It’s fun to play on contemporary anxieties regarding artificial intelligence. Where better to start that with the concept of a lost Roomba? It must happen, right?
Here’s the backstory: AI features in the Lumaverse (my worldbuilding project) – first in the form of JCN, who makes his initial bow in Quantum Deadline and is the sidekick of the titular character in J00D. I share some of my notions on AI in my essay, I, Replicant: Artificial Intelligence and Me, and in the short film Farewell, My Android.
This experiment was conceived with Karen Hell after half a bottle of wine as a means of professing my love for my Roomba.
We used the Burner app for iPhone to create “Gil’s Roomba Hotline.” We poured through the available numbers, using PhoneSpell.org, which indicates what a particular phoner might spell. By permitting an “extra” digit, or a “Y” in our case, “707-AI-Purity” leaped out as something with which we could work. Besides the well known “Artificial Intelligence” abbreviation, the word “purity” had a particular resonance since we had recently seen a documentary on Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (Jack D. Ripper’s “purity of essence” monologue being a highlight – “our precious bodily fluids!” – two Kubrick movie references in one).
The next step was integrating the AI Purity concept into the text of the flier. This was achieved using the old acrostic poetry form – the first letter of every sentence spells “AI Purity,” which is echoed by the tear-off numbers below. “Acrostic” would be the first clue offered to those who called the number, which was relayed via computer voice “Alex” via the Free Online Tone Generator site.
Lost Roomba — The Flier
Karen decided the flier would have more verisimilitude if written by hand with a Sharpie pen, which she did. Then it was a trip to FedEx Office for copies.
Then a post to Instagram and Facebook (1200+ views at present writing). The Next Door online community for the neighborhood really embraced it.