City Paper is not for tourists
“Well,” my host began, “there is a spare room with a double bed.”
“The lady in our party is accustomed to taking the bed,” I replied. “Three remain.”
“Well,” my host continued, “There is a couch in the living room.”
“Our drummer is accustomed to taking the couch, as he must rest his feet, which continuously pump the bass drum and hi-hat cymbal,” I replied. “Two remain.”
“Well,” my host continued, “there is floor space here, in the living room.”
I knelt and ran my hand over the blinding surface of my host’s plush, meticulously vacuumed, white wall-to-wall carpeting. “Your floor space is capital,” I replied. “In fact, this floor looks more comfortable than many beds in which I have slept. Are you the one responsible for this carpet’s undeniable high quality?”
“Well,” my host blushed. I noted that she was flattered by my considered attention to the finer details of her home. “I did select the carpet, but I cannot claim credit for its cleanliness.”
“If you do not vacuum,” I inquired, “why is your carpet so sweet-smelling, shimmering, and dust-free?”
“Well,” my host explained, “I am the proud owner of a Roomba.”
“A Roomba?” I repeated. My host pointed to circular object nestled into the corner of the living room. This so-called “Roomba” was about the size and shape of a Frisbee.
“A Roomba,” my host confided. “The Roomba is a robotic vacuum cleaner that uses its electronic brain to navigate and clean any space its owner occupies. I, for example, set the Roomba to vacuum whilst I am at work. Then, when I return home, the vacuuming is done!”
“An android vacuum cleaner,” I observed. “Does the Roomba follow Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics? These are: 1) a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; 2) a robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; 3) a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.”
“Certainly,” my host replied. “The Roomba does not harm humans and, in fact, prevents humans from coming to harm by removing germs from the environment.”
“Well, then,” I decided, “I will sleep next to the Roomba.”
Later that night, I unrolled my sleeping bag on the floor next to the Roomba. I crawled inside the sleeping bag, closed my eyes, slept, and dreamt. Not three feet from my head, the Roomba—-a cybernetic machine with no eyes to close and no dreams to dream—-waited for further instructions.