Monday, January 21, 2013

WHEN THE ROBOTS COME…

"Sweet Feet"
Saturday evening at a poetry reading honoring Julie Kane, the Poet Laureate of Louisiana here at A and E Gallery in New Iberia, I was privileged to read alongside Julie and Clare Martin, a Lafayette poet who read from her recent book, Eating the Heart First. It was a fun night, and each of us had our moment reading our own brand of wry verse. One of the poems I read was about the advent of the robotic era, and this morning, my friend, Dr. Victoria Sullivan, who writes speculative fiction, began telling me about a science fiction novel she’s reading entitled The Night Sessions (Ken Macleod) in which all the characters have personal robots that follow them around. The creatures are databases with telescoping legs so that they can get shorter or taller, and they talk, analyze, and evaluate what is going on around them, arguing if necessary (in this novel, to assist in solving a mystery).

As I told my audience Saturday, I have one robot I wrote about in an earlier blog – a round, flying saucer-shaped object that responds to my pushing a large button in the middle of her belly and whom I call “Sweet Feet” because she doesn't talk back when I ask her to clean floors. In fact, she’s busy at the moment, and her quiet industriousness inspired me to write about the virtues of robots this morning. She does have a voracious appetite, often swallowing the fringes on rugs in the house, but my immediate surgical extractions result in her being up and doing in remarkable recovery time, within moments.

Some of the more interesting robots are the personal care creatures that are being used for the care of autistic children. It seems that since the robots have no expression on their faces and are less intimidating than humans, the autistic children respond more rapidly to teachings about how to respond to humans. Also, the Japanese, who have a burgeoning elderly population, are doing extensive research on robotic creatures because of the growing need for personal care of old people.

In the field of mining, robots are being used to automate the most dangerous, costly, and difficult mining jobs, which results in higher efficiency and productivity in American operations. Robots allow the miners to negotiate hard-to-reach deposits and to extract the minerals more economically than existing extraction methods.

There are more entries online about robots than you can shake a stick at, including reviews of “The Robots,” a movie made in 2005 that features these mechanical creatures. The star of "The Robots" is a young inventor who creates a “Wonderbot” because he wants to make the world a better place for everyone and who tries to keep older robots from the Chop Shop where they’ll be shredded and melted down. The characters have mechanical names like “Ratchet,” “Gasket,” “Big Weld,” etc.

I really appreciate my no-talking-back creature, “Sweet Feet,” and like to read about the future of robotics, but, ultimately my sentiments are expressed in the poem I read Saturday, “When the Robots Come,” in which I acknowledge a Creator (who probably inspired the creation of the robots – we know so little about the “aha” moments of human creativity and from whence they come). In the poem, I refer to “…the unseen hand close behind/the hard sheets of water/now drowning the drought…in that time/when we sit at breakfast,/watching the benign showers,/we can bless a moving hand/forcing the rainfall/on our parched world,/a hand that is, perhaps,/a winsome vapor/but will not wind down/or need recharging,/and will understand our cosmic folly.”
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