The Humans Are Dead

It’s old – but endlessly amusing – news. English teachers in South Korea are being replaced by robots. This robot, in fact:


I kid, I kid. Meet Engkey:


Shit got real last fall in Daegu with 29 robots entering elementary school classrooms. You can read more about it at Weird Asian News and CNN (Honestly, the CNN one is more outrageous, with a super-obvious “But what will this DO to our CHILDREN?” fear-mongering bit toward the end. I highly suggest it.). Anyway, I’m not personally offended that the ESL job market is getting smaller due to machines, but this seemed like an opportune time to point out what a real live person can do that a machine cannot. Without further ado, I give you 10 Reasons Erin is Better Than a Robot:

10. Erin can have coffee spilled on her without malfunctioning and exploding into flames. I know this because last Thursday my students spilled coffee on me and no such thing occurred. I was however debilitated by my sadness at the lost coffee.

9. Erin can attempt to comfort a crying child since there are always crying children in English class. The robot equivalent of this would be waving its flippers and spinning in circles. Wait…the robot might win that one…

8. Stairs. The English room is on the 4th floor of my school. How you like me now, you three-wheeled bitch?

7. Though at first glance Engkey looks sleek and wholesome, I want to point out the the two grasping, spiked forelegs in which prey items are caught and held securely. Also, the creepy face that attempts emotion but never quite gets there…you so scary, uncanny valley. I’m pretty funny looking, but at least I don’t inspire nightmares. I don’t think.

6. The ability to get up on my own if I tip over. It’s only a matter of time since my students/everyone in Korea are big on the pushing and shoving. R2D2 here is going to have problems with that.

5. A robot will never tell you how much it likes kimchi over and over again. If it does, don’t believe it.

4. You think you feel like an asshole speaking English to a breathing American? Speak English to a robot with its creepy computer face and tell me how much you like that.

3. No machine can match my “I’m going to make you pee your pants in terror with my eyes” teacher face or the English tirades I can loose upon the disobedient.

2. I can, you know, WRITE with these opposable thumbs. Kind of an important part of English learnin’. Similarly, an anatomically correct mouth with clearly moving lips and tongue for modeling/pronouncing those difficult phonemes like “th” so we don’t have a generation of Namis running around. “Is Peder dere?” (That reference makes sense if you teach here.)

1. Finally, I am not 4% machinery and 96% bloodlust.

UPDATE: For those of you that want to see Engkey in action, here’s a Korean newscast about it. Sadly, Engkey doesn’t freak out and rip any faces off, but it’s really only a matter of time.

7 responses to “The Humans Are Dead

  1. I must say, I’m an avid reader of your blog and look everyday to see if there is something new. Todays Nami comment moved me to almost peeing my pants out of laughter. Nice job Erin~! And of course Megan, too!

  2. hahaha I showed my middle school students a video of this robot. They thought it was amusing. I wonder how long Engkey would last in one of my classes before being dismantled or being reprogrammed as a Tourettes-bot by the kids.

  3. ‘”Children feel the robot is their friend,” said Bum-Jae You, head of the Cognitive Robotics Center at KIST. “Robots are very helpful to enhance the concentration capability of children in class.”‘

    Is robot love really far behind? I love that the damn robot dog is trained to recognize facial expressions, and to respond to them. “Woof woof. You look sad. Going to twelve academies got you down?”

    Also recommending Erin over robot: when the students eventually revolt and try to take over society, the robot will only be able to take out five to ten children, tops. You at least know their weaknesses and will be able to get to higher ground.

    • Aw, thanks for contributing another Erin > Robot fact. It took me so long to come up with 10 – I tried to enlist help from friends and family, but they were just as stuck as I was. I’ve been questioning my self-worth ever since. Maybe robots ARE better.

      Anyway, that bout of sad introspection made what should have been a violent hyperbole bomb of a post pretty tame. So I encourage more reasons why we proud EPIK teachers are better than murderous English machines!

  4. Sigh, I love bad robots.

  5. Cheers on the Nami reference. Hate her! 😀

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