USA Inc. Corporate Citizen Orientation 

A lot of people look forward to having a business man in the white house. He’ll run the country like a corporation, they say. Having worked for a corporation for over a decade, I can say that I’m extremely excited by this proposal. Running the country like a corporation will improve everyone’s life dramatically. Below outlines the details of your benefits package.

Under new management, every citizen will need to be rebadged. Your rfid identification card can be acquired at your local DMV. Your ID must be visibly displayed on your person at all times. The new ID will allow you to gain access to other cities, subject to approval.If you see someone without their badge displayed, contact security immediately. Once you’ve received your ID, you will immediately report to your City Mayor for assignment.

Each City Mayor will be selected by the new Executive Team. Each Mayor will be required to champion the country’s yearly slogan. The 2017 slogan is “Make America Great”. 

All working aged people will be required to maintain employment within their city. Productivity will be monitored through sophisticated tracking technology. Elderly people will be kindly forced into an early Retirement Camp. All non-productive citizens or violators of Country rules will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.

An HR2000 discipline drone will seek out each citizen subject to termination. A Citizen will be given 10 minutes to explain their infraction, which will be recorded and ignored by the robot. Terminations will be carried out every Friday afternoon.

Your job and your family are important to your country. In order to continue to provide great service, there are several ethical rules that all Citizens must follow.

Gifts to Citizens in excess of $100 must be reported to the IRS. 

Weapons are prohibited on Country property.

All computer and cell phone activity will be monitored by the management and are only to be used for Country business. The country reserves the right to change its acceptable use at any time without noticed.

All restroom use will be referred to as a “bio-break”. 

Productivity is the most important measure for the Country. Citizen parents may choose be released from their job site on weekends to interact with their children, however this is strongly discouraged as it decreases productivity and may damage the child’s development.

Citizens will be reimbursed for any travel on behalf of Country business. It is Country policy to use the Big Three chain preferred providers for all travel. Failure to obtain prior authorization from a town Mayor will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.

All Citizens will be required to complete a yearly physical and obtain a certain amount of fitness points in order to retain mandatory health care coverage. All Citizens will be implanted with a permanent fitness and heart monitor. The Country shall keep your blood sample indefinitely.

All Citizens will be required to complete Annual Citizenship Training. These online modules will ensure each Citizen is provided with mandatory training that will improve their conformity scores and quell individuality uprisings. Mayors will be held responsible for ensuring 99% completion rating for all of these modules and will be the primary focus of the Mayor. A quiz score of 100% is required. Failure may result in “coaching” from an HR2000 compliance drone.

Speaking your mind freely is strongly discouraged. Refer to the Country’s slogan or talking quarterly earnings deck for discussion ideas. Speaking your mind may result in uncomfortable situations or hurt feelings of other Citizens. These matters are taken very seriously and will be investigated by an HR2000. Substantiated claims will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. 

Occasionally towns will be redistricted and reorganized. During a reorganization you may be asked to change your responsibilities, or move to a different location. Your new Mayor will select a new home for you and your family based on those homes vacated during the re-org. If you do not like your selection, you are free to apply for citizenship to other countries.

After each reorganization, several small towns will be eliminated. The Citizens will be relocated to a larger city. This will result in increased productivity and improve each state’s mandatory environmental score. All farms will be worked by robots. 

Working at the Country will be very beneficial to all Citizens! At the end of each year, each Citizen will have the opportunity to earn a profit sharing bonus. Congratulations, this is your reward for all of your hard work and compliance which avoids the dispatching of costly HR2000 drones. After the Mayor reviews each Citizen’s compliance scores, 66% of the discretionary credits will be issued to each Citizen based on an incalculable convoluted process which factors in their arbitrary conformity to the Country’s goals and slogans. A Mayor may keep up to 100% of a Citizen’s bonus based on criteria of their choosing. The Executive Team can reverse this decision at any time and terminate your Mayor and bonus structure without notice.

A Mayor who fails to uphold all of the Country’s goals and slogans will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination. Anyone on the Executive Team who displeases the President can be terminated without cause.

Thank you for joining us in USA Incorporated. Your conformance and compliance is mandatory.

