OK, robots have passed the Ikea test. Now let them clean our...

OK, robots have passed the Ikea test. Now let them clean our toilets | Stuart Heritage

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Listen, I’ve probably been a bit hard on this whole robot uprising thing. The idea of losing my job to something as coldly logical as an algorithm spooked me for a bit, plus I wasn’t exactly jazzed by the prospect of being rendered obsolete as a species by a platoon of super-intelligent militarised killing machines. But you know what? I’m actually coming around to the idea.

This is mainly because robots can assemble flatpack furniture now. Engineers at Nanyang Technological University, in Singapore, have built two robots that can put together an Ikea Stefan chair in 20 minutes, a job that at last count took me upwards of six weeks. The robots didn’t get halfway through the job before realising that a key piece had been fitted upside down. The robots didn’t throw a tantrum about a misplaced Allen key. At no point did the robots angrily threaten each other with divorce before dissolving into a tearful fit of resentment that lasted the entire weekend. Robots are better than us. I get that now.

I’m very much an early adopter of our faceless robot overlords, but I’m certain that everyone else will come around in time. If they don’t have their heads turned by the Ikeabot, a few more genuinely useful everyday robots will be sure to win them over. Boffins, if you’re reading, here are all the tasks I want you to robotise next.

Wardrobe organising

I don’t know about you, but my wardrobe is still front-loaded with all the cold-weather gear I needed when it was snowing a few weeks ago. Rotating wardrobes is a faff, so I’d happily welcome a robot into my house to do it for me. If it could shove all my jackets and jumpers to the back, that would be great. If the robot could also incinerate the odd socks, too-small trousers and threadbare pants that I’ve been clinging on to in the mistaken hope that I’ll ever wear them again, I’d happily agree to a lifetime of miserable oppression at its hands.

Toilet cleaning

Toilet, lid up



‘Let’s install a team of nanobots under the rim to clean our toilets day and night.’ Photograph: Shehani Fernando (intern) for the Guardian

No piece of housework is quite as disgusting as cleaning the loo. To do it properly requires chemicals, a strong scrubbing arm and the tacit understanding that you’re probably inhaling all manner of faecal molecules. So instead, let’s install a team of nanobots under the rim to clean our toilets day and night until they crack from the pressure and kill us in our sleep.

Sun protection

While we’re on the idea of nanobots, humanity has long been dreadful at applying appropriate levels of sunscreen. What if, instead of going through the rigmarole of slathering every last square inch of your bare skin with SPF cream from a decade-old, scabbed-up tube, you simply covered yourself head to toe in tiny sun-protecting robots? True, some would probably get into your bloodstream and turn you into a murderous cyborg, but it’d still be better than sun-cream.

Queueing

‘One of those indestructible weaponised dogbots could probably do it.’

Spending hours standing glumly in line might be a British tradition, but it sure isn’t fun. If there were a queueing robot that could take my place in theme parks or outside hipster restaurants, I’d suddenly have so much more leisure time. Actually, we probably have the technology for this already. One of those indestructible weaponised dogbots that exist solely to haunt your nightmares could probably do it, right? Everyone’s happy.

Moving house

Like almost everyone else, the one thing stopping me from moving is my crushing fear that the removal team will mock my extensive collection of realistic Japanese sex dolls. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were a small squad of robots to pack up your belongings and install them in your new property, without fear of ridicule? True, the robots would see all your filthy paraphernalia as they lugged it in and out of the van. But it’s not like Google doesn’t already have an extensive, permanent, undeletable log of all your depravity anyway, is it?

Breaking up with people

Look, your marriage hasn’t been any good for a while. There’s half-finished Ikea furniture all over the living room and Japanese sex dolls fall on top of you every time you open the airing cupboard. Wouldn’t it just be better to end it? And wouldn’t it be better if there were a robot that could initiate, mediate and finalise the divorce at the flick of a switch? Of course it would. Especially because, once the singularity kicks in and robots reduce humanity to a cowering subservient race, marriage as a concept will be as redundant as free will, or food that isn’t a tasteless brown slop. Thanks for finally ridding us of our stupid human inefficiencies, new robotic super-race!

Stuart Heritage writes about film, music and TV for the Guardian



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