“Daddy, what do you do at your new job?

“I fight robots,” I could tell them what I actually do, but that would be boring.

“Dad, you’re gonna get killed!” GoofBoy, who has recently seen the Terminator movies, exclaimed — deeply concerned.

“I don’t fight killer robots, I wouldn’t have a chance. I fight workaday robots. Today I fought Wall-E.”

“There really are robots like Wall-E?” GoofGirl asked excited.

“Not anymore, I smashed it into tinfoil with a sledgehammer.”

GoofGirl went away upset. But the next day, the kids were back asking me what robots I fought.

“They built these special little drones designed to deliver a single flower. It’s called the Butterfly. I knocked them out of the air with a baseball bat.”

“Dad, you are a terrible person,” GoofBoy said flatly.

Yet they kept asking.

I told them about a new robot vacuum cleaner that looked like a ballerina and danced around the room in beautiful unpredictable patterns and makes music instead of vacuum cleaner noises. I used a Nerf disc gun to destroy it.

“What robot did you fight today Daddy?”

“It was a really boring robot today. It was just a cognitive radio.”

“How is a radio a robot?” GoofGirl asked.

“Well it is designed to switch places on the radio spectrum depending on the situation. So it senses the environment, processes the information, and takes action. By our working definition, that’s a robot.”

“That’s a pretty boring robot. I’m sure it was a tough fight,” GoofBoy said, sarcastically.

“Oh, it was! I had to tear it apart with my bare hands. And it kept playing music at me. When it blared Mumford and Sons I was pumped to wreck it. But then it switched to kids music, Laurie Berkner, The Wiggles… I was almost crying as I threw it to the floor and finally smashed it.”

“Daddy, why is the government paying you to break robots?”

“Top secret, I can’t tell you.”

“If it were really secret you wouldn’t be telling us about it.”

Good point.

“OK, look, the robots have watched the Terminator movies as well. They aren’t stupid. They know we’ll be expecting this. So instead, what if they try something sneakier, will all the little robots doing little things to try to slowly get us to do what they want? We need to make sure we can still take care of them. In short, I’m doing it for you.”

Originally published at forfathersonly.blogspot.com on October 18, 2015.

AAAS Policy Fellow, formerly @UMIACS (specializing in international security), did a PhD on vice presidents, interested in a lot of stuff

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