Bateman: Resist robotic overlords at all costs

By Oliver Bateman

Ever since folk hero John Henry challenged a steam hammer to a steel-driving contest in Talcott,… Ever since folk hero John Henry challenged a steam hammer to a steel-driving contest in Talcott, W. Va., man has clung to a tenuous advantage over machine. As you saw on last week’s episodes of “Jeopardy!,” this advantage is no more. It has now been scientifically proven that machines are better at spelling, math, trivia, chess, lasers, weightlifting, rock-paper-scissors, writing term papers, running 40-yard dashes, sudoku and many other activities once dominated by humans. In light of such alarming developments, we believe that it is necessary to reflect on the ways in which humans remain superior to these robotic upstarts.

First, unless they break down, few machines can equal your average human being — let alone your average college student — in terms of laziness. Unlike robots, which will keep doing what they’ve been programmed to do until their tasks are finished, humans display a remarkable propensity for avoiding necessary work. While those self-righteous machines toil ceaselessly on one of the few Detroit auto assembly lines still in operation, humans can postpone paying their bills in order to screen the pie-humping comedy classic “American Pie” with their friends. Computer alarms go off exactly as scheduled, but humans can miss their 6 p.m. classes to shake off brutal hangovers, sleep through important appointments like their own graduations and waste entire weeks cultivating their “Farmville” estates.

In addition to this innate talent for procrastination, humans continue to display levels of acquisitiveness far in excess of any machine. Sure, the trivia robot Watson won thousands of dollars on a quiz show by rattling off facts like the population of Novgorod (216,200 people) and the Academy Awards’ choice of Best Picture for 1964 (“My Fair Lady”) — but could it have invented the collateralized mortgage obligations that nearly destroyed the world economic system? Robots might be brimming with knowledge, but they lack the cleverness to defraud investors of billions of dollars or award themselves fat bonuses following disastrous fiscal years. Even when ordered to maximize gains, these soulless, socialistic machines cannot compete with selfish Randian supermen like John Galt. Until we find a way to program them with sufficient artificial intelligence to make them realize the value of gold hordes, trillion-dollar offshore bank accounts and Scrooge McDuck-style “money bins,” these machines will never cut the mustard on Wall Street.

Machines are also unable to develop the obsessive association with hometown sports teams and athletic idols that many humans possess. Whether you’re partial to Stephon “Starbury” Marbury’s gravity-defying slams or our Pittsburgh Pirates’ record losing streak, you can rest assured that no metal-brained robot could ever hope to equal your level of fandom. Humans are able to take it personal and make it personal in a way that the machines cannot match, bound as they are by rigid rules like their prime directive not to kill their masters.

To make matters worse for the machines, they’re not that attractive. Except for a few of those lifelike android dolls that have been developed over in Japan, there aren’t many robots with which you’d consider spending the rest of your life. On the surface, Watson and chess grandmaster Deep Blue seem like good catches, brainy robots of which your parents might approve. But think about it: They’re both just giant boxes. Would you want to spend the rest of your life with a creature that one of our friends charitably referred to as a “breadboard homunculus?” And even supposing Watson were a human, would you really enjoy sharing a cubbyhole apartment with someone who corrects you every time you misidentify Toni Morrison as the author of “The Color Purple”? Regardless of how you slice it, these robots are unworthy of our fierce human lusts.

Although Watson has taken one small step for robot-kind, we intend to hold the line against further advances. During the composition of this column — yet another literary masterpiece, to be sure — we took frequent breaks to brutalize the level-9 computers on Super Smash Bros. Brawl. No matter which character’s form it assumed, the computer player was helpless against our superior technique. At one point, using only the slow-moving and thoroughly mediocre Ganondorf, we dispatched a team composed of three level-9 computers. We took the best that these machines could throw at us, which in this case consisted of some half-hearted combinations and predictable rushes toward helpful items like the invincibility star and the big hammer and repulsed them as surely as if they were the vanguard of George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.

We close now by asking you to do your part, friends: Resist the computers wherever you can, whenever you can and by whatever means are necessary. Their total victory, though inevitable, must not be allowed to occur during our lifetimes.

Oliver Lee Bateman is the leader of the Moustache Human Liberation Club of America. You can study the special strategies that will you help you turn the tide in the never-ending struggle against our robotic overlords by visiting