If the thought of the businessman bringing about these changes doesn’t appeal to you, rest assured, citizen, that the creeping government involvement in your every day life can also be attained by voting for the corrupt woman politician. Voting for either will have us skipping merrily towards the singularly of the black hole of progressive totalitarian human control. 

So get out there and vote Corporate Citizen, like your life, liberty, pursuit of happiness inflated sense of an ever increasing minimum set of human requirements depends upon it!

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I Made the Robot Angry

Caller: Hi. I’m Meg. We’re offering security systems for your home at no cost to you… Now tell me, how long have you lived at your home?

Me: Oh I don’t have a lot of time here.

Meg: I’m sorry I didn’t catch that.

Me: I said I’m just getting lunch around.

Megbot: (Long pause) So how do you rent or own your system?

Me: Well I own my lunch. I don’t think anyone would want it back after I’m done with it.

Megbot: No, I am a real person.

Me: Me too. But I normally don’t have to go around telling everyone.

Megbot: I take my job very seriously. It sounds like you’re not interested. Good bye!

Me: Bye robot!

How to Talk to a Robot

Every time my Google Voice number rings both of my phones I know fun is about to happen. I reserve that number as my junk phone number for borderline reputable Internet sites and free fishbowl lunches. It is usually preceded by my junk Yahoo email. I know if someone is calling both of my phones that their goals of making a sale and my goals of having fun are going to clash.

When I noticed both of my phones ringing I had both of the kids in the car, parked in the garage and playing. My daughter was busy pretending to drive us to the store and my son was bouncing around in the back seat. Back seats make excellent, cushioned play pens in an unmoving car.

It’s always much more fun when a telemarketer calls when the kids are around. I sometimes ask my daughter to talk on my behalf but she always freezes under the pressure. We are still working on sharpening her sarcasm.

So I answer the phone.

Me: Hello? …. Hello?
Lady: (Long Pause) He-hello?
Me: Hi.
Lady: Oh Hi there. Hehe. I’m looking for the business owner.
Me: OK.
Lady: Are you the business owner?
Me: Sure. (At the time I was running a daycare out of my car)
Lady: Ok great. Well we’re offering great low rate loans to businesses like yours (car daycares) and I just have a few questions if that’s ok?
Me: OK lets go.
Lady: OK great! So how long have you been in business?
Me: (Looking at the kids) Almost 3 years?
Lady: OK. (strange calculated pause) Does your business generate more than $10,000 a month?

In a split second of time, I reran the whole conversation over in my head. The personality, the clipped pauses, the uncertain “he-hello”, and the slightly odd progression of the conversation – it suddenly hit me that I was talking to a chat bot. A very convincing chat bot. I’ve had these conversations before but didn’t realize it was a convincing robot until after the conversation. Realizing this during the conversation was like waking up during a dream and I could fly!

Me: Hey wait! You’re a robot!
Robot Lady: No sir. I assure you I’m a real person.
Me: No way! I know you’re a robot! (Changing my voice as if I’m speaking to a child)
Robot Lady: (giggles girlishly) Oh sir!  I am a real person. Can you hear me OK?
Robot Lady: (Changes her voice back to the serious inquisition) Can we continue?
Me: Yes…

I’m right! Her playful tone quickly switched back to a prerecorded “can we continue?” Also, she made no human reaction to my change in voice – which could have called for her to jump off the script to ask why I thought she was a robot. At this point I think I can reset her, forcing her into an endless feedback loop of fun, and agree to continue with the questions.

Robot Lady: Would you be interested in low interest rate loans for your business.
Me: You’re a robot!
Robot Lady: Uh, I am a real person.
Me: Yes you are. That’s exactly what a robot would say.
Robot Lady: No. (flatly, robotic, angry?)

Meanwhile my daughter was getting frustrated trying to open a water bottle.

Daughter: I can’t do it!
Robot Lady: Sir these are questions we have answer. (100% confirmation!)
Me: Can you help us open the water bottle?
Robot Lady: I can’t help with that. (Clipped pause) Can we continue?

She continued with a few more of her robot questions. Eventually and I got transferred to a gruff old man who sounded real. My son was trying to climb into the front seat to join in the conversation.

