It was only yesterday that I learned, posthumously, of the existence of hitchBOT, a “hitchhiking robot” created by some Canadian college professors. hitchBOT safely navigated its way around Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands, and in July set out to cross the United States. After being treated kindly and hospitably in Boston and New York, taken to a Red Sox game and Times Square, hitchBOT made a big mistake.
It went to Philadelphia.
Within hours, hitchBOT was lying decapitated and dismembered in a ditch.
My initial reaction was, well of course that’s what happened. In Latin, “Philadelphia” means “City of Brotherly Love”; but in American, it means “City Where They Chuck D Batteries at Ballplayers.” As a native Philadelphian, I feel like I can say this without prejudice: people in Philadelphia can be really mean. There are plenty of nice people there too, but the mean ones are mean in a special way peculiar to the city.
The more I look into it, though, the more I think that maybe Philly got this one right. That hitchBOT might have been a cutesy, annoying gimmick that needed decapitating. Or, as Albert Burneko put it in Deadspin,
“HitchBOT,” for all practical purposes, was a garbage can with an iPhone in it. It could not walk or stand or fire lasers or open a can of beans. By what standard was this piece of useless shit a “robot” in the first place? The answer: a shabby standard. A Canadian one.
adding (and note to our friends to the north, these are his sentiments, not mine, though they did make me laugh):
If our guileless, simpleton neighbors to the north wish to draw faces on their buckets and treat them like friends, the sparse population density of their pine-fresh taiga wilderness makes this a sad but understandable choice, but the United States is not a receptacle for twee Canadian garbage. It is a grownup land where the humans know each other and do not ameliorate the loneliness of car trips by picking up roadside litter and befriending it.
The decapitation is not the end of the story, however; far from it. Today “surveillance video” of the incident emerged, followed by reports that said video was a hoax (I for one don’t really care; isn’t the whole thing kind of a hoax?). Meanwhile, hitchBOT remains alive on Facebook:
Oh dear, my body was damaged, but I live on back home and with all my friends. I guess sometimes bad things happen to good robots!
And that kind of makes me want to see it murdered all over again. Maybe stoned to death with D batteries. I guess there’s more Philadelphia in me than I’d like to admit.