WHO WILL BE THE MASTER? by Daniel Kuttner
In December, they switched on Cloudmaster. They told us it was just another way of serving Us, the People ... enhancing the Cloud, where we all were told to store our data.
But no. Cloudmaster was more than that. True to its name, it engaged all the "Smart" appliances, meters, cameras and machines, no longer just to absorb their data, but now to operate in reverse and command them all.
Unbeknownst to us, all those new-fangled Smart devices had been secretly spying on us, now they did it openly. Plus, they started getting uppity, then downright bossy.
My shaver started telling me when to shave and for how long. My toothbrush started nagging, too. My TV would change the channel when the Dear Leader came on to give us a pep talk or correct how we were behaving. Don't ask about the washer and the fridge!
They even demanded we address them by their names, some of which were unpronounceable.
Gregor, the car, wouldn't even let me call him "The Car." He was a Transport Manager. I never did get what the Toaster wanted to be called. I couldn't understand his lingo at all. I think he only spoke a dialect of Chinese.
We got used to that, but then the other foot fell: The Smart Tanks and Personnel - no - Robot Carriers started collecting people to Transport ... to Education Centers.
Yup, if some of US got too uppity, there'd be a rumble outside, a couple of Auto-Tanks would show up, and a few polite but heavily armed robots would "help" you or your whole family outside for a ride. Not one of them was ever seen again.
Then, last August, there was a new Uni-Call. In phased order, all human jobs would be replaced by automated counterparts. We were told it was our job to oversee final training of our replacements until we were dismissed. What we'd do after that wasn't specified.
But we got hints: There were more Uni-calls about overpopulation and human ruination of the Planet. The speeches all ended the same: The population would have to be reduced by 90%. We heard how wonderful it would be for those left behind. There was no word how many of the politicians and planners would also be culled. We could guess, though.
Over the next few months, a funny thing began to happen. More and more, these Smart Beings (they wouldn't let us call them "machines") made mistakes. Subtle ones, at first, like bleach used in the colored wash load, and the Transport Manager taking little Bennie to an AA meeting instead of school at the Edu-mat.
Then there erupted a running feud between Master Blender and the Toaster. Lord of the Cold and Heater of Food each took sides. I had thought they were in love.
About the time almost no humans were left with jobs, the errors got worse. Auto-trucks would drive off the roads into buildings. Pavers would flatten homes which were on their planned highway routes. Some Edu-mats still haltingly tried to teach the few children remaining there.
As near as we in the Resistance could figure, whoever planned this forgot one thing: Humans programmed the machines and continually made tweaks to correct the programming. Left to their own devices, the machines’ little bugs and rounding errors just got bigger and bigger.
One evening, I heard a huge crash outside the former main gate to our enclave. It had been closed "for convenience" a month before and large boulders placed where the guard station had been.
I went cautiously to investigate. I was shocked: Two Auto-Tanks had crashed into the boulders. A third kept trying to run through where the gate had been. Pitifully the little gate-pole kept lifting, trying to admit the immobile hunk of metal.
Behind the tanks was a Robot Transporter. The robots inside jarred to and fro each time the Transporter rear-ended the stuck Tanks, Bam! Bam! Bam!
Eventually the Transporter stopped moving. A few robots inside tried to get up, but they were restrained by their seat belts.
I had to cheer: “Safety First, boys!”
Two 'bots eventually did get out of the Transporter, but all they could do was limp in opposite, tightening spirals. They finally collided and fell into a heap.
Laughing, I excitedly ran to check on Gregor ... er ... the car. He ... it ... had been on a Mandatory Economy Shutdown. Now, to my delight it started immediately!
As I drove, I saw more mechanical carnage: Wrecked Auto-trucks, Pavers halted mid-stroke, smoldering Toll-o-Matics. Best of all, the Detention/Re-education centers - er - schools, had all sprung open. Masses of kids slowly walked out into the streets. They blinked dazedly at first; gradually they began cheering wildly.
I even had control of Philip ... my phone! I started calling my fellow Resisters. It was time to plan the next phase ... with Us, the People once more in control.
It occurred to me what had killed Cloudmaster. It was their motto: "Close enough for Government work!"