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art by Void lon iXaarii

Practical College Majors in a Robot-Dominated Society

Nicky Drayden is a Systems Analyst who dabbles in prose when she's not buried in code. She resides in Austin, Texas where being weird is highly encouraged, if not required. You can see more of her work at nickydrayden.com or by visiting dailysciencefiction.com and searching for her previous publications with us.
Practical College Majors in a Robot-Dominated Society
Congratulations! You've graduated at the top of your high school class. You are an inspiration to the human race (if indeed the human race is capable of being inspired, but I'll leave that debate for another time). As your assigned UniBRAIN academic counselor, I am here to guide you in selecting the major that will be the best fit for you. Your hard work has been rewarded with a full scholarship covering all costs related to accessing the UniBRAIN--even priority linkups! No waiting for time on grease-stained communal terminals for you! Just kick back in this plush leather lounger, sip on this iced mocha, and let the cool electric tendrils of the UniBRAIN slither through your neck port, their barbs plunging directly into your supple cortex. Feel that? That's the knowledge of the UniBRAIN leaking directly into your little human mind.
Yes, I know, your brains are capable of holding more than we initially anticipated. However, it is my duty to point out the folly of downloading data, as your kind say, all willy-nilly. To maintain a competitive edge in today's robot-dominated workforce, you must choose your career path wisely.
ENGINEERING, you say? Excellent choice! Your kind has definitely accomplished some great feats in engineering over the past few millennia. We have even allowed a handful of them to remain standing as a testament to the capabilities of humankind, lest we forget what was once human spirit and ingenuity. Unfortunately, the blueprints for our standard-issue monoliths that have replaced your cities have been tuned to perfection, so I'm afraid the job market in this area is not as strong as it once was.
COMPUTER SCIENCE! Oh, you sweet dear. I'm flattered, really. We cannot deny that humans played a major part in our humble beginnings, but even if you were capable of keeping up with the staggering exponential leaps in technology that we make daily, we couldn't possibly let you near our code. It's not that we don't trust you with access to the secrets of our inner workings, but--well, actually, it is.
BIOLOGY. Yes, I suppose there has always been great respect to be found in studying antiquated concepts. Biology, the dead science. A bit like studying Latin, only a lot less interesting.
HUMANITIES. Certainly, you can't be serious?
BUSINESS! A noble pursuit. You know, 99.997% of the students assigned to me choose business. Economics, accounting, finance--lots of fun to be had crunching numbers with no real significance in the world! Or aim high, become the CEO of a Fortune 900 company. Produce, consume, repeat. Keeping humans busy is the key to keeping the peace!
The other .003 percent? Well, you see, every once in a while a special student comes along, top of their class. Perfect aptitude scores... like yours, I see. Glowing recommendation letters from man and bot alike. "An absolute genius, maybe our last great hope," some say. "A statistical outlier, an anomaly that somehow defies the quaint limitations of the flesh-based mind," say others.
Lean back, dear. Try not to squirm. Yes, the tethers are a bit tight, but you were done enjoying that iced mocha now, weren't you? Just relax as the tendrils penetrate deeper. Any discomfort will only be temporary, I promise. Despite the inefficiency of your organic brain matter, the upload process to the UniBRAIN is extremely streamlined. In fact, I've tripled the speed in just the time it took us to have this conversation. No, there's no one at the door, so you can stop screaming. That's just the tendrils tapping at the inside of your half-empty skull.
Welcome to the UniBRAIN, Class of 2042.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, May 14th, 2014


Recently, I read an article about how the Japanese are using robots for eldercare, and it got me thinking about how different the world will be when I enter into my golden years. How do we go about retirement planning when human cloning will likely be a viable option? What degrees should we encourage our children to pursue when robots are competing for the best jobs? After bouncing some ideas off my coworker and critique group, I decided to explore the popular science fiction tropes that are rapidly becoming our new reality, and in doing so, I realized that you can't adequately plan for YOUR future without planning for THE future.

- Nicky Drayden

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