I wake up to the sound of an off-key, droning alarm in the darkened bedroom of my Weldglass (a solid but thin type of glass) house. My weary eyes travel around my room, taking in the city of San Francisco and its skyline crowded with skyscrapers that appear to touch the sky and frame the oddly shining sidewalks, which beautify the otherwise dark and gloomy city. Passers-by were absorbed within their Holographic Communication and Leisure Device, also known as the holographic meatloaf, paying no attention to the world around them. Most of the color in the city comes from a rainbow-colored collection of buildings in the far east of the city, where the well-known Weld Company is located. Over the past 10 years, Weld has overtaken the backwater city of San Francisco and single-handedly turned it into a technological powerhouse. The Golden Gate Bridge, for example, was turned into a conveyor belt to the ships docked in the San Francisco piers for machinery parts waiting to be exported throughout the world. The other splash of color in the city comes from the only public park in the city, the rather compact Weld Nature Center, where most of San Francisco’s remaining wildlife, around forty birds along with a few ferrets, live. Baxter, my robotic assistant, hovers over me, asking me if I want coffee. I accept Baxter’s offer and slowly sip it, in preparation for the long day ahead.
Baxter is a 27th edition general purpose robot that is designed to perform basic domestic chores, but has the ability to learn new ones. I bought it at a bargain price of $5,000. Baxters were originally designed for consumer use, but they have gradually replaced human laborers in low-skill, low-paying jobs in farms, factories and construction sites. Because of their efficiency and low maintenance costs, Baxters are displacing human workers at an astounding rate. There are masses of unemployed workers, living on the slatternly sidewalks and huddled in thermal sacks which offers little protection from the vile thick black smoke swirling like leaves on an autumn day. The Revolution of 2038, also known as simply as the Revolution, failed miserably when unions of farm, factory, and construction workers from all over the world came to San Francisco to protest the displacement of human workers. Not surprisingly, the unions lost to economics and profitability. Baxters cost pennies to maintain, while the minimum wage for humans is $14.95 per hour. Blue collar workers aren’t the only ones being replaced and living on the streets, professionals are gradually being replaced by robots too.
In the early 2000’s, doctors and health care workers were pretty much all human, but not for long. When Jeff Baker, known as the Steve Jobs of Weld and the unofficial president of the world, created Watson, his goal was to combine the powers of medical expertise and big data to eradicate all diseases known to man. The world has come close to being disease free, even in the poorest countries, because of these superior robots. Watson and Baxter are virtually the same, but they have different names because they have different functions. One would think that robots can’t perform creative tasks, such as writing, drawing and compose music, but Baker astonished everyone with his latest invention - CreativBot - or robots that rival humans in creativity and cognitive skills.
Even though robots haven’t taken all of our jobs, they’ve taken much more than they should’ve if we were better prepared for the Revolution. When the advancement of technology swept through the nation, companies started replacing humans with these fantastic beings. During the Great Depression, unemployment rates hovered around 25%, but now unemployment rates climbed to almost 45%. More and more people are living in small cubicles called Minihaus, known as “the shack,” that could be rented for a few dollars a day. It contains a soft clean comfortable bed and very limited amenities. At best, there is one stove with a cracked coffee pot and a few cans of Food ravioli in the cupboard. This brand of soggy and bland ravioli is almost unfit to eat. I am one of those fortunate enough to have a job and live in a more upscale Weldglass house. My job title is Makebreaker, I replace human workers with a suitable robot. It pains me to know that I am deeply despised by those all around me.
