Even before retiring, I am already being replaced by robots at home. Last Christmas, my wife received a Roomba, which has assumed vacuuming duties that were once mine. I never liked running the vacuum – it’s noisy and awkward – so my feelings weren’t hurt when the Roomba took over. I just realized yesterday, however, as I watched the little electronic fellow puttering around my room, that he is just another signal of my increasing irrelevance.
Alexa also came into our lives over the Holidays; and now if someone mentions her name, you never know what you will hear in response. She will play any kind of music, answer almost all questions, and even respond in kind when you express your affection for her. Sometimes my grandchildren spend more time talking to her than they do to me. While it’s true I can’t produce any song they might want to hear on demand, I can still sing a pretty good Wabash Cannonball. No one is ever alone at our house as long as we have electricity and an Internet connection.
I have always prided myself on having a good sense of direction, but neither my wife nor I need it anymore. Our car provides whatever instructions we need to find new places and will chat with us about what music to play while it’s finding our way. The next model will probably be able to drive itself. If the navigation system fails, we can always rely on the little Waze ghost who appears as an app on our smart phones. Wazey will tell us about current events on the highway in addition to finding the shortest route from here to there.
At least the television is a familiar presence in our home, although the newest version is a Smart TV that requires a PhD or a four-year-old to operate. We’ve moved away from cable service to Internet television, which I think is cheaper. My wife finally determined how to limit my sports consumption by appealing to my wallet. The experiment could end when baseball season starts, and I want to watch the World Champion Chicago Cubs’ quest for a second consecutive championship.
I suppose my sensitivity to the new world of electronics and robots is a symptom of reaching retirement age and feeling a little obsolete. On the other hand, all this stuff gives me more time to spend doing things I enjoy, like backpacking with family or visiting friends I now rarely see. I’ve tried developing a relationship with the Roomba, but it doesn’t stop to talk or share feelings over a cup of hot chocolate. Perhaps I will still have a place for a time in this brave new world.