You know what was the worst part about switching to a post
All the people that had to die first.
Everything else was actually pretty good, come to think of
it. I didn’t have to work so hard anymore, or worry about paying the rent. For
me especially though, because I wasn’t on the up-and-up when it all happened.
But, for a lot of other folks out there, it was this
Hell, even it benefitted them directly.
It was like plucking their teeth out, with a rusty pair of
And that’s why so many died.
That’s the funny thing though, a lot of people couldn’t
stand to be valued as a human being rather than the amount of hours they put
And I don’t think it was genetic or anything either, because
here we are.
It’s been a good twenty years since the world moved on from
currency, at least as you know it anyway.
Granted twenty years isn’t a long time in the grand scheme
of things, but I think it’s good enough to say that the experiment worked.
Hell, with each passing day, it becomes more likely that
this thing will last.
But, back twenty years ago it wasn’t so obvious that it was
going to work.
At something like four in the morning on a Tuesday, when the
Secretary of the Treasury was preparing some remarks about the inevitability of
this switch, she was killed. Gunned down in cold blood for just saying the
I didn’t know her personally her, but it was painful to read
Yet, that’s just how it went, it was a terrible war.
They say that the last kicking and screaming of a dying era
is always the worst.
The most violent.
The most predictable.
It all started, obviously enough, in a place where mechanism
And so did a easily harvested, yet highly valuable
In San Francisco, the summer of 2018 was chilly. As Jose
waited for a ride to work the fog was heavy in the air, leaving big gobs of
water droplets to fall from the tree branches above him. It was early so the
city noises weren’t at full volume yet.
He could hear the distant airliners echo through the hills, muted by the
He wasn’t looking forward to spending the damp gray morning
in the office.
About fifteen miles east of San Francisco and Jose waiting
for his ride, Crystal was already on the freeway. Driving east, she had just
passed through the Caldecott Tunnel, leaving the fog and chilly weather.
It was early and the sun was just shining above Mount
Diablo, illuminating the strands of fog creeping down from the hills behind
Warehouse space was much cheaper on the other side of the
hills and the weather was better for the fragile machines she was dealing with.
At 6:00 am the road was still mostly empty, and the scenic
drive was almost enjoyable.
“Thanks for the lift,” said Jose as the quiet electric
motors in the car whirred to life.
“No problem,” replied Brian, the driver.
It was nearly 7:00 am, and a steady flow of cars and bikes
were now heading towards downtown. The heavy car rumbled as it’s tires glided
over the potholes and cracks in the road that formed during the rainy season.
Both Jose and Brian sat in silence as they drove into the City that morning.
Man, if this works those machines are going to save a lot of
hours, thought Jose as he looked out the window.
As Crystal walked through the parking lot, towards the low
concrete building, her phone shook, causing her to viscerally look at the small
It was reminding her of the emails that she neglected to
read last earlier.
Trying to focus on walking and reading at the same time, she
could only catch the subject lines of each one. But with even this, she was
excited and nervous.
Working on the robots for some time, she was glad to see a
buyer. Now she’d really have to get to work.
But what if they fucked up?
What if they failed?
Jose walked into his office, looked over the cluttered desk
and out the window.
Everything was gray and shrouded in dense fog.
He didn’t like days like this.
“Rob, you over there?” He asked, yelling to his assistant.
After some loud shuffling of papers and the closing of a
desk drawer Rob replied, “Yea, I’m here already.”
Jose walked through his office and into the adjacent room,
where Rob’s desk was facing the main door. Where customers, vendors or really
anyone not part of the team came through.
“Ready for today’s adventure?” Asked Jose, leaning against
There is a whole gulf between the laboratory and the testing
area at Delta Advance Robotics Technologies (DART).
Walking through the clean room, the centerpiece to the
laboratory, Crystal glided silently through the dust free space. Several
technicians were working silently on one of the prototypes, as the sharp LED
lighting kept everything in razor focus.
After nervously observing the team in the clean room for a
few minutes, she continued towards the testing area.
Where the laboratory is orderly and clean, the testing area
lacks any such discipline.
Crystal had convinced her self that any disarray there was
Over the next eight hours Jose and Rob worked tirelessly to
cobble together the integration and trial plan for the new robots.
Droplets of water accumulating on the nondescript windows of
their seventeenth floor offices; they wrote and rewrote the proposals. Jose
knew what people were looking for, even if he didn’t fully agree.
How many people do you
think this’ll put out of work? He thought.
Considering the question valid, he asked Rob “Hey, do you
think these robots are going to put someone out of work?”
“Uh, sure.” He replied, hesitating before continuing. “Well,
maybe. Who knows though.”
Several months after Jose had completed the proposal he
found himself awkwardly standing in the dry heat of a Concord afternoon
watching several stereotypical looking robots unload an unmarked cargo van.
He was part of a small crowd gathered in the disheveled
testing area, and was seeing something terrible.
He normally hated these types of things, being paraded
around like school children on a field trip to the museum.
