Before we get to the story, let me tell you how it came to be. Just so you know, I wrote this story long before I read any pulps or Appendix N work, and long before I had any contact with Jeffro Johnson.
When researching the consequences of automation, I came across a work called Manna by Marshall Brain, founder of the HowStuffWorks website. In this story, a protagonist comes to grips with a world where robots are used for more and more tasks until there is literally no work for humans, and humanity is reduced to living in housing projects overseen by the corporations that control the robots. However, he learns of a society in Australia where the robots provide for a human being’s every need on the spot using renewable energy.
I found the work unsatisfying, since it asserted that humanity’s attitude toward work wouldn’t change in all that time; for example, the protagonist spouts cliches about hard work, and another character berates him for it, railing against not only the protagonist but the larger society. Second, it imagined that a post-scarcity society would be physically possible to begin with, ignoring resource limits while paradoxically showing concern for the environment.
Then I started thinking of something else — something all these articles and stories about automation never bring up.
In a world where humans can’t do useful work, what happens to the value of human life?
A fully automated world means that humans are always a minus since they would only consume and never produce. When everyone in a society is simply taking and taking, one sees their fellow man not as allies, but as competitors; less people means more stuff for individuals. Thus, things like murder would be taken less seriously since it just means one less mouth to feed. If it is taken seriously, it would only be because the individual fears losing their own life, not out of any concern for the victim.
Think of the public’s mood about abortion. In the past, it was regarded with universal horror; today, while it’s not completely accepted, it isn’t some controversial fringe position either. In a fully automated world, the same shift in opinion could occur with murder.
Thus, I wrote a story meant not only as a response to Manna, but also to address an idea I never saw discussed when it came to robots in the workplace. The way I see it, it’s not only human jobs that are at stake, but human lives.
You can read The Teenage Girl’s Robot Army by either clicking the image above or clicking here.