Don’t Trust Robots Bearing Grubhub

Autonomous machines roll slowly over the cracked pavement under a cold, gray, sunless sky. The few people who dare brave the lifeless winter landscape skitter away whenever a robot approaches. The heartless hunks of 3-D-printed carbon and steel inspire fear and revulsion wherever they go. 

If your mind flashed back to watching the first Terminator movie with your parents in a vain attempt to refute their endless nostalgic paeans to the glory of 1980’s cinema (stop-motion plastic models against a painted tarp simply cannot pierce the cynical ennui of a spoiled Gen Z technochild—sorry, Dad) you would be on the right track. But today, I describe something much closer to home and decidedly 2020s. I come, dear reader, not to warn you of a future apocalypse, but solemnly to announce the one which has already arrived. I am speaking, of course, of the Great Grubpocolypse of 2023.

At the time of this writing, the shock troops known as “Grubhub Starships” have secured tenuous control over the southeastern region of campus, and established a beachhead on the sidewalk surrounding DeBartolo Hall. It cannot be a coincidence that these motorized monsters have created a forward-operating base around the building which, given the quality of its water supply, is least hospitable to biological life. This is alarming evidence of the advanced tactical AI running in each of these machines.

The robots are not content to rest in the territory they control. At every hour of the day and night, scouts set out on roving patrols to harvest more resources (flex-points) from unsuspecting students, who expect a good meal in return for their money and lost Vitamin D exposure but instead receive soggy Taco Bell out of a glorified warming drawer. South Quad—that attractively lit, peaceful stretch of grass formerly compared to such idyllic settings as Narnia or the set of literally any Hallmark Christmas movie—is now little better than a warehouse clearing floor, ever-abuzz with blinking orange lights and faux-cheerful recorded voices sounding off their platitudes to “have a nice day!”

We already see how quickly the machines can expand their range of travel. Johnson Family Hall, preserved for a time from the six-wheeled scourges like a small Eden in a vast dystopian desert, was added to their strategic map after only a couple of days. At the current rate, even off-campus seniors will soon have to reckon with the mechanical miscreants showing up to their doors with mediocre food.

Robot apologists will haughtily assert that these newest “members” of our campus community are just trying to provide a helpful service by delivering food. Their point is not wrong, but it is profoundly misleading. Of course the robots will begin their pernicious infiltration by trying to ingratiate themselves with the campus community. Let us stand firm and remember our sage ancestors of the Classical Age. Do not trust the robots bearing Grubhub!

Sources (the author) can only speculate as to what sinister purpose these dreadful droids are ultimately here to fulfill. Their infrared sensors and internal atomic clocks make them the ideal technology to institute a parietals police-state, spying through walls to apprehend dallying guests the first femtosecond after 2:00 am. Or perhaps they represent an escalation in the administration’s ongoing war against electric scooters: the stocky, self-righting robots could easily clothesline 3 or 4 speeding scooters in a day and suffer minimal damage. For that matter, nobody has seen them drive at their top speed. Could they be designed to chase down and topple any scooters in sight? 

The final and most fearful possibility is this: the university, facing an acute shortage of dance venues for years, has decided to go full Reverend Shaw Moore and get rid of dances altogether. How will the robots do this, you ask? If enough students are constantly side-stepping, tripping over, and stubbing toes on the cumbersome little crawlers, the University can engineer a perpetually sore-footed student body, thus cratering the demand for dances campus-wide. Sources (the author) tremble at the thought of such podiatric predation.

The threat posed by these hexacyclic horrors cannot be overstated. However, if there is one glimmer of hope to save us from whatever dastardly purpose the robots are here for, it is the South Bend winter. There is no way those batteries can handle -20 degree temperatures, and these diminutive denizens of Silicon Valley have yet to experience Notre Dame’s prodigious winter precipitation.  Sources can’t wait to see the futuristic failures drive themselves under a snowbank.

Jack McEnery is a Junior Program of Liberal Studies major with digital marketing and theology minors living in Alumni Hall. He can usually be found reading in the PLS lounge while consuming copious quantities of caffeine, and is quite comfortable collecting questions, concerns, or chocolate chip cookies from anyone. You can email him at (especially if you have chocolate chip cookies).

Photo Credit: ND News