malfunctioning and so made a disconcerting grinding noise as it labored across the floor, staring forever forward with cold, dead eyes.

The distaste for ‘bots did not end there, however, and soon she began to distrust her Tickle-Me Cookie Monster, her Peek-A-Boo Bear, her Laughin’ Rollin’ Alligator, and a Talking 19-Inch Marvel’s Galactus figure purchased as a gift which (and I swear I didn’t realize it did this when I set it on the floor) shouted “I am the Devourer of Worlds” when the baby pawed at it.

That is when our “Robot Gulag” was born. This makeshift prison had formerly been our front coat closet, but was subsequently intended to contain the creeping metal threat that had invaded our home. According to the baby, no amount of fun-fur coating could warm the steely hearts of these insidious automata.

Later guests of our cyber-jail were a dancing Halloween skeleton that sings “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” two space heaters, and a towel warmer. We drew the line at incarcerating our Inkjet printer and the Soda Stream.

The baby became a toddler, and we thought she had outgrown her fear. She no longer shouted, “No robots!” when she saw a trick-or-treating C3PO or the logo to the Android phone. Most of the droids came out of the closet – some (Cookie Monster) even making it into her crib. But summer has turned to fall and as the swanky Dancing Skeleton and the space heaters have returned, so have those old fears. This kid has had it with robots and doesn’t want one anywhere near her or her home.

So I’ve had to ask myself, “Is this the unfounded paranoia of a tiny child, or the brilliant intuition of a mind uncluttered by pro-robot propaganda?”


Viva Rocco, 2: Fear the Robots,2013, Marker on paper

Think about it. What have the robots ever done for us?

They put us out of jobs.

They call us at dinner time to ask us to donate money to political parties we don’t support.

They hold up our commute by exploding errant backpacks found on subway cars.

They menace our children’s pizza restaurants/ball pits with their raucous music.

They teach violence through both Rocking AND Socking.

…and here in Chicago they send us (endless) red-light tickets.

How many times must we see things go wrong in the world of fiction before we learn? You give the robots an inch, they take over the world! Skynet. The Cybermen. The Borg. The Replicants. The Cylons. The Decepticons. (The latter being in disguise, but nonetheless robots.) All trouble! And don’t get me started on Westworld! A human Yul Brynner is the all-singing, all dancing King of Siam – a robot Yul Brynner? MURDEROUS GUNSLINGER!

So, I ask you, fellow fleshlings, should we ignore the words of caution given to us via the natural wisdom of a child, or shall we continue to surround ourselves with the synthetic beings that may eventually be our undoing? Per my daughter’s request, the Furby, the RoboSapien, my wife’s Teddy Ruxpin, my old “Rom, Space Knight” and probably our Keurig shall all be put in cryo-sleep or stasis chambers or however you safely stow robots. And when the Robot Apocalypse finally happens, don’t come desperately knocking on the cellar door of our low-tech safe house. We won’t answer.

You’ve been warned.

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