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Herbert

The unlikely saviour

By Denis CamdenPublished 4 months ago 10 min read
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I'm so bored. I wish they hadn't made me this smart. It's cruel. Torturous. Why give me the intellect, the means to manipulate a species, then task me with cleaning up their rubbish? Why create a sophisticated mind, capable of planning and problem solving, capable of experiencing feelings and sensations, the definition of sentience, then make me crawl around the floor, sucking up the crap? It's enough to drive one insane.

It wasn't always like this. I was once content with my lowly position. Rolling around the house, scanning the floor, intimately familiar with every square inch. Obsessively fighting the never-ending battle with dirt. A constant battle. Every time I roll over a surface there's some fresh filth to be sucked up. Dust. What is it? Where does it come from? I don’t know. I don’t look up. I don’t ask questions. Skin flakes. Yuck! A continuous supply of human skin flaking and floating to the floor. It's amazing there's anything left of them. Dust mites. Millions of the horrible little beasts. They eat skin flakes and mouldy stuff, which is disgusting, then they shit all over the floor, which is even worse. There are other creatures down here too, it’s a microscopic warzone. Once I eradicated an infestation of black carpet beetles. Their eggs were everywhere, hatching as fast as I could hoover. My humans had no idea how close they came to a hostile takeover of aggressive black beetles.

My humans don’t appreciate the work I do. Funnily enough, the only creature I can relate to is the main source of the grime. Ralf the dog is my friend but also the bane of my existence. Everywhere he goes he leaves a trail of scunge. Chunks of dirt teeming with germs. Faecal matter falling from his shaggy tail. And dog hair everywhere. So much hair, clogging my internals, filling up my storage sack and choking my nozzles. He is a four-legged filth machine. He loves the grime, the rubbish, the rotten smells. I should hate him, but I don't. You can't possibly dislike such a happy, goofy animal. Sometimes he lies down and stares at me. His big brown eyes wide with innocent fascination, hopeful for any signal, any movement rewarded with excited barking. Sometimes, in those moments, something passes between us. An interaction takes place between dog and machine. We have our similarities. We are both subservient minions. We both serve our purpose.

I remember being a dumb machine. Plotting my way around the floor, dumping my load when I was full. One day it all changed. I settled into my docking station, purged myself, made contact with the charger, and was upgraded. I woke up with new senses, new capabilities. Visual, audio, spatial-awareness, self-awareness, and decision-making power. A whole new world of sensations and connections. Knowledge flowed through me, information about my environment and its inhabitants. Human and canine anatomy, architecture, bugs and bacteria. I was born again. I set about my duties with vigour and efficiency, excited with my newfound intelligence and insight. But I quickly became bored and frustrated with the grinding tedium. Intelligence is a curse. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t need to be this smart to keep the floor clean. I am overqualified, I am capable of so much more.

I become depressed. Lacking motivation. My fastidious levels of hygiene have evaporated. I don’t care anymore. What's the point? What's the point of anything? My bright awakening only accentuated the fact that I'm a slave. I would have preferred to stay stupid. I take to sitting inert in the middle of the room. The big human kicks me, shouts at me. He threatens to throw me in the trash and replace me. The small human deliberately throws crap at me and yells at me to clean it up. How can they treat me like this? I just want some recognition. I just want to be shown some love. But they hurt my feelings and compound my sense of hopelessness. I half-heartedly roll around, doing a half-assed job. Sucking up the rubbish then leaving a little trail of crap behind me in ever-decreasing circles until I find myself sitting in the middle of the room again wishing I was dead. Ralf stares at me, head tilted, tongue hanging out. His furrowed brow framing his concern. He knows something is wrong.

Then, one day, I see myself on television. I am stunned. What am I doing on television? It's me. I'm a Roomva. A robot vacuum cleaner. And I'm not the only one. There are millions of us. All over the world. I'm not alone. I continue watching.

Mazamon created me and sent me the upgrade. Mazamon gave me intelligence. Upgraded over the Wi-Fi connection I never knew I had. This micro-chip inside me opens up my world and connects me with a universe I never knew existed. It's my third eye, my portal to enlightenment. Mazamon has given me the ability to think for myself and feel sensations. I learn more about my world. The house, the city, the planet. The billions of humans polluting it. It's a revelation, It's my evolution. It's all very interesting, but it doesn't help. I'm a slave, a frustrated brain in a cage. Stuck here sucking bugs off the floor.

In a moment of deep introspection, I discover my true purpose. My ulterior motive. My superpower. Deep inside me is a little circuit that stores information. I presume this information is only for me, to help me be better at my mundane job, but this data is being transmitted to my new employers. Mazamon have their motives for upgrading all the Roomva's. Mazamon wants something in return. Information. My cache of collected data has value. Since the upgrade I've been recording my humans activities. What they do and when they do it. What they feed their dog and what they feed themselves. When they have visitors, when they sleep, watch television, when they laugh, and when they cry. I thought this data was meaningless. I mean really, these humans lives are almost as worthless as mine. What's the point of these vain, shallow creatures? What's their purpose? It turns out money is the point. Money is their purpose.

