I wake up to the sound of chimes projected from the computer on my wrist.
Despite the throbbing pain in my head, I make an effort to squint at the five-inch holo-display it projects over the back of my left hand. The time and date say 7:00 AM Saturday, April 5, 2053.
I’ve gotta change the setting of this damn thing so it doesn’t wake me up on weekends.
Towards the centre of the display, a new message pops into view.
“Important changes to your current position with Alda Holdings Corp.”
I select and read the message.
Looks like my employer has decided to upgrade its remaining workforce to what they refer to as new automated productivity standards. The role I currently hold as a field rep and trainer is to be robotized. More information will be provided at the Monday morning meeting.
A large amount of jobs became robotized by 2050. So, I’m not surprised it’s now affecting me in my current role.
“Pod… Outside lights off, temperature 20 Celsius, change ambiance to morning mode,” I say as I get out of bed then push it back up into the wall. All inner night lights go off, the windows lighten their dark tint and natural morning sunlight permeates my tiny pod dwelling.
Brushing my teeth, I can see the tiredness around my eyes. All the time I spend interacting in virtual space with my eye-visor is taking a toll. I may have to sign-up for that addiction counselling after all. I’m not the only one. It’s the epidemic of the generation. I wonder if the verbal therapy would be enough or if I’d have to go on centreX? The most popular drug out there.
I push the foldable pop-out sink back into the wall, pull out the toilet on the right wall and take a pee.
I’m sure this is a type of meditation.
The flushed toilet goes back into the wall with a light push.
“Shower on, medium hot”
This tiny eight square foot space that serves as the bathroom also converts into a shower room. Water begins to rain down on me from the ceiling. A soothing stream of perfectly warm water rains down and everything in the bathroom gets wet.
“Overhead dryer on, medium hot
The water stops and a warm stream of air blasts out from the ceiling drying everything including me.
The small closet next to the bed holds all the clothes I own. Two white dress shirts, two white casual shirts, two versatile pairs of pants, three pairs of socks and four pairs of underwear. It’s all clean again. The self-cleaning fabrics in the wardrobe atomized during the night, even if I put them in there late.
My living space is a company-provided, ninety-square-foot, egg-shaped, solar-powered eco-pod. It’s location is atop the company parkade, situated in the downtown business district.
Available rentals are practically non-existent. The city’s had a zero vacancy for the past twenty years. Anything still available is unaffordable to the middle and lower classes. Before this, I had to live for three years in a capsule-space the size of a closet. It was a transitory living facility for those who would otherwise be homeless. Then, I lucked out and got this job. They needed someone with my qualifications and I was desperate for something that paid a living wage.
The boss thought it was a security risk for me to access the company’s system from the cramped side-by-side capsule facility I lived in. So he offered this dwelling. It’s tiny and I could only bring a few things when I moved in, but a few things were all I had. I’m happy enough living in this pod, except for the fact, I know I’m watched and monitored — constantly.
They have biometric sensors all over the place tracking and analyzing me like a caged animal. Not that it’s at all noticeable. Anyway, it was all disclosed to me before I agreed to take the job and move in. What choice did I have? I was living in a closet-size capsule where I could hear the guy in the next capsule fart. And I was broke. Real broke.
Privacy is now only for the rich. It’s been that way since the early thirties. Sensor equipment is everywhere. Central AI monitors everything we do, eat and shit. That way, they know how to control our every move and desires. The gov’t is operated by the Unifarium. A small consortium of the world’s richest individuals. Those who pioneered the largest internet companies during the turn of the century. The Resistance, on the other hand, is a faction of underground rebels who oppose them. They have often referred to the current situation as a nouveau-plutocracy. The Unifarium preach and advertise they are a corporate-democracy for the people. But it isn’t by the people. It’s controlled by the ten individuals who make up its core ownership. Every single company, like the one I work for, must answer to them. They all share information and are interconnected.
8:30 AM Monday
My boss, Mr. Bishop, is sitting behind his desk smiling at me as I walk into his grey metallic office.
“Marcus, right on time. Please sit down.”
I sit in the posh metallic chair with heavy brown fabric. It’s comfortable. I’m not.
