All of which brings us to a commercial for Bud Light, which features a brief cameo of Rethink's charming machine in the role of a server, pouring an ice cold brew for some anonymous customer who's "up for whatever." It seems like the kind of fun little thirty second spot that might bring a smile to the face of the proponents of a tech driven world view. Lacking any introduction, the slick insertion of the cutting edge bot holds a kind of appeal to those in the know. It's a great way to start a buzz around the possibility of a robotic waitstaff and turn the presence of the little cyborg which is threatening human livelihoods (what happened to the bartender?) into a fun filled experience on the scene.
But Baxter isn't a person. Baxter is a product, and this television ad is a kind of product placement within a commercial. And the gathered crowd of revelers which represents the target audience for the commercial, does not represent upper crust cultural innovators, tech savants, or high powered corporate moguls. This is the class of people which the majority of us in the West find ourselves in, and whose economic prospects are about to be rocked by automation, should it even be possible to maintain the current technological trajectory under the pall of climate disruption and profound economic and political corruption.
Those technological optimists who paint a picture of displaced workers using their creative skills to engender prosperity and taking advantage of their new found free time for intellectual pursuits when the robots take over our jobs, just got their hand shown by the current cultural creators and taste makers over at Bud Light's marketing and ad department. In the view of the corporate machine, Americans, Westerners, and people in general, are not here to pursue their own elevated agendas. That notion is as much a corporate talking point used to sell warehouse bots as anything the alcohol and entertainment industries have cooked up to promote their products. Instead, in their bottom line focused eyes, we are here primarily to serve the interests and vision of the powerful. In the case of the American populace, the commercial asks, "Are you up for whatever?" and then promptly declares "Don't answer. Grab a Bud Light and show it." In other words, don't even take the two seconds needed to affirmatively answer our question, which invites you to passively accept whatever comes your way over an icy bottle. Just grab that beer and demonstrate to the world the wild, unique, and novelty-seeking perspective you wish you had by agreeing to our proposition to embrace our limited and perfectly bland, alcohol mediated definition of adventure.
In language that completely infantalizes the viewer, the commercial goes on to tell us to "...laugh, spin, dance... jump!" In the absence of free thinking and emotionally mature adults, exploration and experience are handed down through an interaction with commercial culture and mass produced consumer goods, whether they be alcohol, high tech gadgets, or the predictable cultural spectacle itself. Advertisers make subtle use of language not simply to sell us something, but to craft us for their own purposes, like a batch of finely tuned, factory churned beer. The profit driven desire to maintain the populace as a pool of mindless consumers is thus evident in the commercial's presentation. Ultimately, these consumers are the people who will have to cope with the technological displacement that Baxter portends, a future which puts to lie the artifice of equating Baxter with celebratory gatherings. In reality, it is an insecure and largely unskilled population held captive by the delusions and fantasies of an intoxicating mass culture, intentionally kept ignorant of the consequences of its actions and inaction, that will walk this difficult road.
The ad's entreaty for us to "make a single weekend last a lifetime" is not about the pursuit of the dynamic, uplifted, educated, or prolific life that a techno utopian might have us believe we will be engaging in. That sort of outlook, which fosters learning for the sake of learning, must be developed through the kind of curiosity nurturing and critically engaged environment that this society has abandoned. Learning for the sake of learning is scoffed at as risky and lacking economic viability. Creative pursuits are largely regarded as the activities of the dreamer and the derelict, ungrounded in anything of practical significance. Instead, this immortalizing of the weekend's tech filled carousing is the pathological, and widely heeded command for us to remain forever as children, and thus the predictable and stagnant purchasers of product, subservient to the whims of the corporate state. "Whatever" is the word of the apathetic and inarticulate. It is also the word of the helplessly indignant. Cultivated into a state of escapist notions, addictions, and emotionally stunted, physical dependency, the populations of the modern world will be caught absolutely unprepared for the social, economic, and environmental destabilization this increasingly autonomous system is fostering.