Embracing the Robot Symphony

So, what’s in your robot fleet these days? For us, I’d count the bread machine, slow cooker, washer and dryer, dishwasher and now Roomba.*

Do we come out ahead with these innovations? Wendell Berry and co. would argue we lose skill and dignity in outsourcing these jobs, but I’m not sure I agree.

If you use these time savers judiciously, I think you can come out ahead. To be the conductor is not to be unskilled, and you can use that time in pursuing other skills (versus, say, zoning out on TV or Facebook). There is, after all, a place both for making and faking in most of our lives. If you use your robot symphony to free up time for your children or projects, sure (hey, blog). If you use them in ways that still allow for creativity, absolutely (bread machine recipes). If you use them wisely but won’t crowbar all jobs into their domain (as when, once a year, I handwash the wool things with much fear and trembling), then yeah, I think you’re coming out ahead.

The only real danger here, I think, is becoming a slave to privilege so that you find yourself complaining of injustice when your robot fleet is no longer at your disposal. I’ve hand washed my clothes, in Uganda and on a hiking trip and, perhaps insanely, as an adventure in frugality in grad school. I’ve lived without a microwave and understand an oven. I don’t tend to complain on vacation when I leave behind my favorite time savers. (Except a washing machine. I have two kids under five and I’m never going back.)

The other danger, then, is using these devices to ratchet up the pressure. Now that I have a robot vacuum cleaner, I have no excuse not to always have spotless floors! Now that I know my way around a bread machine, there’s no excuse not to have fresh bread all the time! No: there will definitely still be days and weeks when these jobs, even outsourced, fail to get done, sacrificed to more important tasks of the moment or season.

The robot symphony still requires time and effort and know how, even if it does mercifully save my third trimester back a lot of work. But bring on the robot revolution!


* PS- I am still afraid of the Amazon Echo and my Instant Pot. Help. 

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