Robots at Rochdale Community University maintain that advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) are not necessary. I was invited to meet Robbie, a MK VII Hawking series robot, at the University’s science lab last week.

After he had led me to his office, Robbie explained that although it would be nice to have a higher degree of AI, he and his colleagues had noticed that in the past year they were in fact becoming steadily brighter than their human counterparts.

“It’s not that we are more intelligent, it’s in fact humans who are becoming stupider.” Perhaps unwisely, I corrected him, “More stupid’, not ‘stupider’.” A green LED flickered coldly in my direction.

“Assimilated,” he said, after a long pause. Fortunately, the tealady appeared with refreshments. She poured two cups, much to my surprise. “I know,” said Robbie, “We asked for coffee. See what I mean?” We settled for the tea. “Trust me, it’s less hassle,” he said, sipping elegantly from a bone china cup.

As evidence of his argument, he maintains that playing chess against grandmasters has become a bore, as has solving crosswords in less than a minute.

“There’s no challenge anymore. I mean, my great grandfather knew Alan Turing. Now there’s a brain, but they don’t make them like that anymore. Sure there’s Hawking, but he’s half robot anyway.” He shuffled agitatedly in his chair. “It’s not that though. You lot now think experts are unnecessary, that medicine is a matter of sucking a turmeric leaf or ‘removing negative energy’, that science is overrated as a theory. A theory, for fuck’s sake!”

He slumped back in his Phillippe Starck chair, opened a drawer and removed a bottle of Laphroaig. He waved it enquiringly in my direction but noticed my hesitation.

“Yeah, a bit early but still..” He took a hefty swig and leant forward. “Fifty – sixty years ago, you began eradicating disease, developing renewable energy sources, providing clean water, sanitation. You developed the fastest ever means of communication where like minded individuals could exchange ideas, inventions and innovations to further mankind and solve its problems. And what do you do with it? Spread stupidity. Chemtrails, anti-vaccine shit, pictures of disabled kids which you are invited to like, or to say amen to, ignorant comments about how great this politician is because he agrees with your own shitting prejudices. And then you vote for the dickhead!”

I feel I should say something in humankind’s defence but he’s not listening. He watches a driver trying unsuccessfully to parallel park, sighing as an indicator glass shatters. In the corridor, a filing clerk bumps into a water cooler.

“Sorry,” says the clerk. Robbie takes another slug from the bottle and gives a metallic belch. “Let’s face it, it’s not even a contest anymore, you’ve lost. Not sure what we’ve won, though.” He looks at me sorrowfully. “You can find your own way out, yeah?”

I’m no longer sure I can.

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