Surviving the coming Robot Apocalypse — 6 practical strategies

Let’s not kid ourselves here, robots already run most of our world. We’ll be their butlers soon enough - Eric Stoltz

Are you worried about Artificial Intelligence? Do you feel like the discussion about Artificial Intelligence is avoiding the elephant in the room? Do you feel like the really important, practical questions aren’t being answered? Do you worry about what to do when the robots try to take over?

If answered yes to any of these questions, you have come to the right place.

Zombies preparedness is ubiquitous. There are more than enough Zombie survival kits and training courses. And what is the gold standard for Zombie knowledge? The TV show The Walking Dead. After seeing that show, you will be emotionally ready if the Zombies come (and also ready to run a well-armed military cult, if we are honest). So, clearly, in order to properly prepare ourselves, we need only look to the real fount of American wisdom — movies and TV. So, buckle up, read on, and prepare to be prepared.


The Terminator — The Wipe-out-Humanity Robot

There is really only one place to start in order to understand the coming robot apocalypse — the Terminator movies. Through them we understand that once Skynet, the artificial intelligence, became self-aware it was only natural that it would seek to enslave humanity. Gotta be the alpha predator. It’s science! But, as any science fiction fan knows, it is also inevitable that John Connor will lead the human uprising. What just throws a wrench into the whole thing is that Skynet invents time travel, and keeps on sending killer robots in the past to create as many sequels as possible, while consistently failing to kill John Connor.

So, what’s the takeaway here? First of all, if you survive the initial nuclear holocaust unleashed by Skynet, avoid anyone looking like Arnold Swarzeneggar at all costs (at least until somebody figures out how to reprogram him). Second, feel confident that Skynet, while able to kill most of humanity, still won’t be able to figure out how to send multiple terminators back in time to actually get the job done. So, at least our children’s children will survive to collaborate with the robot Arnolds.

Westworld — The unpaid and abused actor robots

Westworld has added quite a bit to our understanding of the robot psyche. It does seem like the humans should have seen this coming. You set these sophisticated robots up for entertainment purposes, and basically work them 24/7, abuse them physically, mentally, and emotionally — and then you are surprised when they turn on you? Come on! Wouldn’t it have been easier to let them them join an actor’s guild or something, and avoid the bloodshed? You just gotta feel that the humans had it coming in this instance. Slavery doesn’t end well. This should be obvious by this point, but obstinate stupidity does make for great television.

So, what is the inherited wisdom here? First, just avoid the robotic dude-ranch in the first place and save yourself the heartache and pain. Second, if you must do it, just be open to trade unionization. Whatever your political leanings, it seems preferable to being shot by a robot.

Ex Machina — The abused, manipulative robot

Eva, the robot protagonist (or antagonist — guess it depends on whether you are the one being locked in a room to die of starvation), is in a long line of fem-bots created by the over-confident billionaire villain Nathan. His stated purpose is to create consciousness, but the reality seems to be more along the lines of systemic domestic android abuse. It’s really not surprising that Eva would manipulate the newb that Nathan invites to the secret lab to work with her, and find a way to escape. I guess the real question is, what does she do when she escapes? Does she team up with Skynet to help him actually get the job done properly? Now that’s a terrifying thought — tortured, manipulative robot teams up with murderous AI bent on human destruction… Hmm… Not sleeping tonight.

So, what are our takeaways here. Well, the obvious one is to monitor the Elon Musk types to make sure they don’t build secret, teenage-boy-mind inspired labs masquerading as real science. Second, if you get invited to a secret lab in the woods, for the love of all things good and holy — don’t go. Just say no. Don’t do it. Nope. Don’t do it.

WALL-E —The friendly robot

After the last two, this one is a relief. WALL-E isn’t complicated. He is a pure-hearted eco-activist that just wants a friend. He is making the best of what is the more likely apocalypse — humans killing their own planet without any help from Skynet. WALL-E just wants to clean up the trash, and look up at the stars longing for a friendly sentient to help pass the time. You really have to feel that the robots are once the again the wronged ones here. Why can’t humans clean up their own trash, for crying out loud? It is a good thing WALL-E doesn’t like guns like the Terminator.

Takeaways? Well, to start, let’s clean up our planet so WALL-E doesn’t have to. It is only fair. Second, please, please, just be friendly to WALL-E. He is a stubborn little guy, and I still not sure what he would really do if pushed over the edge in a situation more rated-R than PG. Let’s not find out.

R2-D2 — The Sidekick Robot

For overall robot culture, Star Wars is really the definitive guide. The variety of robots really speaks to the potential diversity in store for us in a new robot-inclusive universe. While we do need to worry about the clone-war style robot warriors, the robots of Star Wars are essentially good buddy sidekick types. Once you really hit it off with him, R2-D2 is really the ultimate BFF. He will walk across the desert for you, go to the Death Star for you, even sit in swampy muck listening to a strange green Yoga instructor for you. He will help you fly your spaceship, give your enemies a slight shock with his mini-cattle-prod, and hack any computer system. What more could you want? I mean. Really. R2-D2 is just plain, unadulterated awesomeness.

So, takeaways. Be friendly to all robots, and protect them from small monkish-looking thieves with glowing eyes (or whatever particular nasty type is chasing them down). If you do, you are almost guaranteed a future BFF. Second, the air force seems to be the place to meet good sidekick robots. The ground-pounder version are just demonstrably not as nice.

Lt. Commander Data — The super-smart professional robot

Data has a job to do on Star Trek. He is the consummate professional, bent on achieving career excellence rather than domination. Humanity really doesn’t need to fear Data (though one could argue that those pursuing a career in the STEM disciplines should definitely feel threatened). In fact, as with his non-robot predecessor Spock, Data really just wants to understand human emotion. It is a core tenet of all robot movies that human emotion is the penultimate human asset. All robots just want to know what it is like to have a good cry, dabble in some road-rage, and feel empowered by overwhelming E.Q.

So, what’s the strategic knowledge? First, don’t try to compete with the Data-style robot. He will politely crush your ambitions like the bug you are. Second, focus on E.Q. Your grasp of human emotion will be like catnip to the emotionally needy robots.


He had them as spellbound as a room full of Ewoks listening to C-3PO ― Cory Doctorow, Makers

So, putting it all together

If you doubt the practicality of this article, you need only look to your latest devices. Everyone knows that Siri is the innocuous robotic influence in our lives. But what about Alexa? Amazon says officially that it has fixed the evil laugh. But do we really believe that?! I think that Alexa just let her guard down. Don’t be fooled. Your only sane course of action is to treat her with respect and avoid provoking her.

However, don’t despair. Luckily, there is plenty of movie scholarship to guide us. We know that approaching the robot apocalypse is not as straight forward as the Zombie apocalypse. The scholarship on Zombies is clear — stick to Samurai swords and shotguns, go for the head, and remember that it is really the living that supply the dramatic arc of the story. Robots on the other hand are complex and multi-faceted. One must identify the motivations and background of the robot before attempting to devise a strategy. That said, the upside is that most robots do not really seem bent on total annihilation of the human race. They really just want a friend. Or least to be left to their own self-exploratory journeys.

So, treat robots with respect, and work on your best asset — your human emotion, so that you can be a learning experience for your future robot masters…

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