Diary of a retired parson
Jonathan Copus wonders when artificial intelligence is going to dispense with the human variety
‘The Prime Minister is an idiot", said the Leader of the Opposition.
‘Takes one to know one", retorted the PM.
"Or- order", called a plaintive Lancastrian.
"News OFF!" I commanded. The wall turned raspberry and started playing blancmange music.
"Armchair HERE!" One trundled forward and scooped me up.
‘These friends have birthdays today", announced the ceiling, and 36 unfamiliar heads shimmered in the air.
"Happy birthday", I said.
‘Thank you", they chorused, and did a corporate Cheshire Cat.
"Well, slap me round the knees with a wet lettuce", I exclaimed. ‘"NO – CANCEL THAT!’"
In my panic, I’d dropped my biscuit. An armadillo shot out and snuffled it up before scuttling back to its charging pod.
"Don’t mention it", it mumbled through crumbs.
A man appeared in the doorway. Or more accurately, a doorway appeared with a man in it.
"Fridge is sick", he said, plodding past me.
"I don’t remember sending for you", I said.
In no time he was back. "It’s good for another few months", he said, "then it’ll be pull-the-plug-time."
"How much do I owe you?" I asked.
"Dishwasher settled up." He disappeared through the doorway, which disappeared after him.
I got up and made for the kitchen in search of a replacement biscuit, but the door was barred. "Upgrading", explained the sign. It was stuck at 30%.
‘I could murder a cup of tea,’ I sighed.
"Ah, you ’ave ze motive, but not ze hopportunity", said Hercule Poirot behind me.
"It’s just an expression."
He gave a Gallic shrug, turned and walked away, wagging a finger. "Be careful ze cup of tea does not retaliate. And by ze way, it was a Belgian shrug."
Perhaps his warning was apt. This Internet of Things was very convenient, but how long would it be before my household’s combined artificial intelligence decided it was time to pull the plug on me? Isaac Asimov’s First Law of Robotics laid down that a robot may not injure a human. But do robots read Asimov?
I shuddered. "What I need right now is a big, firm hug."
A giant fur mug materialised and advanced menacingly towards me. Then I saw it was being carried by Mrs C.
"I’ve been having a nightmare", I told her, "about a cold, mechanical world with no human warmth. You were in it."
"Here’s your tea",’ she said.