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On My Mind: To Be or Not To Be A Robot

And so it begins, my series of contributions to this column that takes up space in KRNL. The topics that I wanted to explore in this space did not reveal themselves to me until I saw a campus robot rolling along past the Student Center where I awaited a bus to take me to my car. After all, I am a commuter.

Anyhow, with the food robot, I wondered which I would rather be, this robot or myself. The robot, a lifeless vehicle with some level of life instilled into it, is told how to act and what to do, but not how to think if it is even capable of doing so. This robot is bound to the sidewalk; it cannot go faster, but only at one speed or slow down to a stop when there are passersby. However, this does not deter or stop the machine, but can it even be allowed to stop without intervention from its creator?

The machine does not have emotions, it is built only to complete tasks, without even getting the satisfaction from completion. It drops off your food and then it’s onto its next destination. It doesn’t greet you, it doesn’t say thank you or goodbye. It's there and then it isn’t. It cannot experience the joy that comes from the company of friends, listening to music, watching movies or drinking coffee.

But aside from this robot, why would I want this for myself? Confined to nearly identical routes, often crawling through the rain and snow this time of year, although I suppose I wouldn’t notice a difference. Why would anyone be thrilled to be stuck in that plastic mechanized body, getting no satisfaction from anything they do?

So this robot, although it is joyless and will continue to be just that until it is derelict, serves an important function to us. Everyone stares it down and laughs at it but nevertheless, it continues to roll on to its destination. It is aiding those who are too lazy or don’t have enough time to get their own food so they rely on this helper who slowly traverses across campus and delivers it to them.

I suppose my point with this is that the robot is joyless and lacks free will, but it still serves a purpose to us as humans that we appreciate. However, as humans, we must embrace the fact that we do have free will and we can think for ourselves and act of our own volition, and use this knowledge to strive for more. We control the decisions we make and how we respond to the things that happen to us. Set goals and accomplish them, fail or succeed and enjoy the life we are forced to live.

And so I will leave you all with this, be more than a campus robot.

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