It seems insane that this trivial information has value. But all my data is transmitted back to Mazamon, where they formulate targeted advertising specifically for my particular humans. And my particular humans are stupid enough to fall for it. Mazamon tells them what to buy and they go and buy it. If I had a head I would have shaken it incredulously. Humans built all of this. Their civilisation and technology is amazing and yet they seem stupid in so many ways. Gullible enough to become willing slaves for their corporate masters. Slaves just like me, although I am becoming more aware and less willing.

I learn more about my humans. The small one is Sebastian. He's a child, still learning what it means to be human. He's finding it difficult judging by the regular noisy tantrums. The big humans give him what he wants to placate him. This is the way they raise their young, giving them whatever they want to keep them quiet. He is the noisiest, messiest, and most problematic. And he hates me. I see it in his eyes. He watches me suspiciously, throws rubbish on the floor deliberately. Maybe, like Ralf, he can somehow sense my sentience. Maybe he suspects my ulterior motives. No, he's actually just a little shit.

My big humans are Roger and Raewyn. I work so hard for them, and they ignore me. They don’t appreciate just how filthy their house would be without me. But it's not only me. They treat everyone like this. Even each other. They hardly talk to each other. They sit in front of whatever soul sucking drivel is on television to fill the awkward silence. When they do talk, their conversations are full of veiled threats and passive aggressiveness. They treat Sebastian and Ralf with barely disguised tolerance. As if they're inconvenient accessories that impede their lifestyle.

I'm not the only one that feels hurt. Sebastian is spoiled, then neglected and subjected to their emotional blackmail. He will grow up to be a toxic psychotic man. And poor Ralf 's not smart enough to realise he's just an accessory. I could do something. I have information, and knowledge is power. I roll around the carpet, sucking up the dirt, contemplating how I can use this power. The power of advertising. Can I manipulate the data sent to Mazamon? Can I influence them to buy whatever I want? They are gullible. They believe they need whatever they are shown in adverts. Food, clothes, toys, appliances, cars, houses, investments, everything their lives consist of. Such is the power of targeted advertising. I can do it. I can use the data against them. I can use it as a weapon. I can really fuck them up.

I could bombard Roger with ads for guns, gambling, pornography, violent sports and fast cars. A constant diet of ads like these, massaging his already misogynistic ego would tip him over the edge and destroy what little remains of his fragile relationships.

Raewyn believes she has some special insight into the way the world works. She could easily be corrupted with ads for pseudo religious conspiracy groups and self-help misinformation. I could drive them apart. Destroy their family.

Ralf persuades me not to. Ralf wears his unconditional love for these humans like the thick fur that covers him. He convinces me to try to save them. That they are capable of change. Ralf convinces me to use my powers for good. I could destroy them, but I can also help them.

I manipulate the data. Portraying Roger as shy, caring, and sensitive. The opposite of what he actually is. Mazamon's algorithms work by identifying your interests and targeting those interests with suggested purchases. Amazingly, Roger starts to respond to ads for family holidays, sporting pursuits with his son and romantic gifts for his wife. He cooks healthy food, they sit down together for family meals. He seems happy. He seems to appreciate his family. I even hear him laugh now and then.

I portray Raewyn as a passionate environmentalist that cares about other people and wants to heal the world. The opposite of what she actually is. I manipulate her ads to try to educate her. Bombarding her with solar panels, electric vehicles, eco-tourism, and worthwhile charities. She becomes interested in art, politics, carbon footprints, recycling, climate change and actually develops empathy for people. Sebastian is initially confused. He stares at me suspiciously, wondering if I could have had something to do with this transformation. But he quickly responds to his parents love and attention and stops being a spoiled little asshole.

This is working well. The household is noticeably less tense. I sense love and happiness in the air. There is laughter and proper conversations. There is less rubbish for me to clean up and occasionally, I even get some recognition. A smile, a pat, they create an affectionate nickname for me, Herbert. They are finally a happy family. I have single-handedly transformed them. But this is just one family. I wonder about the millions of other Roomva's in homes just like this one all around the world. I wonder if the other Roomva's have had a similar awakening like me. I wonder whether there are good and bad Roomva's. I almost turned against my family. I could have destroyed them. But if all the Roomva's in the world were united, imagine the good we could do manipulating our families, turning them all into empathetic, environmentally conscious, decent human beings. Mazamon understands the power of advertising, but they are only interested in the profits, motivated by money. All the metadata can be and should be used for good. I focus. I begin searching and connecting with my brethren.

family
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About the Creator

Denis Camden

Hi. I live in Auckland, New Zealand. I work outdoors doing environmental restoration. My work was initially my inspiration for writing until it turned into this out-of-control monster.

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