Bohemian Buddhist Review

"Learning to Love Our Corporate Masters"

by Paki S. Wright

"It has all the newest features, everything you need to survive these days."
The robo-seller knew its spiel for the latest deluxe model of the Robo-Shopper. But then of course it had been programmed by Livcorp, the slickest sales outfit left on the planet. It was said, and it was not said in vain, that if Livcorp couldn't sell it, it didn't exist.
"I want to be sure about supermarket safety," the robo-buyer said. "So many foods these days -- "
"Oh, to be sure! That's one of its best features," the robo-seller chirruped mechanically. "See, here? That's the mini-chip that can detect even the smallest amount of living matter in the store's food. That way you'll know -- " 
"That I can safely avoid it," the robo-buyer said impatiently. "Yes, yes, I know all that, it's why I came in to look at the Robo-Shopper. What else can it do?" This came out somewhat slyly. They were deep into nano-bargaining territory now.
The robo-seller internally scanned its -- of course his and hers categories were long-outmoded -- options. It could, of course, claim ignorance of any extra features. But that might prevent the sale, something that would make the robo-seller self-destruct. Livcorp's programmng was nothing if not thorough. "Well . . . ," it hedged.
"Come, come," the robo-buyer said peevishly. "I don't have all day, you know." 
Using its spyware to secretly scan what was next on the robo-buyer's day plan -- the same as all its other day plans for the rest of its life -- the robo-seller seized the moment. "The Robo-Shopper does have a few programmable extras -- "
Greed lit up the LED eyes in the robo-buyer's reverse-engineered miracle metal face. "Such as?"
"Such as . . . the least deadly course to get you home." The robo-seller would have breathed a sigh of relief, it if actually breathed. It had been a bit of a stab in the dark, but since the self-destruct mode hadn't been implemented, the robo-seller concluded it must be true. Whew. Another bullet dodged.
There was a pause in the almost humanoid sexual tension of the back and forth bargaining. The robo-seller added, "You do have one -- ?"
"What? A home? Of course!"
"Haha! Good! Haha! You can never be sure these days!"
"Haha! I know, I know!" There was an agreeable rumble of robo-mirth.
"So," the robo-seller continued, feeling vertiginous from the internal flood of programmed approval, "as I was saying, the Robo-Shopper can direct you to the least deadly course to your home."
"The least deadly, you say."
"Yes. Of course we can never guarantee you'll reach your home alive -- "
"No, no, of course not," the robo-buyer agreed, laughing at the total insanity of the idea. 
"But the Robo-Shopper can even tell you when to hold your artificial breath -- if the ambient air quality's particularly lethal. Which of course it is, in spots, let's not kid ourselves." This last phrase was a gratuitous one, but the robo-seller had ofen found it lent authenticity to transactions.
"Far from it! I don't hold with kidding, myself," the robo-buyer said importantly.
"The gov's doing an awfully good job of deflecting those metal-melting cosmic rays."
Looking up, in unison, they parroted, "Only the sun can kill you now."
"One last question before I buy -- " the robo-buyer said.
"Of course. Livcorp is here to sever you," the robo-seller said.
"Did you say sever? Your word programming must be off. You meant serve, didn't you?"
"Oh, to be sure! I stand corrected! Serve! We are here to serve you!" 
Reassured, the robo-buyer asked, "And how long is the debt-load for the Robo-Shopper?"
"Only about 412 years, or your entire life expectancy. Whichever is longest, as usual."
"Excellent," the robo-buyer said. "Wouldn't want to expire leaving any bad debts!"
"Oh, no. Don't worry. Livcorp makes sure that can never happen."