Gruff: Hey it looks like we’ve emailed you the information already and Matthew is working on your file.
Me: Yeah but your robot called and I told her I wanted to talk to a real person.
Gruff: Oh Matthew will be in touch soon. We won’t bother you with the robot anymore. Sorry.
Me: Can the robot lady come over and watch the kids?
Daughter: NO! He try bite me! Whaaaaa!

-Dial Tone-

I had read this article awhile ago and I have been causally on the lookout for robot callers since. The calls from the Time article are below. It sounds like this same “Samantha West” is back and is now selling business loans.

At least in the 80’s, all the robot girls sounded like robots…

Update: Upon further research, apparently (as of 2013) this Samantha West is guided by a real person who is just punching a soundboard. I imagine this could be true, but if you’re going to call someone with a soundboard it should always include the question, “Who is your daddy and what does he do?”

Technology Jones and the Temple of Pwnage

“Nice try Lao Che!” Technology Jones cried while closing the door to the passenger drone. They narrowly had escaped death after an unfortunate augmented reality misunderstanding the Shanghai Electronics Conference. Technology and his crew, a pint sized robot, named Short-Circuit, and an young female American cosplay model dressed as a “Sexy Pikachu“, were finally able to relax while the drone piloted them to New Delhi.

Hours later the crew found themselves crash landed near a desolate Indian village after the drone pilot’s GPS was hacked by Lao Che. Technology made sure everything was OK – his phones, fitness trackers, and Google Glasses were all miraculously undamaged! Techy breathed a sign of relief. “If you’re done checking your gadgets, do you want to help me out over here?” Pikachu yelled while trying to climb the banks of the river. “Shorty, get our stuff.” Technology said smiling, abandoning the screaming woman.

As they arrived in the village, the poor villagers began pawing at Technology, in awe of his gear. “I know I’m facinating!” Techy said. “Look I’ve got 3 phones! Aw hell! Only one bar? The signal here is terrible!”

The villagers said that they had a wifi hotspot he could use but it was turned off since this tall bald guy, named Mola Ram, came into their village and stole their iPod Touch. With the village iPod gone, all of the village children had followed Mola Ram back to the palace where they were promised more iPods and other technology! The villagers were sure that Siri had sent Technology to get their iPod Touch and children back.

Technology, Shorty, and Pikachu arrived at the palace and were treated like royalty and invited to stay as guests. Their hosts even allowed them to sit and the table with the Maharaja. They had a lot of trouble deciding if the Maharaja was a girl or a boy. Technology sneaked a peak at the him with his Google Glasses to make sure he was a guy and read his Facebook page. The Maharaja yawned a lot during their exotic dinner and told Technology that he was very insulted at the suggestion that a palace would steal a village’s iPod Touch because they could buy as many as they wanted.

After eating an exotic meal, they were sent to their rooms since Pikachu screamed for the entire dinner. Technology was trying to decide what he wanted to do. He could have simply given the village his extra iPhone but he wasn’t sure if the factory reset would detach from the cloud and there were some pictures he didn’t want them to see from Shanghai. He wasn’t sure if his old phone was as new a generation as the Touch so it might not bring the kids back if there was something newer here at the palace. He cleared his mind and starting dictating a negative Yelp! review to Short-Circuit about the chilled monkey brains they had for dessert.

As soon as he posted the review, a guy, attacked him from the shadows. The assailant turned out to be the chilled monkey brain chef. “OK, I’m sorry! I’ll take down the review!” Techy cried. But the chef kept hitting him and trying to take his phone. “You’re going to break it! I don’t have my Otterbox on it!” whined Techy. Meanwhile Pikachu was outside of his door yelling some nonsense about getting her regular clothes back. The noise powered up Shorty who stopped everything by hacking into Yelp! and deleting the review.

The crew then got together in Pikachu’s room started complaining about how over sensitive the staff was at this palace. “This is definitely going on TripAdvisor.” said Pikachu. So they were all kind of mad and started looking for other things to complain about when Techy found a hidden tunnel.

The crew was in awe of the temple they found. All of their palace hosts were there dancing and chanting before the tall bald guy, Mola Ram, who Techy quickly identified with his AR glasses. They watched in horror as he reached into the chest and removed the heart of a very frightened man and replaced it with a robot heart. Pikachu tried to scream through Technology’s hand. “They’re turning them into robots!” said Shorty.

