“Nanny” August 1952
The Field children are watched over by a robot nanny. But Mrs. Field is worried about what the nanny does at night … she goes outside. It turns out the robot nannies are designed by different firms to fight one another. The Field’s green nanny is badly damaged by a neighbor’s more advanced blue one. Mr. Field takes her in for repairs and learns the truth from the service man, who urges him to upgrade to a new larger model. Mr. Field angrily resists, insisting on getting his repaired. The next day at the park, she is destroyed by a large orange nanny. Mr. Field shops for a new one, choosing a huge black one. He counsels his children to go where they wish without fear now. The next day, the orange nanny is killed by the Field’s powerful new black nanny. The orange nanny’s owner Mr. Casworthy is not amused. He will get the biggest nanny there is, even if one of the robotics companies has to design a new more advanced model. These firms are happy to do so, practically necessitating that owners replace them frequently with ever more advanced (and expensive) models. The story nicely parodies the foolishness of both the arms race and planned obsolescence. With Mrs. Casworthy’s question “Can we really afford it?” sounding a poignant note near the end.
- The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford and Other Classic Stories* by Philip K. Dick