Ps & Qs - Jeannie Perry

I’ve got a question for ya; how old is the term “bucket list”? Okay two questions, did a GenXer invent it? The internet is all in a tizzy trying to determine if the guy who wrote the movie “The Bucket List” (starring Morgan Freeman) invented the term, but I could swear I heard it long before 2007. They claim this could be the Mandela Effect: when a large number of people misremember the details of an event, or even the event itself. Just like those poor souls who still don’t think they witnessed seditious treason.

Anyway, hats off to whoever coined the term “bucket list” because I have referred to it often as I knocked off those big dreams one by one! My bucket list has certainly evolved over the years. From setting foot on every continent to watching every Morgan Freeman film, I’m honing in on what makes a life well lived… and all the technology of today only makes it easier to accomplish, e.g. watching “High Crimes” and “Million Dollar Baby” on a long plane ride to Pago Pago. What would’ve been science fiction fifty years ago is now included in coach.

According to several experts in the artificial intelligence field, we might only have about seven good years left before A.I. takes the reins and rarely lets humans out on our own recognizance.* I don’t want to alarm anyone, but the time to fire up that welding torch, or go hiking in Yosemite, or write a memoir called “Sarcasm with Strangers” is now.

In the futuristic book “Klara and the Sun,” parents can purchase an “artificial friend” for their kid. Of course, in the story there are older models sold at a bargain price for the parents who can’t afford the latest and greatest. As long as there are humans (or apes) on the planet, there will be ways to show off one’s status. I wonder if even the robots will develop a way to differentiate themselves. Like, the shiniest one will be coveted by all those with tarnished limbs … 

There was an experiment conducted recently with a robotic cleaner (I, of course, instantly pictured Rosie from The Jetsons). The robot was tasked with cleaning the kitchen and they measured its achievement by checking the level of cleaning fluid used by the robot each day. Then, one day, they caught the robot dumping the cleaner down the drain.

If I’m being honest, I am a little worried about what the world will look like as artificial intelligence takes on human traits and inevitably, takes over. Not so much in an evil-machines-hijack-all-the-diners way like they sold us in 80s movies, but in more of an endless ennui. I mean, what will A.I. do when it realizes there is no point to it all?

There was an art installation in the Guggenheim Museum called “Can’t Help Myself.”** Sun Yuan and Peng Yu designed a robotic arm which leaked hydraulic fluid the same color as human blood. The arm had a large shovel at the end and so it would constantly scrape the leaking fluid back towards its center, even as it continued to spill out. In the beginning the robot had extra time on its hands because the fluid wasn’t leaking much, so once in a while the shovel-arm would stop scraping fluid and do a little dance for the crowd — sort of a one-armed sprinkler dance move that brought joy. But the fluid leaked out more each day and eventually the robot only had time to try to keep up. Then, in 2019, the last of the hydraulic fluid leaked out and the robotic arm ceased moving.

Talk about art imitating life. We think we have all the time in the world when we’re young doing the sprinkler with our friends on the dance floor, but as the years move along, we have to work harder just to keep our joints oiled, and eventually we simply leak out and stop. So right now, while we still have some fluid left, let’s take advantage of this time and space to do what we love.

You can find me on my couch saying, “Alexa, play The Shawshank Redemption.”