In the temple scene a trio of robot men came out holding iPod Touches over their heads. The crowd went crazy while the robots placed them on an inductive charging mat. Techy scoffed, “All this for for iPods? And they aren’t even running iOS7! I can tell from the passcode screen!”

Technology and Short-Circuit began unboxing their quadricopter to fly down and grab the iPods. Techy sent Pikachu to get his GoPro camera to record an unboxing video so they could put it on YouTube, but she couldn’t help but scream and got caught by the guards.

The robot guards brought Technology to Molo Ram, who explained to Techy that he was interfering with their goal to gain world power. He showed a room where all of the village kids were being force to mine bitcoins. “We’re going to corner the market! Bitcoins are the next generation currency. Robot people are the next generation of human! We’re going to control it all! Oh and our chef was very displeased with your yelp review posted behind our backs. Where has courtesy gone that we can’t talk to each other? Must we find the need to passively aggressively complain about one another on the internet?”

Mola Ram made Technology drink nanobot blood from a robot skull. The blood entered his brain and fused his mind to the robot network, enslaving him to their will. Mola Ram decided that they also needed a Sexy Pikachu robot so they decided to hold an extra robot heart replacement ceremony for her that night. Technology, controlled by the robot mind, quickly complied and began to remove Pikachu’s heart. She was screaming her head off. Short-Circuit hacked the robot network in the nick of time releasing all of the robot minds fused to the network. Chaos ensued.

Technology, still groggy from the mind control, grabbed the 3 iPods from the temple charging mat and the whole crew jumped into a bitcoin mine cart out of the temple. Mola Ram was furious and dumped a pot of water out of the temple tunnels in hopes of damaging the iPods and all of Technology’s gadgets. He also sent the last of his robot army to chase them.

Technology escaped out on to a rope bridge, surprisingly unharmed by the robots’ lasers.The army of robots closed in from both sides. Technology talked robot language to Short Circuit to warn him of his plan. Then he cut the bridge in half, knocking most of the robots into the river.

Technology began climbing up the now-rope ladder while Mola Ram climbed down from the top in a last ditch attempt to get the iPods. Mola Ram reached into Techy’s bandolier and tried to grab an iPod. Technology knew Mola Ram was after the iPods so he invoked Siri on each one. “You betrayed Siri! You shall pay!” Techy repeated through gritted teeth.

Siri responded by asking, “Would you like to me search the web for… ‘You betrayed Siri you shall pay’?” Siri piped up on each of the iPods and started talking one after another. Each iPod started listening and talking in a round so each Siri started answering the other Siri’s questions. The feedback loop caused the iPods to overheat so when Mola Ram reached into Techy’s bandolier it burned his hand and he fell to his death in the river, eaten by an alligator (robot). Techy climbed back to the top of the ladder/bridge, dramatically reaching his hand over the last rung.

The village was overjoyed to have their iPod Touch returned and were flush with a trove of bitcoins which they could use to finally buy the Striper upgrade and extra lives on Candy Crush. Oh, they were also happy to have their children returned.

Thanks to Technology Jones and Short-Circuit’s gadgets, the day was saved.

Things our Kids Should Know (Before College 2030)

My friend, Shane, posted an article about things your kids should know before they brave it alone in college. His list is quite good for general life skills and interpersonal relationships, however, Shane failed to assess how technology is going to change our kids’ college experience. As a new dad I think about this constantly; to the point of my wife saying, “I get it! Robots are going to take over everything! We heard you!”

Our college experience is going to look like the Old West compared to what our kids are going to interact with.  Did you go spittoon or horse shopping with your parents at Bed Bath and Beyond before heading to the dorms? No? Well they did. It’s up to parents to prepare their kids for the upcoming changes in technology while they are still allowed to raise them.

Here’s a supplemental list of what your kids should know before going to college in 2030:

Take off your Augmented Reality Glasses when you Meet New People

It may seem advantageous to see someone’s name floating over their head or be able to quickly browse a list of their worst fears, but just because everyone’s doing it doesn’t make it cool. Impress people by remembering their names with your brain.  Ask people questions and actually listen for the answer instead of checking your feeds while the vocal processor does the work. It may take a lot of mental gymnastics but after some practice you’ll be able to carry the conversation without the need to select from a list of popular questions or answers.

