Fantastic Friday: Robots and Loyalty

My husband had been talking about getting one of those robot vacuum cleaners for years. With the addition of Baby and the prevalence of corgis and their profuse “fluff,” we thought now might be the time to splurge. Without trying to sound like an advertisement, we bought a Neato Botvac D80. (They aren’t even paying me to write this—I just love it so much!).

I was watching the bot (whom we lovingly named “Carson” after a character on Downton Abbey—but no spoilers, please—we are only on season 2!), and I thought: I’m living in the future. I have a universe of knowledge in my hand, communicating with people miles away from the comfort of a recliner while my robot vacuum cleans the floor.

The robot worked diligently, maneuvering around obstacles and not even getting angry when a dog stepped in the way. The fact that I almost—almost—felt guilty watching “Carson” work so diligently while I slacked brought all kinds of thoughts about Asimov and The Jetsons and a future of possibly-sentient machines. I almost felt that the machine was undeservedly loyal to me. When its battery wore down, it hurried to its charging station, stayed just long enough, and then continued on with his its toils.

Leia barked diligently at the robot vacuum, pausing for just a moment to give my husband the Death Stare, as if to ask, "How could you bring THIS into our house?" Funny that she knew who was responsible.

Leia barked diligently at the robot vacuum, pausing for just a moment to give my husband the Death Stare, as if to ask, “How could you bring THIS into our house?” Funny that she knew who was responsible.

The feeling passed quickly, though, as I found another reason to celebrate loyalty. While “Carson” was in the living room/dining room, the corgis watched from a distance, interested but not alarmed. When the vacuum came into the family room, Yoda jumped up on the recliner with me (out of fear), but Leia puffed out her chest and in her most fearsome bark, defended the recliner—which contained me, scaredy Yoda, and the baby—from the evil clutches of the vacuum robot.

Even when I told her “it’s just next door” and “it’s on TV,” two phrases which usually get her to calm down about weird sounds and things.

Once the robot left the room, I called Leia to come up to the recliner, wanting to scratch her ears to reward her loyalty. But unlike the robot, she practiced disobedience, planting herself at the edge of the family room to protect us—just in case the nasty robot decided to come back.

She got an extra treat that night. Such loyalty cannot be commanded, and unlike a robot’s, it must come from within.