I bade Baxter goodbye then hurried to my workplace, as fast as my self-driving car could take me. I coughed when I smelled the charred air coming from the Weld factory. In the distance, I can see a protest rally in the Weld Recreational Center. Angry, disheveled unemployed citizens of San Francisco hold shredded cardboard signs are chanting, “Don’t take our jobs! Kill technology! Don’t take our jobs! Kill technology!....” Their voices fade away as I entered the baby blue building where I worked. As soon as I stepped through the glass doors, imprinted with Weld’s motto “Technology is Innovation, Innovation is Weld, Weld is Life,” the current CEO of Weld, Jason Atkins, had called a meeting. As everyone shuffled down the purple metal staircase to the Convention Center, I noticed the look of slight discontentment in his face; I could tell there was a problem that needed to be addressed. Once everyone was seated, he said, “More people are getting unhappy with the acrid smell coming from our grounds. We need new ideas on alternate energy sources.” His voice echoed throughout the shiny, white, newly renovated room. He is absolutely correct; global warming had ice caps melting at a faster rate than anticipated. We are forced to elevate our city through a unique material called Adamantium, thought to be indestructible, due to rising sea levels. Laws were passed in high hopes of reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released into the air, but the problem is that new greenhouse gases are created every day from new technologies that the law can’t keep up. One man in a jet black suit commented that we should use water for hydroelectric power. It was a great idea, and it was brought up at practically every meeting of this kind, but it was always tossed because it was a threat to the few remaining kind of wildlife that still lived in San Francisco. Another woman suggested that maybe bringing back wind turbines could alleviate the effects of global warming. Atkins shook his head, “No, what would happen if a bird get struck by it?” “Good point.” said the woman, somewhat disappointedly.
I was slowly shaking my head the whole time, not because my boss cared too much about wildlife, but because I was starving even though I had breakfast an hour before. I grabbed a stone-cold burger from the CoolBox (another Weld invention), and went outside to the Weld Park to walk around. I felt a sharp pain through my head and winced. It’s normal though, ever since Weld moved here everyone has had some kind of health problem, whether it be asthma or technogia, a newfound crippling disease that slowly debilitates our mobility because of the overuse of technology. After fumbling around for a painkiller, I glanced left, my eye catching huge billows of black smoke covering the sky on the horizon. “Ugh, not again!” I exclaimed loudly and somewhat obnoxiously. This was the third time this week. Cleanup was the worst. This is where Weld takes all their exhaust from their work and puts it into the Green. The Green turns some of it into energy used for lighting and such, but not all of it. The rest of the exhaust gets released into the air, often without warning. It usually left people coughing and gasping for breath in those fifteen seconds or so of agony. So many protests and riots are held because of this highly controversial technique of getting rid of waste, but amazingly, the government has turned a blind eye to it. A bit stunned and agitated, I headed back to Weld.
A frizzy haired, gray-coated scientist named Maxwell Burnington stood in front of the large metal “WELD” sign was busy regurgitating his usual rant: “The world doesn’t exist anymore! We’re doomed! Baxters have taken over us! The world doesn’t exist anymore…” Many called him a babbling lunatic who always seemed to get in people’s way, but it wasn’t always that way. When he predicted the Revolution, he was treated like a god. Endless awards and interviews showered him and he became a global icon. After that, however, he changed; it seemed like he just had a part missing. That’s why no one listens to him much anymore. I tried to head back to the building, only to find a bright red Baxter charging towards me. I crouch, but it stops right before it smashes me with its 400 pound frame. I was slapped in the face by panic when I noticed he had a purple screen, also known as the Kill screen.
The purple screen was a virus created by the Baxters themselves (they have the ability to learn, as all robots do now) to say that they’re stark raving mad and want revenge for programmers that made mistakes in creating them. It’s a short phase that happens around once every month which no one could predict the consequences to. I started running, but it was already too late. Others around me ignored the look of sheer desperation on my face. They dragged me by the collar for what seemed to be miles. As beads of sweat shielded my eyes from that dreaded Kill screen, I already started to replay the best moments in my life. Weldworld, my favorite attraction as a kid, the only amusement park with a 50 story drop from a tower to just inches off the ground, rang in my mind. So did getting my job, which rescued me from Minihaus. Before I could get my last thought out, I was staring at the fire. Baxters were all around me. I could even find my own azure Baxter, also overcome by a purple screen. As my eyes burned with the fire, I could see a faint picture of a face of someone I’d never met. Everyone hated me, but the fire seemed to welcome me more than I ever have. As the fire danced around me, I could feel myself getting closer to the fire, as if a string bound me and tugged me towards it. The Baxters were expressionless, but I knew that they didn’t regret their decision. Sooner than later, My body found the fire, and as I burned, so did my regrets. That’s it! Why didn’t I think of this before? It was the Fire of Identity, where those realize their potential in the world. I now realized that I was someone special. I was the hologram of myself: the most influential character in all of technology, Jeff Baker. I headed back to the same baby blue building, clutching my now warm burger in my hand. When I found the fire, the fire found my identity, buried in the Green, and my identity ultimately found Weld.