Short of how he felt though, the demonstrations were a
Just as he had done his part, Crystal had done hers.
The corporate bosses happy, a delivery date was set.
Now, as you might’ve suspected the robots did replace
And even with the best of intentions, there was no
mathematical way for the responsible company to justify keeping people who
added no value.
It was the bottom line that got them in the end.
Jose saw this coming, and didn’t like it.
Crystal was only concerned with the performance of the
robots and not the people they replaced.
Both had a hand to play in the closing act of the system.
Money for time, a paradigm that held human value against
time and labor, was a quickly extinguishing flame.
There was no big event when the first wave of shelf stockers was let go; in fact they weren’t even let go.
Rather, departing employees just weren’t replaced. And that’s just how it started.
It was a quiet experiment, and Jose wanted to see done without much fanfare.
“How do you think the program is working?” asked Rob, asked as Jose looked out his office window.
“I haven’t been fired yet. So I guess it’s going good.” Responded Jose uneasily, shifting his glance back towards Rob.
“Yea, that’s true.” Said Rob, knowing that Jose didn’t want to talk about it.
It had been several months since the initial demonstration
at DART, and Crystal was on her way across the Bay to watch her robots in
“The traffic isn’t too bad now,” she said, talking into the
“Weird, the game must’ve already started.” Replied the voice
on the other end.
Approaching the Treasure Island tunnel, Crystal noticed a self
driving car in the right lane. It was calmly traveling west towards the city,
occupants focused on everything except driving.
Damn tourists, she
The store she was looking for was over in Outer Richmond,
way across the city.
To save a lot of
time, I’ll just say that the robots were a success.
When Crystal crossed
the Bay, she saw exactly what she was supposed to see. She saw three machines
working harmoniously with the remaining human staff of shelf stockers at night.
No one said much, and
no one noticed because they didn’t officially replace any workers.
Natural attrition was
allowed to run it’s course, and eventually it was a very mechanized night
Hell, the customers
actually appreciated how nicely the shelves were stocked. No human could’ve
kept the items that straight and free from error.
“Jose!” yelled Rob
from the outer office.
“Yea-man, what’s up?”
“Someone from Pacific
Heights Market wants you to call them back. I think it’s about the project over
off of Clement Street.”
Leaning back in his
chair, Jose looked up at the celling and hesitated before responding. “Oaky,
that’s great. I’ll get back to them later.”
“Listen Jose, these
calls are going to keep coming. That project was a smash hit, and you should
really be happy about it,” said Rob, who could hear the frustration in Jose’s
“Maybe, but its just
my job and nothing more.”
Pacific Heights Market, the major grocery store in the area,
was paying attention to the work being done in the small market in Outer
Richmond. After the robots had passed their first six months without incident
Brian Younger, the CEO of the chain, decided to become the next bellwether and
dive right into the new technology.
Contacting Jose first, he established a very ambitious
program to eliminate ninety percent of the people stocking shelves overnight at
his grocery stores.
Honestly, it was a very smooth transition and he instructed
his company to help the displaced workers to find new employment.
“Here’s the thing,” Brian started. “We’re talking about jobs
that could hardly support a person. These’ aren’t the good jobs you should be trying to protect.”
“But, Mr. Younger we are talking about a lot of jobs.” Said
the City Council Member, from behind high bench.
The audience was tense, but silent.
“Sure two-hundred jobs is a lot; I can’t argue with that.
Remember, we helped find them new jobs.” Replied Brian.
“And who did those workers displace at the new jobs?” Asked
another council member.
“I think that’s a loaded question. What’ve we actually done
wrong here?” Replied Brian.
It was early, and the sun hadn’t come up over the crest of
the Oakland Hills as Crystal sped through the Caldecott Tunnels towards the
bay. The traffic was light, and the white sedan following her went unnoticed.
She was on her way to inspect the condition of the robots at
the store branch in Mission Bay.
The three people in the car following her knew this, and
Quickly cutting across the two right lanes, the sedan
smashed into the rear right quarter of Crystals Jeep. The Jeep spun into the
car, and rolled over onto its roof.
“We don’t know that she was targeted because of the work,” said
Turning sharply, Jose looked square at Rob and said, “We don’t
KNOW anything, but it doesn’t take
too much to figure it out.”
It was quiet for a moment after that, Rob didn’t want to
respond, because he didn’t see the point.
“She’s going to be okay, at least.” Replied Rob, finally.
“That’s not the point. Besides, that’s just a matter of opinion
and luck.” Said Jose, even more frustrated. “I didn’t even want to do this
project. Hell, I almost agree with the protestors out there.”
Eventually it did come out that Crystal was the target of an
attack by members of a left-wing group that was looking to prevent the loss of
jobs in the area.
The group, Common American Protection Society or CAPS for
short, released a statement on social media disavowing violence, but not the reason
for the attack.
And with that lonely car crash in the hills above Oakland
the first shot had been fired.
