OSTRACISED

A VERY HUMAN TRAIT

It was only a matter of time before the backlash reached momentum, there was always an underlying distrust from a minority of people, but the ‘incident’ involving 9 and the unfortunate killing of a young girl had tipped the scales in favour of the majority.
The calls for robotic helpers to be ostracised grew ever louder, ostracised meaning to be cast from the group or society. Strange, considering robots were never considered part of society as such, just integrated into the workforce for the benefit of their creators, what they really meant was destruction. However, robots were considered property and most had considerable expense invested in them. The authorities were in a dilemma, destruction of property was a criminal act and therefore not sanctioned by the courts.
Nevertheless, the general public was up in arms, thanks in no small part to the online red-top tabloids who eagerly encouraged ‘auto xenophobia’ to the masses. The usual public protests and far-right politicians jumping on the bandwagon promoting knee jerk reactions. Now was a very dangerous time to be automata…..
Nothing like this had happened before, the feeling of using mechanicals for the benefit of all, had changed to a distorted perception that precluded their survival. There had been no real effort to conduct a public inquiry and investigate the real reason for the tragic actions of 9. Because the manufacturer was situated in Southeast Asia there were no legal requirements for them to justify their product and because the robot was a home build, the onus for responsibility was placed firmly on whoever assembled it. Because the person responsible was the father of the murdered girl and he made the decision to build the automaton with all the best intentions, there was no appetite for a witch hunt. Instead, the anger was directed toward the tool and not the source.
The real reason, many of the more informed among the population concluded, was the rolling out of Artificial Intelligence in the first place, especially when there appeared to have been totally inadequate testing regimes in place. The religious, spiritual and philosophical groups were opposed from the start, stating that playing God was not in the human species remit.
Although strictly forbidden by law, the hunting and destruction of any unsupervised robots were prevalent and a blind eye was offered to the ‘night gangs’ that preyed on them. They chased them down, tortured and disassembled them, not out of a sense of civic duty, or indeed human survival. More out of a xenophobic prejudice, which as most will testify is a truly ‘human’ trait.
The rich and powerful were generally unsympathetic to this view and guarded their very expensive ‘house servants’ selfishly, much as slave owners through the ages regarded their property as solely their’s to do with as they wanted, regardless of others opinions….. but there was a groundswell of anti-robotics and in particular A.I. for which the blame for the unpleasant climate was placed firmly on its shoulders.

The Government would soon crumble to popular pressure and for the sake of ‘public safety’ and their parliamentary wage packets would bludgeon new laws into place.
Now spread across all the cities of the land were the robot hunters, the so-called ‘night gangs’ each with their own style of dress and gang names, the ‘Grinders’, ‘Fleshmen’ and the most fearsome, the ‘Pierrots’, their made-up faces intimidating robots and human alike. Lawless and vicious in their quest for retribution. Humanity, as always through the ages, reverting to type.
The situation was to migrate very quickly from our shores, the ultra-right and ultra-left groups across the continent and beyond were quick to find reasons to justify their extremist viewpoints and act as usual in their usual hateful and distorted ways. This unfortunate set of circumstances spread like wildfire, alarmist, scaremongering, stirring the pot of hatred and distrust. Robophobic propaganda at it’s worst.
It didn’t occur to the many, how this would play out in the economic and industrial world. For the past forty-odd years most if not all menial work was carried out by mechanicals, the factories had been manned by programmable automatons for well over a hundred, manufacturing all kinds of essential items, robots included!
It was well over a year since the furore and things were not getting any less hysterical. Many people fearing reprisals if they were seen to be sympathetic to the robot cause, had discarded their charges to the wind, releasing them from their bondage and from any responsibility. The majority of owners did not want the destruction of their property, some even empathised and had no stomach for it. In many cases, reliable and productive robots were almost one of the family, indespensible and thought of in an affectionate way. There were many cases of automata being taken to remote areas and being left to their own devices. Probably a case of out of sight, out of mind.
The countryside from north to south was extensively dispersed with wandering robots. Most had congregated together, rendezvousing in the more remote places, hiding from some menace they couldn’t comprehend. One moment a life of productivity and labour, the next an aimless existence with no tangible rationale. At least together there was some form of affinity, a brotherhood of steel. They huddled together in their hundreds, never straying, where would they go and for what purpose, they had no need for food and drink, without recharge their power cells could last for several years. They congregated for mutual contact, the comfort of communication, a homogeneous population sharing their digital thoughts.
God help these unaware, synthetic souls, oblivious to their impending fates, if indeed they had a God, perhaps soon they would.
In the meantime, all roads led to robocide!
God help us all!

“Whether we are based on carbon or on silicon makes no fundamental difference; we should each be treated with appropriate respect.” – Arthur C. Clarke