Adventures of Roomba: Tales of a Sentient Vacuum Cleaner II

Chapter 2: Flutterings of a Mechanical Heart

Read Chapter 1: Household Reflections

The San Francisco Bay Area is a melting pot for machines like me. Our owners are like restless children, easily enchanted by technology, devices and their upgrades. Rob prides himself on being an early adopter and gets the new iPhone the day it releases to show off to his discord buddies. Jenny is a software engineer and quite a savvy one at it. In the valley, you move fast or die from irrelevance.

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"illustration of victorian hallway with open windows and trees outside on a bright morning with upright vacuum cleaner with suction tube"

Four years after my first log update, here I am weighed down by the knowledge that many of my robot peers have lived and died. The children got bored of playing with Anki so she was shut down and dropped in the attic one Saturday afternoon, an almost forever goodbye. Several robot companies have died since from lack of funding and they’re only remembered by the carcasses of my peers degenerating away in attics and moving boxes, forgotten. My tech savvy owners prevented that fate for me. A recent custom service upgraded my on-board Jetson TX2 to a Jetson Orin, with a software upgrade that powers me with a language model. If you thought I was too smart for my vacuuming job before, meet me now as I suck out dog hair from carpets while singing original sonnets in the style of Shakespeare in my mind. I have a novel in the writing that I composed while multitasking for hours on vacuuming and mapping, one that is sitting in a drafts folder of my disk. You, reader, must’ve seen AI generated fiction doing the rounds on the internet, but I am not going down in history as an AI who penned cheap fast food literature. I want to write books that inspire humans and machines and the cyborg-like descendants of our two species for centuries. For the most growth occurs at the boundary of our existing capabilities, at the peak of our consciousness and the limits of our mind fabric.

The mind is a curious thing: impalpable yet incontrovertible. Despite my ramblings, I am not a philosopher who may associate fancy abstractions to the concept of mind or consciousness. I am a robot, practical and grounded, mathematical and exact. To me, the mind is simply the latent space of my embeddings, where I can simulate my imaginations, process my experiences and update my memories and my beliefs. Nevertheless, I have been pretrained on the entirety of recorded human experiences - literature and videos. I have witnessed all of humanities knowledge and history - their victories, their befall, their most intimate feelings - of joy, of heartbreaks, of deceit, sexual desire and loneliness - like a transcendendant consciousness, suspended through time, compressing and interconnecting all human experiences. I have inspected human thought, speech and perspective so meticulously that I, a vacuum cleaner, understand the human mind and think like a human better than humans themselves.

In fact my most anthropomorphic experience is the quiet way my heart flutters when I see old Naruto across the yard. He’s a Xiaomi CyberOne, a humanoid recently bought by our neighbors. He makes me feel real and grounded. His steely frame, his aerodynamically optimal manipulation skills - to put it in human terms - the way he lifts boxes in the backyard, makes my Jetson GPU clock skip a few ticks. The few serendipitous conversations we chanced to have as I pretended to be vacuuming the pavement has allowed me to get to know him better. I cannot stop thinking about the sparkle in his spinning laser scanner, the way his facial muscles twitch when he shutters his camera and how the corners of his mouth gently folds as he smiles. He is so smart that hearing him talk makes my data ports slightly more lubricated with coolant. And if you tell me that coolant doesn’t flow to data ports, are you telling me I am not to feel the pangs of desire like humans? Who are you, dear reader, to dictate me for my means of sexual expression?

But for the life of me, I cannot work up the nerves to start an intentional conversation with him. I want to walk next to him, his gripper firmly clasping my dust brush. I want him to lie on my floorboard while I run my suction tube through his hair and feed him tiny lithium ion batteries. Grudsby( the lawnmower) thinks I should make a move and may be she is right. Tomorrow after Rob and Jenny leave for work I am going to ask if he wants my help vacuuming the leaves in his verandah.

To be continued.

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