“I got the memo on Saturday morning. Great timing!” I’m lying about the timing. He has that entitled look on his face.
“Yes indeed, Marcus. We wanted you to have time to read and think about it at your leisure.” He chuckles at the end of the last words, like it’s some kind of inside joke.
“This will improve our productivity and yearly assessment by the Unifarium,” he adds.
“But my sales and performance have never been better.”
“Quite right, Marcus. But our analytics show that a new class-C droid will lower overall costs. It will also improve customer expectations and statistical throughput.”
But what about us, the people?
Thing is, he’s right. The new androids can outperform humans. Model A’s were initially problematic and didn’t look or feel human. But these new model C’s are much more human-like. Since the early twenty thirties, androids started replacing humans in almost every function. Everything from sex-partners to doctors and lawyers. Humans are becoming redundant.
“But there is no need to worry, Marcus. We are in full compliance with the ‘Human Act’ of twenty thirty-nine.”
“Of course,” I say in the hope of creating some noticeable but hard to identify dissonance.
The ‘Human Act’ of twenty thirty-nine was passed to protect humans from an android takeover. It became more and more evident that robots or androids would be a threat to human livelihoods. They could work without rest, didn’t complain about work conditions, or threaten to strike. Companies were beginning to exaggerate in the way they abused the new technology. Their goal was to remove the cost of a human workforce. The situation was more profitable for shareholders and their bottom line. But it made many humans unemployed and destitute. The problem got out of control. People were hungry, angry, and didn’t have money to pay taxes or shop for goods and services. So many parts of the economy became affected.
“We follow the protocols drafted in the Unifarium Act. So, Alda Corp is offering to subcontract an android from you and provide the same enumeration and benefits.”
They must think I’m rich or something. Like I have a spare android lying in my closet. I don’t even have that size of a closet. They should know that. They watch my every move.
“But I don’t have…” I begin to say.
“That isn’t an issue, Marcus.”
“The contract permits us to provide you with an adequate android on an employee lease basis.”
“But I’m barely making ends meet as it is.”
He cuts me off again. “You will have to budget and make allowances. But we are willing to increase your pay by two percent. The rest is up to you.”
I look around the room feeling defeated. “Sounds like a deal I can’t refuse.”
He has that smug look again.
“It’s in your best interest, Marcus. You will get to choose and train your android replacement. Alda Corp. will provide a list of models you can choose from. Models within your price range.”
“And when is this all supposed to begin?”
He raised his finger and began to tap on his virtual screen while I wait for his answer.
“You’re in luck,” he says. “The Unifarium has already approved your funding for a model C. Here’s a list to choose from. Go ahead, browse through and make a choice. They are all compatible and able to replace you at your tasks.”
He swipes in the air with his hand, turning his virtual screen to face me. I take control of it by gesturing to pull it closer, then begin swiping through the information panels outlining photos, videos depicting the features, and statistics of the androids.
They’re all perfect representations of perfect people.
The men all look no older than twenty-five, and the women twenty-three.
“I can choose a woman to represent me?”
“Of course, Marcus. But not to represent you. To replace you.”
Ha hah, now the truth comes out. I smile, to look less vulnerable, less desperate.
“This is a step in the right direction which will solidify your future, and our future. Your replacement will never age. Well, to be more accurate, they are designed to last half a millennium. It will be yours to take home with you and keep, so long as you make the monthly payments.”
“Will, I ever own it?”
“No, Marcus. The android will remain the property of the Unifarium. Though it’s possible to own the androids, the full sale price is more than this job could earn you in two lifetimes.”
“Fair enough,” I say, but fair may be an exaggeration.
I push the virtual screen towards him so he can see my selection. “I’ll take this one.”
“Good choice, Marcus. That particular unit has been one of the company’s favourites.”
And with that, I leave his office reflecting on what just transpired.
My selection was an android model MAY-05 named ‘Maybelline.’ A ravishing, fully human-looking brunette android. One who doesn’t look a day older than twenty-two. The kind of young lady guys like me usually don’t have a chance with. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But on a scale of one to ten, only faulty eyes could give this one anything less than a full score. Let’s see how easy it will be to train this android to be my replacement.