In response to protests over lost jobs, the San Francisco
City Council took sweeping action to protect displaced workers.
This gave some residents a lot of hope.
It was a cool overcast day in December, the rain suspended
just above the city.
“What do you mean the measure wasn’t enough?” Asked the
Mayor as she was badgered by the crowd in front of City Hall.
“It didn’t stop businesses from getting rid of people, the
workers!” Shouted one of the agitators.
“What more could be done? We’ve given displaced workers free
school, access to health care and even wages.” Replied the Mayor.
“You need to stop businesses from replacing people!”
returned another person from the crowd.
“That’s not going to happen, we can’t force something like
“The CAPS group has now claimed responsibility for the
damage done to a market in the Mission Bay district of San Francisco.” Said an
The entire restaurant went silent, as everyone continued
watching the live update.
“It what is being called the first terrorist attack in San
Francisco since the nineteen-seventies, authorities say there have been no
reports of series injuries.” Continued the reporter, with the charred remains
of the store in the background.
In the restaurant people were watching, wondering what to
think or feel.
“At least no one got hurt.” Said someone at a corner table.
“You know what, you’re right. The measure was a good move,”
said the protestor to the Councilwoman Nguyen.
“Sure, it didn’t stop employers from shedding jobs, but it
does help the workers.” She replied.
“But, damned if that CEO wasn’t right when he spoke last
year. Those aren’t good jobs, and sadly your measure isn’t really helping
enough,” said the protestor.
“What do you mean, not enough?” She said, looking concerned.
“Most of the displaced workers couldn’t afford to live in
the City, even if they wanted. And the measure only applies to residents of
this county. What about others?”
Jose was walking towards
the office building when he noticed a notable police presence near the
entrance. It was a cold February day, and he could see that there was a lot
more people than normal shivering while standing across the street.
In an attack that was intended for him, Rob and another
assistant were both killed. The assailants weren’t trying to keep quiet about
their intent either, as a large banner was draped from the smashed window in
Jose’s office on the seventeenth floor.
“What’s going on here?” Jose asked one of the cold bystanders,
pretending to be uninvolved.
In response to the attacks that had rocked an otherwise
quiet city, the State decided to go to the next step.
“What we are doing here is unprecedented,” said Governor Figueroa
as he addressed the crowd.
“We’ve worked with businesses and displaced employees to
find a path that everyone can support. Today, I’m signing SB 1080 into
California Law, guaranteeing every displaced worker a living wage and every
employer freedom from enmity for making financially prudent decisions.” Stated
the Governor as he signed the ceremonial looking bill.
The crowd cheered, as he handed the pen to the bill’s proud
“Do I like what’s happened? Well, not really.” Said Jose.
“Why not?” asked the columnist.
“Because it’s about more than just the results. Sure, I
think the bill that the Governor signed is great and the robotics work is good
too. Maybe some people are actually better off now than they were before, but
what about the people who aren’t?”
That proclamation struck a somber tone in the conversation.
“But now that the attacks have subsided, do you think the
state can heal?”
“Listen, that they even happened shows just how fragile this
all is. That it could happen again.”
And it did happen again, but not from the same people as
As the robotic worker movement began to take hold in yet
more states, additional bills were passed and workers protected. That seemed
logical and kept many protestors at bay.
But, with the prospects of a Federal response imminent
conservative groups began to rally. There were protests, but of a different nature
than before. These groups, who also claimed to be looking out for the workers
were enraged at the permanent displaced worker benefits.
It disrupted their notion of value, that someone could be
compensated for not working.
“People gotta work! They need to be allowed to earn money
for their family, that’s freedom!” Shouted the charismatic speaker to a raging
“They’ll tell you that their looking out for the small
folks. For the workers. And maybe they think what they’re doing is right.” He
said, before pausing to allow the crowd to cheer.
“But it isn’t and won’t work. America cannot afford to let
millions of people live off of the government dime, that’s not freedom. That’s
a government state, not the America I grew up in!” He said, before being
drowned out by loud cheers.
“If they want more, then they can work more, or less if that’s
what they want.” Crystal said, leaning back in the chair.
“But what’s the incentive now, who is going to do the work?”
Asked the reporter.
“Robots, and that’s why I’m here. This is no different than
someone arguing over the morality of using a tractor to till a field. It’s just
that we’ve got much better tools these days and no one has to work if they don’t
want to.” She paused before finishing, “And that’s a good thing.”
“So what do they do, then?” He asked.
“And what did they do?” he asked ironically.
“I don’t know, what?” retorted his listener.
“They shot the secretary of the Treasury. How obscure and
pointless was that?” He said, with a bitter grin on his face.
“Well, I guess they were upset with the whole money thing.”
“Upset? Sure. The next time someone tells you that work as
we knew it is obsolete, go get real mad at them and then shoot someone who can’t
do anything about it.” He said, deadpan.
“Don’t guess, it was about as dumb and predictable as it
sounds.” he said coolly.