Is Celebrating Marty the Robot’s Birthday Ushering in Our Robot Overlords?

Print More

On Saturday Jamaica Plain's Stop & Shop celebrated Marty the Robot's 1st birthday. It's fair to argue that robots don't have birthdays. But tell that to C-3PO!

I'm not going to lie to you. I was suspect when the supermarket introduced a robot to beep beep beep around the store informing employees there's a spill, a product fell off the shelf, or other "not supposed to be there" things happen. Oddly enough the robot has the same name as Boston's mayor. And there are lots of Marty's throughout Stop & Shop's and their parent company's other markets across the country.

A young girl gives Marty the Robot a hug at his birthday party. (Courtesy image)

Full disclosure: My 2-year-old daughter LOVES Marty the Robot! Loves. It's actually how I get her to come food shopping with me. "Want to go see Marty the Robot?!" to which the reply is, "Yay! Marty the Robot!!" She actually talks about Marty the Robot to friends and family. She's been disappointed when we've gone and he's not working i.e. recharging. She loves watching him, or going up to him -- which stops him from moving and doing his job.

She doesn't understand that some people are bothered by Marty. Folks feel that the robot is supplanting humans and taking jobs away from people who need them. She just likes the thing that goes beep, beep, beep throughout the store.

To celebrate Marty's 1st birthday, Stop & Shop had a little party at the Jamaica Plain store at 301 Centre St. They had music playing with fun coloring activities, party hats, cake, and lollipops. Basically it was a free kids event, and many a parent loves free events that occupy their littles ones time. Most likely party attendees happened to be shopping and come across the celebration.

But there's a tongue-in-cheek question: Does Marty the Robot's existence threaten humanity as we know it today? Right now all Marty does is stroll along the supermarket letting the human employees know when they have to pick something up. I can tell you that some employees are not fond of Marty. Sometimes Marty is somewhat erroneous in identifying things that need to be cleaned up.

As for robots taking human jobs and eventually taking over. Let's be honest -- Marty is merely another step in that direction. How soon will we see another robot who can clean up whatever Marty detects? Or a robot that can pick up the fallen bread loaf from the floor and put it on the shelf? Will we soon be having our deli orders taken by a robot?

This is not how Terminators take over. Johnny 5 from Short Circuit was also a military machine that goes awry -- but doesn't try to take over -- Johnny 5 just wanted to live its life with Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy. They were military machines from the get-go. I'd actually bet that no "robots taking over" movies start with a robot that works in a supermarket. They are usually doing something else. They work for the government, and usually with the military. They program machines that fly or do other technological actions.

To wrap it up. Marty is rather goofy. It's meant to be nonthreatening. It doesn't speak, and has googly eyes. So come to think of it -- Marty is actually a perfect robot to take over. You just wouldn't expect it. One minute it'd be saying clean up in aisle 5, and the next minute it'd be attacking a human and making a mess in aisle 5. Is it going to happen? Probably not.