[Paleopsych] Sailer: myRobot--Our Easter Bunny
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myRobot--Our Easter Bunny
Steve Sailer Archive
March 27, 2005
myRobot--Our Easter Bunny
By Steve Sailer
To get a rabbit, my family first got a robot.
My older son had long wanted a bunny. But my younger boy is allergic
to furry animals, which give him asthma attacks.
My wife determined that he would be all right with a rabbit in the
house if we vacuumed the carpets constantly. However, the chances that
our family would persist with the needed devotion to cleanliness
And, as a pixel-stained wretch of a writer, I could hardly afford a
cleaning lady--legal or illegal.
Fortunately, my wife had been tracking the evolution of Roomba,
the robot vacuum cleaner from iRobot. She deemed the new model
worthy of a try as her $200 birthday present.
Soon, a box arrived on our doorstep containing a disk about 13" in
diameter and 3" thick. My wife put it in the middle of the floor and
pushed its button.
A whooshing noise emerged, but it was significantly quieter than a
manually operated vacuum. Roomba started to roll in a tight
spiral, slowly circling outward, brushing and sucking up dirt as it
went. When it softly bumped into a wall, it changed directions,
seemingly at random. Its trial-and-error approach meant it was
obviously going to take Roomba an hour or two to finish the entire
But to complain about Roomba's random walk style of vacuuming
seemed churlish--literally like the ungrateful man in Gary
Larson's Far Side cartoon who looks out at his front lawn, where his
panting dog has been pushing a lawn mower in effortful but erratic
patterns, and scolds, "Call that mowin' the lawn? ... Bad dog...
No biscuit! Bad dog!"
After all, the dirt was definitely disappearing into the little robot
as well as a normal vacuum cleaner could manage.
And we were just sitting on the couch watching Roomba roll.
Indeed, at first the robot consumed more of our time than doing the
vacuuming ourselves would have done. He was hypnotic to watch.
Because his behavior was purposeful yet unpredictable, Roomba seemed
to have a personality. It was easy to think of him as a dutiful family
retainer, rather like a sheep who keeps the lawn cropped on a
Scottish estate, although his low center of gravity made him seem more
like a groundhog or horseshoe crab. (As you may have noticed, we soon
started referring to Roomba as "him" rather than as "it.")
After a week of increasing delight in our robot, especially with how
he cleans under beds where we can't reach with a normal vacuum, we
felt confident enough to acquire Frank the Rabbit. Although less
productive than Roomba the Robot, Frank is more fun to pet.
After my wife told a lady on her bowling team, she bought a Roomba
too. She now says "Roomba is my new best friend."
VDARE.com doesn't exist to review appliances, so if you are interested
in buying one, please read the reviews carefully on Amazon.com
and other sources. There are situations Roomba can't handle well,
and durability may still be a problem.
Nonetheless, it's safe to say that Roomba is a revolutionary product.
On a moral level, I take some pride in that I'm paying the whole cost
of Roomba, unlike so many Americans with more money than me who
nevertheless offload much of the expense of their illegal immigrant
cleaning ladies on the rest of the country.
Recall that a 1997 National Academy of Sciences study found that
an immigrant with less than a high school education will on
average cost the taxpayers $100,000 more in government spending
over her lifetime than she will pay in taxes.
One lesson of history since the start of the Industrial Revolution 250
years ago is that countries don't advance economically by importing
unskilled workers to "do the jobs that natives won't do," but by
substituting machines for human labor.
For example, because the Roman Empire exploited countless
slaves conquered in foreign wars, it lacked incentives to increase
labor efficiency through mechanization. Productivity never took off,
and eventually the civilization collapsed into poverty.
In contrast, Britain, which, until the second half of the 20th
Century, had far more emigrants than immigrants, had the right
incentives for an Industrial Revolution.
As I pointed out here a year ago [Japanese Substitute
Inventiveness for Immigration], the Japanese have become obsessed with
the promise of robots.
As Anthony Faiola recently reported in the Washington Post:
"Though perhaps years away in the United States, this long-awaited,
as-seen-on-TV world--think "The Jetsons" or "Blade Runner"--is
already unfolding in Japan, with robots now used as receptionists,
night watchmen, hospital workers, guides, pets and more...
Officials compiled a report in January predicting that every household
in Japan will own at least one robot by 2015, perhaps sooner."
[Robot swarms invade Japan!, March 12, 2005]
In part, this is because the Japanese think their mountainous
islands are quite crowded enough, thank you, without admitting
millions of immigrants.
In contrast, the U.S., although once famous for its commitment to
higher productivity, has shown less interest in labor saving in recent
years. It has focused instead on sending manufacturing jobs to China
and white collar jobs to India, while importing millions of uneducated
workers to perform rudimentary service jobs here.
For example, although previous generations of Americans had vastly
increased the productivity of workers on Midwestern grain farms,
efforts to mechanize California fruit and vegetable farms were
largely abandoned, as VDARE.COM reported five (!) years ago,
because immigrants were cheaper ... to the corporate farmer, although
not to the country.
Admittedly, robotics has proven slower to develop than science
fiction writers had imagined. In Robert A. Heinlein's 1957 novel
The Door into Summer, the narrator invents a robot vacuum cleaner
he calls Hired Girl that's quite similar to Roomba ... but he
builds it in 1970, not 2005.
Of course, despite all his prescience, Heinlein didn't anticipate the
1965 Immigration Act, which would make unskilled labor often cheaper
than automation. (In Heinlein's defense, I must point out that in his
Future History stories written from 1939 through 1942, he
correctly prophesied that the 1960s would be "The Crazy Years.")
Back in 1957, Heinlein had simply assumed that cheap servants were a
thing of the past due to immigration restrictions, which Congress
had legislated in 1924. The inventor in The Door into Summer
explained the economic logic and marketing psychology behind his Hired
"Housewives were still complaining about the Servant Problem long
after servants had gone the way of the mastodon. I had rarely met a
housewife who did not have a touch of slaveholder in her; they seemed
to think there really ought to be strapping peasant girls grateful
for a chance to scrub floors for fourteen hours per day and eat table
scraps at wages a plumber's helper would scorn. That's why we called
the monster Hired Girl--it brought back thoughts of the semi-slave
immigrant girl whom Grandma used to bully."
Heinlein, who embodied the can-do spirit of mid-century America, loved
dreaming up "gadgets to replace the extinct domestic servant."
I don't believe he would have been pleased to see his country instead
resurrect the "semi-slave immigrant girl."
Particularly when Roomba the Robot is available.
[Steve Sailer [email him], is founder of the Human Biodiversity
Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His
website www.iSteve.com features site-exclusive commentaries.]
65. mailto:steveslr at aol.com
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