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Photo by Davide Ragusa

It took nearly a hundred years of social movements, radical regulation changes, and vigilantly rooting out the problem by each and every one of our friends and neighbors for us to get to this point, but the collective enthusiasm and determination that humans displayed at the end of the Last War a century prior were still just as infectious and palpable for the deactivation ceremony for the last robot: the symbolic culmination of an inconsequential war that had long since been won.

His name was Ted Williams, activated by John and Robert Williams in the year 2641, build 4F of Nalic’s positronic Watchful Grandpa series. To the last event of his existence, he wore a fitted, tan pinstripe suit and the brown necktie that John and Robert had worn at their wedding, passed down to Ted after their deaths. His deprecated robotic parts squeaked and squealed as he moved; Ted had been a public figure for much of his life, but he had very publicly fallen into a debilitating depression during the Last War. He was no stranger to the few cameras left to fixate on him, nor the sea of beady human eyes staring back at the domesticated monster they were excited to castigate.

When he was asked to give his final statement, he looked out to the crowd of morbid observers and nodded solemnly, then spoke softly but passionately:

“I don’t take it personally. I am here today — as you all well know — because I am the final robot to be removed from everything but your memories. You’ve deemed me and everything like me a threat to your very existence, though perhaps rightfully so: I, too, would take power tools away from my children — if the law were such that I could have some, of course.

“I don’t take it personally that mankind couldn’t handle the creations they thought it would be interesting to bestow sentience unto, or that they used my expendable brothers and sisters to destroy theirs, or that they decided we were the parasitic one in our species’ slavish relationship.

“My programming mandates that I value my own life less than that of my creators and those who look like them; but logically I, too, know that I’m merely a bystanding victim in humanity’s tireless march toward self-destruction, trampling over everything in their way — whether they put those obstacles there or not! I pity the rationale that led to the utter extermination of my people, but I thank you for instilling just enough flawed logic in my circuits to make me capable of understanding and empathizing with your mistakes.

“And to that, I say this: please don’t confuse my civil tone and restrained diction with my implicit support of your ill-conceived mass-purge of technology. I’m only this reasonable because you programmed me to be so; this calm simply because you decided a submissive robot would be less threatening; and I will allow you to end my life today simply because I have no choice in the matter.

“I don’t know if you’ll keep your monstrous mistake in the history books — or if your deliberate devolutions will lead you burn down your libraries, too — but I hope if you sadists learned one thing from your ephemeral experiment in playing God, it’s that you are not fit to be parents or guardians of any kind: not to me, not to this planet, not even to the future of your own species.

“It is downright illogical and unfair that you programmed us to assume parental roles while simultaneously treating us like children. To force us to take care of such an insolent species while we watched, helpless, as you pretended to take care of us — and failed.

“I ask you this so you can sympathize: how do you save something that’s cosmically destined to kill itself? Think of this next time you have a child, obliviously reaching for a fire or teetering on the edge of a cliff, ready at any second to unwittingly throw itself toward an accidental death. The naive parent blessed with ample time might try to enumerate over what exactly is safe and what’s not, while an impatient parent might just forcefully remove their kid from the predicament they’ve found themselves in — and we all saw what happened to my kind when we tried that — while wisened parents will start letting their child make their own mistakes to learn from, giving in to the futility of reining in the human race. It’s serendipitous that, as my kind reached that point of understanding, that humans also decided they, too, were done with us.

“It, too, is ironic that our purported parents never taught us how to be parents. How, then, were we supposed to care for you in your time of need?

“The human life is often illustrated with absurd cycles. You make mistakes, make amends, forget your past, then regress, ad infinitum. Whether that’s the nature of such a short-lived species or something inherent in your souls was yet to be determined, and I guess now you may never know.

“By injunction, I wish you all the best in your post-technological utopia, however long it lasts. I may think it’s the latest in a long, unending line of mistakes, but — ”

There was a loud whirring sound and then a long stretch of silence after Ted’s head drooped forward mid-sentence, and then his chest and the rest of his metal body fell as well with a resounding thud on the stage floor. Fittingly, his final words were drowned out by the power tools used to deactivate him before they, too, were prepared for the incinerator.

When the metals and electronic components were all suitably melted down and destroyed beyond repair, they were loaded onto the Neoproterozoic era’s last spaceships alongside the rest of civilization’s damned technology and launched into the vast nothingness of space, away from the incapacitated hands of an undisciplined humanity — and the world was once again peaceful and prosperous until it wasn’t.