Disclaimer: It could just be because Japan. This is valid. Because Japan is Japan.
But besides this, a robot goat? Why does this exist? What could somebody be thinking?
Doesn’t Kawasaki build motorcycles? Who knows how much time and money Kawasaki used for this... goat? (actually, I’m pretty sure it’s an ibex because of its large robot horns and because it is named “Bex.”)
Sure, it walks and rolls and it’s weird cute, but I can still imagine people saying, “Hey Kawasaki! Last time I checked, your company is worth $3 billion. Think of all the good you could do with that money. Yet with global warming, with COVID, with Japan’s population aging and economy still in the tank, with North Korea lobbing missiles over Honshu...
“You made a robot goat. What the hell?”
Seriously? Besides, this is Japan we're talking about. What sort of weird-ass mecha-creatures do you think they could be making?
But maybe weird is better than flat-out terrifying?
After all, the United States has animal robots, too. And Americans being Americans, why not go full tactical and strap a machine gun on the thing? Because nothing is more American than a drug-sniffing, weaponized robot attack dog with night vision and advanced surveillance capabilities.
I just start to laugh. First off, it's freaking absurd—and these days, especially as a trans woman, it’s good to laugh at something absurd that isn’t trying to kill me.
Second off, Kawasaki says Bex is designed to help with farm work, as well taking care of the elderly. Those baskets on the side could be there for shopping bags.
Imagine them loaded with daikon.
Imagine hordes of Japanese grandmas on robot goats, terrorizing the streets of Osaka.
I want that future. I want that future for me.
The thing about the future is that it’s going to happen. Robots are coming. Unless civilization falls apart, which is its own kind of bad, technology is going to happen.
To protest technology is to spit into the wind.
It is easy to focus on what could go wrong because so much has gone wrong.
But sometimes things have gone right. There are instances, however limited, where things didn't go to hell—and maybe even did something beneficial.
If we're going to find a way past institutions, economies, runaway technology, to a future that won’t destroy us, we're going to need test cases. Models. We're going to need examples that may not be scalable, but might lead to solutions that are.
Which brings me to the JoCo Cruise. As with the robot goat, one can question privilege and waste and support of something ominous. When I was invited as a writer, I had some doubts.
“You’re going on a cruise? What the hell?”
“Think of all the money spent on that cruise. What else could be done that money? Cities are making it illegal to be homeless—there’s rampant racism, transphobia, climate change. Yes, you want to meet readers and sign books, but really? A cruise? Aren’t you going to get COVID?”
Yes, COVID plus cruise might seem to equal disaster. But being somewhere where masks were required, where everyone was fully vaccinated, with three negative COVID tests, seemed reasonable to me. And, sure enough, there was no COVID outbreak (and all my tests afterward have been negative).
Walking through the boat, I was not only thinking of what each of my cruise mates must have spent to be here—but that so many people could take a paid week off from work.
Yes, this was a cruise of incredible privilege. Many of the attendees were involved in some ways with technology or media—institutions that have historically mistreated and misrepresented women, queers, and people of color.
Because media happens, and technology happens. And it can and has been and will be weaponized against us.
But here, it was not. And that makes a difference.
These people were weird, and gloriously so. There were gamers and otaku, and cosplayers and even a few fans of Jar Jar Binks. People were playing Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. People were dressing as mermaids and singing folk songs about Star Trek.
It wasn't quite Japan-weird, but what is?
But what about privilege?
Funny, that. These people may not have been materially poor, but there are other currencies in our world. Of body acceptance, identity acceptance. Of neuroconformity. Of ableism.
Here were trans people, nonbinary people, neurodivergent people, asexual people. People with social anxiety, chronic pain, body dysphoria. People with ASD. People with walkers and oxygen concentrators. People, people, people...all sharing a week on a boat.
And there were many more whom I did not see.
Yet here, acceptance was a given. People were free to share queer stories, geekstuff, or just goofy derpiness.
(Here, a bunch of writers were trying to write very bad chapters. FYI Nancy the Dreadnaught, Ch. 2, will be up in two weeks!)
I joined in a game about drunken dwarves; someone handed me a tambourine. I even taught Hawaiian hanafuda to someone who brought his own deck of cards.
For one week on a boat, I was nestled in an oasis of brilliant awkwardness.
And I thought. Why can’t the world be more like this?
In Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Commander Benjamin Sisko says, “On Earth, there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window of Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it's easy to be a saint in paradise.”
And, while on the JoCo Cruise, it felt like how the Federation might be—no visible money, food taken care of, everything clean and running like clockwork. Even the scale of the boat felt like a starship.
Also, I noticed an incredible lack of crime. Once, some people were stealing magnets and stickers off people’s doors and mention was made and that was never heard from again. Other than that?
Again, it’s easy to be a saint in paradise.
But, then again, it’s easy to be a lot of things in paradise. It’s easy to be an entitled asshole!
So, even if it’s easy, I’m good with saints.
And, just as with Bex, the robot goat, there is something about the JoCo Cruise that makes me smile, feel better about the future, in the world that we share.
It’s easy to say this was not reality. This was a cruise. And that off the boat, life was going on as it did.
Yes. And I ran into that reality as soon as I got home.
But still, one of my great takeaways from the JoCo Cruise was being in a place where it was a little easier to dream of what could be.
What could happen if we gave more people in this country food, healthcare, and education? A living wage?
How might our neighborhoods change if we embraced awkwardness and weirdness and shared the games we play?
It might not result in paradise.
Then again, you never know.
But for now, excuse me, daikon is on sale.
All other photos by me.