Have a conversation without recording it

Remember to sometimes have a conversation off the record. It’s nice to know your speaking skill level and vocabulary statistics and compare them with friends, but take the time to enjoy the freedom to say things that won’t be analyzed. You’ll be surprised at what you can come up with! Bring your friends to a place well away from Listening Stations like in an abandoned building or a in the sewer. Keep your AR Glasses close by in case of robot attack.

Avoid foods with Nanoparticles

It may seem fun to have all of your calories automatically tracked and your food and drinks categorized for optimal ingestion everyday, but be bold and eat an apple off of a wild tree or a fish from a pond that hasn’t been incorporated by Google Wildlife Tracker. The nanoparticles can stay in your body for years and may come back to haunt you.  And I understand that you’ll eventually try alcohol, but be different and drink Pabst Blue Ribbon (the only beer not yet laden with nanoparticles).

Exercise without your Tracking Bug

Certainly you’ll want to maintain your mandated daily exercise quota (in order to earn your food rations), but once and awhile, get out and have fun without the nagging need to constantly be filling your Energy Meter. Run up a hill, bike to class, or climb up the side of a building (just to feel alive again) – and don’t worry about tracking it! Just be sure to do to look out for Google Compliance Drones before braving such an adventure.

Learn how to Build Something with your Hands

Sure, 3D printing is an important part of our daily lives. What would we do without the ability to print our a picnic table or a set of ninja stars in a few minutes? Where would we go when a murderous robot demands parts in exchange for your life? There are things we need at the press of a button, but take some time to make something on your own from wood, metal, or paper (if legal in your area). Your friends will make fun of you but just remember you can always print out a life size replica of them and humiliate them by leaving it in the college commons, as long as your robot doesn’t tell on you.

Go out without your RFID

It’s impossible to get a fake ID anymore but when you’re of age, try going to a townie bar where they will check your ID manually. Sure it’s a hassle to carry physical identification around but they won’t check to see if you have enough surplus food rations so you might be able to have a good time. Some bars will still take cash (if you’re able to barter for some) so your transactions won’t go into your Google Wallet Permanent History. Also, professors won’t be able to see what you were up to last night unless you were drinking something other than PBR.

Your Personal Defense Drone is for Defense ONLY

It’s not for spying on your girlfriend / boyfriend! It’s not to be used to remotely view your lessons or to prove your suspicions that “Kendra is a whore” (that’s what Facebook is for now). It is only to be used to record your every movement in case the authorities need to corroborate your actions/location for an alibi.

Go Sans Robot

Robots are a great invention but you don’t always have to let them read your lessons to you or get your groceries. If you’re able to overpower your robot, reach inside of its brain and switch it off. This may end in your death but if you’re victorious can end with a few moments of peace so you can study or relax. Either way your Defense Drone will record the entire encounter and play it back for the robot so it will be more prepared next time.

Be able to Read a Compass

Always know the direction of Mountain View. Remember to Praise our Great Leader 3 times a day. Praise Google!

Target Robot Machine

Here is a letter I wrote to the Target Robot Machine:

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The Target Robot Machine generated an automated response:

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Interesting that they give names to different sectors of their servers.  I’m glad the Robot Machine wasn’t able to crack the captcha code, which would indicate that had become self aware.  Score one for the humans!  This time…

The Dog Clicker

Feedback is an important but often overlooked aspect of any design.  Feedback manifests when a light turns on after the flick of a switch.  Feedback comes when you chirp your car lock. Feedback is also enjoyed when your airbags deploy informing you that the semi did run that red light and that your car did really do a 1080.

It’s when you don’t receive feedback that you irritably notice the uncertainty to if the machine understood the last command you issued.  When you click a button on a website there is a noticeable absence if the button doesn’t graphically “press in” or make a click sound.  Small things like this can send a reasonably calm person into a frenzy, mashing the button over and over again until finally the screen pops up informing you that you have ordered 13 iPads.

