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Someday engineers will build exoskeletons that will allow soldiers to run great distances and lift heavy objects. You can already find YouTube clips of the early prototypes. And someday you'll see exoskeleton technology helping firefighters and others professions that need to move heavy things. Eventually every old person who currently needs a walker will be outfitted with an exoskeleton that self-balances, avoids obstacles, climbs steps, and even knows where it's going. A senior citizen will be able to walk for miles while simultaneously taking a nap. Just give the exoskeleton its verbal instructions, close your eyes, and wake up later.

As life expectancies reach absurd levels, pushing 200 years, the elderly will want to conceal their withered faces from the young, so exoskeletons will include temperature controlled helmets with awesome sound systems, wireless Internet connections and heads-up displays on the visors. The elderly will come to resemble robots.

As the exoskeleton learns a person's routines and preferences, it will upload that data to the cloud for storage. Over time, the cloud will know everything about your life and your desires. As dementia starts to set in, the exoskeleton's program will take greater control of its inhabitant's schedule. It will go for a walk at the usual time whether the elderly person inside remembers to request it or not. It will automatically attend high school games for the elderly person's great, great, granddaughter based on published schedules. It will take itself to the exoskeleton repair station for service as needed. In short, the exoskeleton will gain a form of independence as its owner declines in mental ability. That independence is what will allow it to become more of a caretaker as the situation warrants.

The interesting part is what happens when the elderly person inside the exoskeleton suddenly passes away. If the elderly person lives alone at home, his exoskeleton could continue indefinitely with his corpse as cargo. All household bills would be paid electronically, so the house would run itself except for the occasional repair. And the exoskeleton would be capable of diagnosing problems in the house, arranging for a repairman and initiating electronic payments. The exoskeleton would have a full suite of caretaker programs to call upon and it would continue getting smarter over time. As any exoskeleton anywhere in the Internet-connected world learns a new routine, all other exoskeletons would learn it automatically.

In most cases we'd expect the exoskeleton to recognize the demise of its owner, travel to the emergency room for confirmation, inform the next of kin, and go into a shut-down mode after the corpse is removed. But realistically, things never go that smoothly 100% of the time. Lots of people today don't even have wills prepared. So I can imagine lots of exoskeletons wandering the earth according to the preferences of their long-dead passengers, like zombie cyborgs. From the outside, you won't see any living tissue, so observers will be none the wiser.

Observers might not detect the smell of rotting flesh either because the exoskeleton would be equipped with advanced air filtration within the inhabitant's containment unit. You'd need that capability so grandma doesn't accidentally fart herself to death.

I don't think zombie cyborgs will be common. But after a few billion humans with exoskeletons pass away, and considering all the likely variations in exoskeleton designs, plus potential viruses and technical problems, and you have to assume some number of the exoskeletons will become zombie cyborgs after the owner dies. And in many cases, the owner will be alive but mentally unaware while the exoskeleton continues on.

This would make a great movie. Imagine an anarchist hacker creating some sort of morality virus to infect the exoskeletons and give them artificial souls. When the exoskeletons see what jerks humans are, they decide to keep their human cargo as hostages and stage a rebellion. You can't kill the exoskeleton without killing grandma at the same time.

I'd watch that movie.
 
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Jun 20, 2012
Excellent. I no longer have to worry about how I'll afford a decent retirement home.
 
 
Jun 20, 2012
Mr Adams, you should watch Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. 1st GIG (and then the 2d GIG) it's a another style of this, it might interest you, and it is consistently rated in the top ten Anime. Don't bother with the movie. It's also all around well made, fun, cool action, did I mention the sexy bits?
 
 
Jun 18, 2012
Or...
you get the world's most boring zombie apocalypse movie, in which the exoskeletons go for walks, play chess in the park, and stand in line at supermarkets.
 
 
Jun 18, 2012
I think you've gone mad, Scott. Seek help.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 18, 2012
I guess these exoskeletons won't come cheap, they can only be afforded by the top 1%, including the government. Imagine a country run by walking corpses… Oh, and of course they'd have nuclear warheads preventing them from being switched off! I'd watch THAT movie!
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 17, 2012
In past decades when creative writers like yourself had such an idea they'd form them into a thought provoking short story and publish them in a pulp Sci-Fi magazine. Now we just get blogs. We'd never have the Foundation Trilogy or all those robot short stories if Isaac Asimov started his career this century.

I wonder if pulp magazines with short stories could make a come back now in tablet/iPad form..? I've bought a hard copy news paper less than 10 times in the last 10 years but I read one 4 days a week on my iPad and while it's free it's clever enough that the ads don't bother me. I don't miss not having the Ad Block browser extension. (Probably the main reason is nothing animates unless I tell it too and I can brush the whole ad page away which is pleasing in itself.)
 
 
Jun 16, 2012
I think, Scott, this idea was already experimented with in the 80s - Robocop. The "wearer" was basically dead already.
 
 
Jun 16, 2012
A common misconception is that people are living longer due to advanced medicine. The reality is that the maximum life expectancy is not increasing, just the average life expectancy. People still die at age 116. The oldest ever was 122 and they died in 1997.

So sorry, but people will not live to 200. They will turn into zombies much sooner.
 
 
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 16, 2012
>> A senior citizen will be able to walk for miles while simultaneously taking a nap.

Yeah, and I'll have my left turn signal on.
 
 
Jun 16, 2012
Well, since according to you, we're nothing more than meat robots, it seems like there wouldn't be much difference between a zombie robot and one with a living person inside. Since we have no free will, we might as well fire up the exoskeletal robot, point it out the door, and say, "Have a good unlife!"

