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Chapter 2
Alternate Technology

Abandoned Robot Pet Crisis Feared

by NANCY GONGLIKWANYEOHEEEEEEEH, Alternate Reality News Service Technology Writer

Walking home from pre-natal karate class, a movement in an alley catches your eye. At first, you shrug it off as just a raccoon that had drunk too much water downstream from the nuclear power plant and was now three feet tall. Then, you notice a glint of silver in the shadows. Could it be a…an animal tag or some kind of collar? No, you can now hear a mechanical whirring – unless the raccoon has a prosthetic limb, there is only one thing the moving object in the alley could be.

RoboSapien. And, not the domesticated kind of family robot, either. This RoboSapien has gone feral.

“People tend to underestimate how much attention a robot pet requires,” explained Humane Society janitor emeritus Richard Pluvial. “At holidays, especially Christmas, parents shop and shop for just the right gift for their children. Hours go by. Then, when they finally have to confront the reality that the first 32 items on their children’s must have lists have been sold out, they grab the nearest robot and angrily trudge towards the checkout counter.”

They aren’t aware that robot pets must be constantly fed batteries (or, sometimes, electricity directly from a socket), or that used batteries are a constant disposal problem, or that some less advanced robot pets have to be constantly watched lest they knock over (or simply walk through) priceless furniture, or that some more advanced robot pets need constant attention or they start having revenge fantasies.

That’s only the beginning of the problem, however. “People overestimate how interested their children will be in their robot pets,” Pluvial continued, citing studies which showed that six to 12 year-olds will lose interest in new toys in, on average, 17.356 days. When children see movies like AI: Artificial Intelligence, he pointed out, “their natural inclination is to want to get a robot just like one of those they saw. However, children are fickle beasties, who soon lose interest in their new toys.”

This leaves adults in charge of them. Adults who maybe aren’t getting along as well as they used to since the children were born, adults who are more concerned with getting ahead in their jobs or getting it on with the cute guy in the mailroom than in taking the time to properly look after the family’s electronic pet, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise if one day the RoboSapien or iDog disappears, just disappears, and is never seen or heard of by any of the family members again.

“Then,” Pluvial grimly concluded, “the electronic pets become a public nuisance.”

Unwanted Aibos abandoned on rural roads and a Pleo infestation in the downtown core may be the result. The once domesticated robots have become feral, a primitive state in which they will do whatever they have to in order to survive.

One common sign of robot pets gone feral is overturned garbage bins in alleys and by the sides of houses. The robots are, for the most part, not looking to eat the contents of the bins; rather, they are looking for electrical outlets to plug into in order to recharge their batteries.

Feral robots, moreover, often network with each other and have been known to travel in packs. You might be tempted to believe that stories of groups of RoboRaptors raiding grocery stores for batteries and AC adapters are urban myths, but credible reports have been documented in many suburban neighbourhoods in Japan.

There have also been at least three documented cases of bands of networked Intelliaus taking over homes while their owners were away on vacation. Although the houses look more or less the same, there are two telltale signs of a feral robot infestation: a spike in electricity bills for the time you are away and coming home to a house that has never been cleaner.

“The desire to have a mechanical substitute for an actual living being speaks well of us,” Minerva Splivy, author of the Scandinavian bestseller What’s So Great About People, Anyway? and frequent supplier of a second quote to mask the fact that an article has only one primary source, stated. “Still, people need to understand that a Poo-Chi or a Femisapien requires a serious commitment of time and resources.”

The Humane Society hopes that educating the public on the dangers of neglected robot pets will help forestall serious problems. They are currently putting a lot of resources into the “Don’t Forget, Fix Your Robot Pet” Campaign, which encourages owners to implant a chip into their Robonova-1s and RoboPets that would make it impossible for them to raid electronics stores and reproduce themselves.

“I know some owners think it’s cruel to tamper with their robot pets’ natural programming,” Pluvial allowed. “Others have commented that fixing their robot pets led to them being listless and less interested in playing with the children. Unfortunately, if the robot pets aren’t fixed, their offspring could eventually overrun neighbourhoods, causing social chaos!”

Splivy suggested another solution: “When you get tired of your robot pets, do the right thing: put them down…for sale on eBay!”

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