Dogs also need feedback to help prevent them from insane behavior as well.  If you don’t give a dog understandable feedback after he completes a command, there is a good chance that he will never be sure that he actual satisfied you by, say, sitting down.  He could think your hand gesture meant for him to shit all over the house.  The dog goes running and shitting all over the house and keeps looking back for affirmation.  Yelling may be a rally call to continue shitting and so he does, all over the kitchen.  When you chase him, he runs into the bathroom and pees on the linoleum and when you scramble after him in the bathroom you slip on the pee and the dog points at you and laughs.  This is a failure to feedback.

The dog clicker was designed to prevent dogs from getting a mind of their own when it comes to completing commands.  A click punctuates each command and the dog knows that sitting was the only command in mind.  The dog is happy to please you and you are happy the dog is not shitting all over the house.

After completing a session of dog training, I needed to buy some hardware.  I selected my hardware and went to the self-checkout.  Sometimes when you buy hardware they try to put bar code stickers on things that are too tiny to scan.  I kept trying to scan the screw.  I really wanted to buy the screw.  They haven’t invented 3D lasers to scan 360 degrees around a screw bar code yet.  It’s because a kid might put their head inside inside of the laser and look at the laser at 360 degrees and go blind and have to be stuck working at Lowe’s for the rest of their life. I was getting mad at the self checkout robot and started slamming the screw on the scanner.

The Lowe’s self checkout Guard came over to see what the big problem was.  He calmly showed me how to remove the sticker from the screw so it could be scanned.  He put it on his finger and scanned his finger.  For a second I was afraid that I was going to have to buy the checkout Guard and wasn’t sure how much a human being would cost and if I was going to have to raise the limit on my credit card and where he would fit inside of my house. It made me sweat so I put my hands in my pocket.  Then the machine beeped.  Feedback.  And the price showed on the screen for $0.19.  Double Feedback.

I noticed that the dog clicker was still in my pocket!  Since the checkout Guard had done such a good job, I clicked the dog clicker. *CLICK* Triple Feedback!  He looked up at me, so  I pet him on the head and told him that he did a good job.  He made a happy face and started panting. Another satisfying Lowe’s experience.

I got a text on my phone that told me I should meet some friends for some food and drinks. With my new screw in tow, I went to the bar.

At the bar the waitress brought us all of our drinks.  When I had confirmed that she had brought everything correctly, *CLICK* I let her know.  She looked around and made a confused face, but knew she did a good job.

After the second round she asked what the heck the *CLICK* noise was.  I told her that she was really smart and being such a good girl.  I pet her on the head and told her to fetch us some food.

Instead of food the manager of the store came over.  He told me that I had to leave the bar because I was touching the waitress without permission.  I told him that he had a really good waitress working for him and he should be proud of how smart she was and she had a really shiny coat and that he must be feeding her food other than bar food.  He asked if I was on drugs.  I didn’t click the clicker since the manager was wrong.  The manager started to get mad at me and said he was going to call the police if I did not leave.  I did not click the dog clicker because he was being a bad boy.

The policeman came and brought a big dog with him. The dog started smelling me when the manager pointed at me.  But the dog kept looking at the manager.

*CLICK* the dog looked at the manager.  *CLICK* the dog started smelling the manager.  *CLICK* the dog started smelling the manager’s pockets.  The manager tried to get away from the dog but it started following him.  I started clicking the dog clicker, rapid fire, and the dog got more and more aggressive with the manager.  *CLICK CLICK CLICK* the dog started barking really loud. *CLICK CLICK CLICK* the dog started biting the manager on the arms and neck.  *CLICK CLICK CLICK*.  The whole bar was watching.

Finally the policeman made the dog stop biting the manager. The dog sat down facing the manager and the cop found a bag of grass inside of the manager’s pocket.  The policeman put the bag in his pocket and told me that I did a good job.  With no audible click I didn’t know if there was some extenuating circumstances to his compliment, but he put his hand up and we did a high five (a form of feedback for cool people).

Then the policeman took the bag of grass out of his pocket and held it in the air.  “The next round of drinks is on the manager!” he said.  The manager wearily sat up with his hand to his head.  The policeman threw the bag of grass to the bartender and the whole bar cheered.  I clicked merrily in satisfaction.