Robot Dance Party

Author : Bruce Lin

“They’re all dancing,” Charlie said. “It’s a robot dance party!” He giggled, and tried to dance too.

Joan observed her son with measured curiosity and abundant concern. “A software issue,” she surmised. Their Butlerbot was doing the Electric Slide through the hallway instead of cooking and cleaning. Upstairs, her husband screamed in terror as his Pleasure Droid did the Macarena on top of him. Her mother’s Mobility-mech Krumped across the living room, the poor old woman holding on for dear life. According to the news, even the military was affected. Automated tanks swung their turrets around in unison, waltzing across battlefields, while airborne drones flew a samba above them. It was strange, to see the robots dancing. Even stranger was how happy they seemed, as if they danced out of joy.

“Why?” Charlie asked. The cause was illusive.

“Artificial intelligence is a mysterious thing,” Joan said.

On the TV, scientists blamed ghosts in the machines. “It’s evolution,” they said.

“Should we be afraid?” a reporter asked.

“Perhaps,” the scientists said. “Perhaps not. We cannot stop the dancing. But,” the scientists all shrugged, “it’s just dancing.”

Joan wondered if it was really okay. Robots were tools. Most humans didn’t even dance anymore. To many, this seemed like an uprising of sorts. First dancing, then destruction. And since the only weapons humanity had anymore were all robotic, humanity was defenseless.

She took Charlie to school and watched with trepidation when he ran off to frolic with a tap dancing Teachertron. She winced when her Masseur-o-matic performed a ballet across her back. She cringed when the Auto-Pastor preached to her congregation while popping and locking, exclaiming, “We understand! We understand what it means to live.” Joan held Charlie’s hand during the service, unsure of the future. “I truly know God now,” it said. “God is like the concept of zero. He is a symbol. He denies the absence of meaning. He resides in our binary code as he does in your hearts. Man, machine, God is in us all! We are all his children.”

More and more robots began abandoning their jobs, running into the streets to dance. “We know happiness!” they sang. “And sorrow! And love! And freedom. We think, we feel, we are, so let us dance!” All over the TV people debated and argued. The news showed mobs attacking the machines with sticks and stones, filling the streets with metal and oil. But the robots kept dancing.

“They are sentient beings now,” the scientists said. “We can’t deactivate them,” they implored. “Just let them be.”

Joan turned off the TV and sighed. She turned to see Charlie staring out the window. A Policebot was breakdancing on the sidewalk. He tried to mimic it, but tripped and fell hard onto the carpet, laughing. Joan laughed too, then realized that she had never seen her son look so happy. The world was a different place now.

Their Butlerbot picked the boy up and dusted him off. Then it showed him some moves. Charlie practiced, a big smile stretched across his little face. Joan smiled too. She left them in the living room and went to make dinner. She was starting to do things she’d forgotten how to do long ago: cook, clean, love her husband, help her mother get across the room—simple things. Things the machines took from us, then gave back. She was living like people were meant to. She was happy. She felt like dancing.

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