So many different robot models on the showroom floor bewildered Cody.
“Robots aren’t just servants any more,” said Daniel, the salesman. “They’re companions.”
“Really?” said Cody Hacker. “Because I was looking for some of that silver snuggle.” Lifting an eyebrow, he nodded and leered. Cody’s wife, Heather, snorted.
Daniel led them to a droid with a womanly physique, almost as tall as Heather, blue accents along the joints and pleasantly bold facial features, ‘Model XIB4U’ printed along its thigh. “This one, for example, is one of our best adaptive models. The perfect companion for a couple.” He switched it on.
“Hello,” said the robot. “I’d love to spend some time with you this evening. Would you like to go to Karaoke or a country bar with line dancing?”
“What do you mean, companion?” asked Heather.
Daniel lowered his voice as if sharing something confidential. “She gets to know you and adapts to you. She responds to your moods and gives you advice throughout the day.”
“That sounds sinister,” said Cody.
“It’s not,” said Daniel. “Her AI is programmed to be very helpful.”
“No,” said Cody. “What I mean is it sounds like my mother-in-law.” He shivered. “She’s always up in my business.”
Heather slapped Cody’s arm. “I’d rather replace his mother. Do you have one that sits around, whines about it’s sciatica, and criticizes the drapes?”
“Uh-huh,” said Daniel. “We do have units that specialize in refreshing the decor. It will A/B test styles and colors for your reactions and those of your friends.”
“Cool,” said Cody. “Will it A/B test our neighbors for annoyance levels?”
“Uh… I don’t think so, but you could submit a request for the next upgrade.”
“This one’s too nice,” said Cody. “I don’t want a guilt trip every time the family leaves it behind on vacation. Do you have something a little less… companionable?”
“How about one that changes diapers?” asked Heather.
Daniel gazed at them. “You’re missing out on the next generation if you don’t get adaptive AI. At least a basic AI unit. You can always upgrade it later.” He brought them passed a few androids to a black and silver one with a manly form that stood up to Heather’s elbows. The salesman turned it on. “Hello, OK2BI. I’d like you to meet Mr. and Mrs. Hacker.”
“Nice to meet you, mister and missus Hacker. How can I help you?”
Daniel gripped the robot’s shoulder. “You can see it doesn’t prompt you with A/B testing, so it only adapts to things you deliberately request.”
“Hey, OK2BI,” said Cody. “Would you please organize my chi?”
“Yeah,” said Heather. “And while your at it, put the Tao in the cupboard, will you?”
The robot looked at Cody, then at Heather, it’s head moving back and forth in apparent complete indecision.
“I don’t think this one is going to survive us,” said Cody. “What else do you have?”
Daniel covered his mouth in thought. “You know. They’re a little more expensive, but maybe what a couple like you needs is even more sophisticated adaptation. It’s less companionable—aloof even—but it has psycholinguistic dynamics that absorb your idiosyncrasies and reconstruct its behavior to satisfy your expectations instead of continuously trying to find ways to please you. Your funny questions wouldn’t even faze it.”
“I guess that sounds all right,” said Cody.
“It’s more expensive than that first one?” asked Heather.
“Let’s just look at it first,” Daniel said.
They went toward the back of the store, walking passed a jumble of robots under a sign that said ‘DEFECTS.’ A squat gray robot that looked like a cave troll stepped in front of Cody and nearly tripped him.
“Watch it, chip for brains,” said Cody.
“That’s hilarious, screwball,” said the robot. “Maybe you should get your eyes checked. Else you’ll stuff a June bug in your mouth when you expect a grape.”
“Can it, pal,” said Cody.
“That’s your response?” said the robot. “A racial slur? Not much meat to it.”
Cody and Heather looked at each other. Together they said, “We’ll take it.”
“But…” Daniel stammered. “But it’s defective.”
“Can we get him in pink?” asked Heather.