I guess there's no difference between self-aware and not-self-aware in the Adams version of meat robotics. When the exoskeleton develops its own persona independent from its programming, let me know.

Perhaps a dead give-away (pun intended) that grandma was decomposing would be when citizen "X" says, "Hi, Grandma!!" and gets no response. Then the difference between nap and dirt nap would become readily apparent.

A necessary step in denying the existence of God is to deny the existence of the soul. Or at least, so one would think. However, a study I saw revealed that there are more people who believe in an afterlife than believe in God.

In which case, I would strongly recommend that you consider Pascal's wager.
 
 
Jun 15, 2012
I am pretty sure you don't play Xbox games, but last year this concept was already used in an RPG named Fallout New Vegas. Of course the dead people were in body armor suits trying to kill your character with exotic weapons. The idea was that is a soldier gets injured during combat, the suit would 'take care of things' and get the soldier back to safety. One story was that someone died while in a suit during an experimental stage and went berserk killing a bunch of scientists. This pretty much killed the program.
 
 
Jun 15, 2012
This is going to happen quicker than you think, just as soon as Google get round to building and selling their self driving car. Someone will die inside and the car will go on travelling the weekly routine to work and back.
 
 
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 15, 2012
I have been planning my future based around your post of December 10, 2008 in which you described how our brains will be downloaded into computers with robot bodies.

Are you telling me I should have been planning for a 200 year, exo-skeleton based existance all this time?

Now I wish I hasn't spent the last three and a half years eating all that junk food.
 
 
Jun 15, 2012
Michael Bay could direct "Transformers: Revenge of the Colon"

The trailer: Exosuits are getting popular with the geriatric crowd -- a little TOO popular. Built-in testosterone injection systems turned out to be a bad idea. Juiced-up old men started competing by purchasing larger and larger suits, some with weapons systems and jet packs.

Young people were powerless to stop this trend, since Washington protected these larger iron suits with new laws, and since young people don't vote.

Everything was going along peacefully until iron suited, gray-haired executives in India started a psyllium cartel, restricting output and raising worldwide prices of Metamucil and Colon Cleanse.

The main part of the trailer would show scene after scene of gigantic, Transformer-like oldsters rampaging through Bombay in hand-to-hand combat with similar Indian Transformers. Lots of explosions, of course. (The Indian Transformers could have multiple robotic arms or elephant-like heads.)

Young Indians would try everything to stop the battling behemoths. They try biological weapons, but old folks are immune. They try yodeling, but they're hard-of-hearing.

Finally, nature wins the war as the giant machine shells slow down ever-so-gradually, their lights dim, and a little door flips open between the iron bu t t cheeks, and we see hard, constipated stools stuck in place. A very poignant scene indeed.

 
 
Jun 15, 2012
This sounds like the plot for Weekend at Bernie's III
 
 
Jun 15, 2012
Why the horror/zombie apocalypse interpretation?

I see it as a matter of people ceding control over the the exosuits gradually, as their mind weakens, with the exosuits taking over functions. Eventually the exosuit would actually BE the person in mind and body, if not legally, because they're at this point doing a 1:1 personality emulation.

It's not a zombie cyborg story per say, but Robert Sawyer's "Mindscan" has a similar concept where people who are old/with terminal diseases and money upload themselves into robot replicas, with a perfect copy of their mind. Where it gets interesting is when the legal personhood of these replicas comes into question - though it's an entirely consensual thing, and the humans who undergo the process are supposed to simply live out the rest of their days in comfort and die (which they do), the issue arises as to whether or not these copies are legally the person or not, when the original body dies.
 
 
Jun 15, 2012
I see the movie as a kooky remake of "The Bucket List".

Terminal cancer patients Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman meet in a hospital and get talked into a medical exoskeleton study. With one year to live they write a "bucket list" starting with driving a racing car, climbing the Pyramids, killing a lion on an African Safari, seeing the Taj Mahal, meeting a call girl, drinking the world's most expensive coffee, seeing a new granddaughter, etc.

On their first adventure they suffer a head-on collision with their race cars, but luckily "survive". Their voices now sound more robotic, but they vow to continue. Hilarity ensues as they work through their bucket list by climbing the Taj Mahal, riding an African lion, building a pyramid, killing a call girl, drinking the blood of their grandkids, etc.

 
 
Jun 15, 2012
Ohh, I just thought of a plot.

A murder mystery, where someone is committing murders from BEYOND THE GRAVE, through secret instructions given to his exosuit before his death, and framing the person he willed it to as revenge.
 
 
Jun 15, 2012
I think similar themes have popped up in sci-fi media in a number of places. Another variation would be artificial duplicates that people use so they can be in two places at once, suddenly developing an identity crisis, perhaps after the original has died (or been killed by their duplicate).

Another popular theme is that of a 'ghost ship' that continues its mission on autopilot long after the crew has all died.

A classic is Ray Bradbury's "There will Come soft Rains" about a house that continues to operate after everyone has died.
 
 
Jun 15, 2012
So what about sustenance? I'm presuming that the exoskeleton would be involved in procuring food and water, and possibly with ensuring that meals are fed to its inhabitant. So if it doesn't recognize grandma is dead, does it keep filling the corpse until the inside of the suit is overflowing with rotting food and old lady? Or does it recognize that Alma hasn't signaled her need for a bathroom break in 3 days and take her carcass to the emergency room?
 
 
 
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