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Noodle drones, ice cream bots, and mech bartenders are the dystopian stars of the Beijing Winter Olympics

January 31, 2022

It used to be that the stars of the Winter Olympics were everyday people like you and me. College hockey players. Jamaican bobsledders. Curlers that look like Mario and figure skaters with personal vendettas. For nearly a century, earth’s greatest celebration of frozen sport was a flashpoint of total relatability and utter surreality; a triumph of the randomness of the human spirit. That was then and this now, however. The year is 2022. Human spirit is a relic of a dying age and if you don’t believe us, just take a look at the breakthrough superstars of the Beijing Winter Olympics, who, as it turns out, aren’t even human.

OK, so we’re being a bit cynical. First of all, COCKTAIL ROBOT! Apologies to all the nordic skiers out there who have turned their lungs to ice cubes and legs to Twizzlers preparing to dazzle the world at 3 a.m. on Peacock, but you just can’t hang with a robotic arm whipping up 90-second martinis. Sorry not sorry. Second of all, and this is kind of the important one, the Opening Ceremonies aren’t until Thursday. Until there are some actual events to talk about, the focus is obviously going to fall on the animatronic waitstaff, remote-control beds, and condoms. It's always about the condoms.

Still though, it’s hard not to view these modern “enhancements” as something more sinister. China has instituted authoritarian measures to control the spread of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, marooning entire communities and patrolling streets with tankerfuls of bleach. This is just another example, albeit a cute one, of the government expanding that control. Only human beings can spread COVID-19 to other human beings, and it doesn’t take a huge logical leap to get to “get rid of the human beings then.” That may seem far fetched, but when the solution to "the Olympics are unsafe" is not to cancel the Olympics, but staff them with machines, any level of cognitive dissonance remains on the table.

Ultimately, when it comes to who (or what) serves the post-dinner soft-serve, this is not a big deal. Don't head for your bomb shelters just yet, slalom enthusiasts of America, but what are the Winter Olympics if not a series of slippery slopes?