You’re woken up by soft ocean wave sounds, generated by an Amazon Echo. It recites the news to you (NPR, the Guardian, and Huffington Post only, thank you), as you get dressed, it slowly brings up the lighting in your bedroom, and turns on a pot of coffee that will be ready by the time you’ve finished knotting your tie.
You walk into the kitchen, another Echo is showing you today’s weather, and your first few meetings. You remember it’s Sandra in Marketing’s birthday, and ask Alexa to order a dozen roses to be delivered to her by noon. Sandra still remembers that night in Pittsburgh, before you were married.
You eat breakfast, perusing Facebook at the table while you wait for your self-driving Uber. It knows that you generally take about 17 minutes to finish your coffee and oatmeal and watch Alexa’s flash briefing. Alexa tells you — softly, the kids are still asleep — you’re running low on milk and butter, and that a drone will stop by at 6:30 pm with refills. You make sure to leave the trash out when you get home, and a Starship robot will swing by after dark whisk your trash off to Amazon’s recycling facility.
Your phone dings and the driverless taxi is waiting outside. On your short trip to work, you watch that new Netflix show everyone on Facebook keeps talking about, and you’ve immediately fallen in love with. You ask the car to tweet: “Elizabeth Moss is so great in this new show. Can’t wait for the ride home to see how this all ends.”
At work, you idly switch between spreadsheets, Twitter, and Slack on your HoloLens headset. You scratch your fingernails against the Microsoft logo. You’re distracted by the meeting reminder that just flashed over your right eye for cake and coffee for Sandra in ten minutes. You’re in a Slack group dedicated to cat GIFs and it’s really helping pass the time until then.
A crowd gathers near the kitchenette on the seventh floor. Everyone is snapping themselves with pieces of Sandra’s cake, including Sandra. Everybody says happy birthday in videos they post to her wall, but no one remembers to sing to her. You return to your desk when your boss pings you about the half-year sales projections for the EMEA region.
You sit back down, place your phone in its holder, and strap the HoloLens back on. The screen becomes the size of a television. You miss typing on a physical keyboard; the tips of your fingers hurt from tapping on a tabletop all day. You take too many Advil these days.
Eventually, your stomach grumbles and you head to the closest Amazon Go. You check in on your phone, beeping past the turnstiles, looking for the same chicken Caesar salad wrap, Diet Coke, and cupcake you had yesterday. For a second you panic when you can’t find the cupcake flavor you like, but before you can think to find someone to ask about it, they’re restocked from behind the cold case, and you pick up the first one.
You walk out to an urgent Slack from your boss, and you run back to complete his request, eating at your desk. After you’ve finished eating, you drop your rubbish into the bucket below your desk. It putters away after a few minutes, off to the recycling facility in the basement, and a new bin rolls in from around the corner. You’ve always wondered how someone gets to the basement from the elevator.
Late in the afternoon, as the day drags on, you open Facebook Messenger and talk with chatbots from Travelocity, Priceline and TripAdvisor about a much-needed vacation to get away from the doldrum. You decide to go with a package deal to Barbados from Priceline, because you really like the bot they built out of William Shatner’s likeness. You ask Siri to save the first season of Boston Legal on your cloud. That show was a classic.
You ask Cortana, the digital assistant built into HoloLens, to change your virtual computer’s desktop image to an image of the Barbados. You ask it what the difference between the Bahamas and Barbados is. You stare into the azure pixels as she answers.
At 5:30pm, Uber pings your phone to tell your ride home is arriving outside. Your children text you to ask what you want for dinner, and as it’s Wednesday, you decide on pizza. You ask Siri to put an order from Dominos in for the usual, and one of its robots shows up at your front door just as you’re stepping out of the Uber. You grab the boxes and your Nest camera recognizes your face, opening your front door that you can’t quite reach.
Your spouse grabs the boxes from you as you put them down on the kitchen table. Pizza can sit in the warming tray until the kids are finished with the VR project on Martian exploration their teacher assigned them last week. It’s due tomorrow, and it still takes a little while to upload VR files to the school’s servers.
At dinner, the kids are talking excitedly about the Minecraft project they’re working on with some friends from school. They don’t look up from their phones, holding pizza in one hand, and their devices in the other. One of their smartwatch buzzes, reminding them that Pixar’s newest 360-degree movie — something about anthropomorphic furniture, or something — is about to debut on online. They rush out, not asking to be excused. You’ve stopped trying to make them wait.
Your spouse seems preoccupied. There’s a new show about wellness that combines ancient philosophies with doctor-backed chemistry. Apparently a drone will be swinging by in a little while with a new powder that will increase your veracity. You ask, “you mean, vitality?”
“No, it says veracity.” It cost $400 for seven ounces, but the rewards points can go toward the trip. You load up dishes onto your Toyota robot and put the pizza box into the trash. You decide to wait to tell anyone you’ve already booked the trip.
You walk into the living room, which empty, apart from a couch, two armchairs, and seven digital picture frames. They’re currently displaying a series of nature shots from the Pacific Northwest, because of a recent Vogue piece that was shared all over Facebook saying the lumberjack look is back. Your two children sit, spasmodically jerking and emitting tiny squeals of joy, as Pixar’s movie unfolds behind the Oculus Rifts they’re wearing.
You wander upstairs, asking Siri what everyone is watching on Netflix now. She puts on a dramedy about life in the suburbs. You think you recognize the Chipotle in the background, but can’t remember the last time you were at that strip mall. Or any strip mall. Or anywhere, really.
You wonder what your friends are thinking right now. You can’t remember when you last saw them in person. You wonder if the synthetic sand on Barbados’ beaches feel as warm as real sand used to.
Your eyelids get heavy. Alexa dims the lights and draws the blinds. Eight hours later, the process repeats.
I was inspired to write this after the year-long project that my colleagues at Quartz and I launched today, Machines with Brains, which explores the nature of humanity in an increasingly automated world.