Keep robots outta my trousers – say no to nanopants

by Apr 22, 2015Humor

keep robots out of my pants - no to nanopants

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There was a time in my life I might have fattened the lip of someone who told me I should be wearing nanopants. Thankfully, I’ve mellowed with age. Now, my response is more along the lines of an eyebrow-raised, “Reeeally?” followed by a furtive glance in each direction in search of the nearest escape.

But there I was, face-to-face with nanopants. Well, not literally, but virtually as I was surfing the web shopping for easy-care travel clothing. It seems everyone is gaga over the stain-resistant properties of clothing using nanotechnology—the science of manipulating atoms, the fundamental building blocks of nature, into shapes and structures that serve our needs and desires.

I know what you’re thinking—if they can do that with travel pants, imagine what the future may hold—and I’m right there with you. But before you race off gleefully into the stain-resistant future, think on this: Advanced nanotechnology requires miniature (and I do mean teeny-weeny) robots to actually perform the manipulating and positioning of individual atoms, all less than 1,000 nanometers, which is so small they had to invent a long word just to describe it.

Sure, right now, the manufacturers of these pants and shirts are relying on basic nanotechnology. And the hype machine is being fueled by the hot breath of a thousand marketing types ogling over a new word to use with technology that slaps an added $10 to the selling price just to account for the extra letters used on the hangtag. However, today’s basic technology is but a dream away from tomorrow’s scientific advances, and that means nano-sized robots. And don’t think every athletic, adventure, outdoor, and travel apparel company hasn’t already thought of this.

So there you have it—my worst nightmare: Tiny robots running around inside my travel pants.

In his book, “Engines of Creation,” author Kevin Ulmer gets downright giddy over the prospects of microscopic robots assembling proteins into machines. Frankly, the thought of tiny robots scurrying around my travel pants, even if I can’t see them, gives me the willies.

Of course, I can see the advantages for nanopants technology in adventure travel garb. After all, there is a lot to be said for finishing any trip looking as clean as when I started, and all thanks to nanotechnology at work, removing stains here and there, and keeping me looking fresh and primped.

Still, I can’t help but wonder who would actually be controlling these little guys. I mean, what if I don’t get dirty enough for them and they start getting bored? Will they jump ship and start looking for stains anywhere they can find them, such as—and this makes me really, really nervous—in my undies? I can only imagine how hard it will be to walk normally with a million little robots, all wielding nano-sized scrub brushes, darting in and out of my clothes in search of dirt. What if they tickle for goodness sake?

Perhaps, I am overreacting a bit. But someone has to wave the flag of caution here. In April 2003, Christine Peterson, president of the Foresight Institute, testified before Congress on the Societal Implications of Advanced Nanotechnology.

In her speech, she warned of a few potential negative effects, such as accidents, lack of access and deliberate abuse. She must have been reading my mind. Certainly, nano-robots will have to be smart, but what if they get too smart and develop a sense of humor. I can see it now. There I am, minding my own business on a very quiet stroll down a European cobblestone street when a band of rogue and very bored nano-robots who’ve been hanging out in the stain-free zone gang up and decide to limit access to my nanopants during a moment of urgent need. That leads to an accident I haven’t endured since kindergarten.


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While I realize stain removal is their life, and being responsible little guys they’ll clean up after themselves, I’d still view that as deliberate abuse.

Which is why, out of concern for our safety and our future, I am starting SNROP—short for Society for No Robots in Our Pants. What about robots’ rights you ask? Please. These little guys can get jobs anywhere I imagine—cleaning luggage, cleaning tents, cleaning disgusting airport bathrooms. Just keep them out of my pants!


Other humor essays by Michael you will enjoy

If you enjoyed reading about Michael fighting to keep robots out of his undies, you will also enjoy reading about his being bamboozled on a climbing trip in Fear and loathing while climbing Moosedog Tower or discovering he is not meant to fly in Learning to fly a hang glider. Or how I nearly wet my pants. You’ll also love reading about Michael being on the receiving end of a much-deserved insult in British insults: Yeah, I deserved it. And then there is the dog sledding classic An Iditarod adventure – In March, Nome Alaska goes to the dogs. We hope you enjoy the chuckles.

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No Robots In My Pants

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  1. You bring up an interesting point. I think it is important for everyone to consider the impacts of the technologies that make life easier. This is especially true for travelers; I think we naturally are open to new ideas and therefore are fairly tech-savvy, but it’s never a bad idea to slow down and consider whether to invest in that newest gadget being marketed to us.

  2. I am so confused by this concept. Pants made of tiny robots? I’d really rather just throw my clothes in a washing machine, if the alternative is wearing robot pants haha.

  3. This makes for a very interesting read. One does shivers if not shudders to think of what the future holds in the hands of these Nano robots! Technology when harnessed properly can be used to make life more easier, but at the same time things can indeed go awry with disastrous consequences.

  4. Such a great read! Ok I really don’t want robots running around my clothing but….. on second thought, as a long term traveller, sometimes it is a pain to get my laundry done while on the road. Geez, these little guys could be a real bonus. No wearing clothes that are really due to be cleaned. No running back to the laundry guy to look for my favourite missing LuLuLemon sock. No paying the hotel service just to be all squeaky clean again. That does it! I support nano robots in my clothing!

  5. Nano robots taking over the world cleaning up as they go… I can see it now! Interesting topic though. I’ve never heard of such a thing and wonder when and how someone decided this is something we need in our life!?

  6. Technology is one topic that could be talked about for hours. Honestly, I do not want to miss out on some technical achievements today. How about a life without electricity or without some medicines? But thinking further, I’m not sure if I need a robot to clean my apartment or do some shopping for me. But since I do not know what life is like, I can not judge it either. In the past, no one knew what life was like on the railway, there were certainly people who were against it … and would we want to give it up today?
    A hot topic …

  7. very interesting and thought provoking. I support SNROP. I don’t want to be controlled by technology and in fact i want to start another movement – Say no to mobiles.

  8. Interesting thoughts on technology. I’m half Japanese and half American and lived in both countries growing up. I find it interesting that Japan has always had a more positive view on technology and robots compared to the states. Only after living in the states, did I start to hear more negative feelings towards technology and robots. It’s definitely something that is of interest to me 🙂

  9. Interesting thoughts, that is for sure. It won’t be long until the technology just controls everything before we even know we need it, I guess.

  10. Okay this made me laugh but also put me thinking. The technology laden future seems amazingly crazy. I guess all we can do is wait and watch. I would certainly not want tiny robots running through my pants – I’d be happy with my dirty linens instead.


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