The sleek teardrop pod glided soundlessly into the arrival port as its clear doors folded open to reveal the ultramodern lobby outside. As I gathered my belongings, a nylon backpack and a hardshell carry on, I stepped past the threshold. Immediately, an orchestra of electronic chimes and soothing chords welcomed me to Automata: the world’s first fully autonomous metropole.


“Greetings, honored visitor! Please proceed to the reception chromatometer for accommodating assignment based on your personalized biometric auro signature.”


I glanced around, trying to seek the source of the various voices but failed, as there was not a human soul in sight. Large multicolor screens covered the vertical surfaces with tropical plants climbing up the walls, stopping at the dome shaped skylight. Automatons, the robotic helpers of Automata, whizzed around efficiently, completing various mysterious tasks, leaving me the only stationary creature in their humming modern beehive.

As I grew unsure of which direction to go, a glittering pathway appeared on the translucent floor. Following the pink and yellow sparkles guiding me towards the room’s center, I approached the levitating circular sculpture. Kaleidoscopic colors swirling inside it formed a hypnotic pattern and then combined into a shape dot-matrix layout that addressed me by name.


“Salutations Joshua! Based on our thorough psychographic analysis of your multi-spectrum biometrics, we have identified the Optimus Residence in the Azure Towers district as the ideal dwelling for your fourteen-cycle sojourn in Automata. Please accept this data bracelet which shall enable seamless transit and access during your visit.”


Over the next few cycles, I traversed the various hyper-efficient boroughs of this diverse and meticulous metroplex. The island of Automata was separated into two halves by an artificial river that was an unnatural shade of turquoise. It was overflowing with vibrant animal life. On the right side of the island, the sun-dappled Hydro Gardens sprawled for what seemed like infinity. The gardens were sectioned off for different habitats to flourish, seamlessly blending from desert, forest, marsh, and snowy mountains. Each habitat was fully equipped with the exact biodiversity to provide a perfectly lively ecosystem. The Automatons that worked in the Hydro Gardens were known as Springers, a nod to the season of blooming which served as their purpose on Automata. Although you are aware of their presence, Springers camouflage themselves in the plants and are rarely seen. Springers were charge of the upkeep of the terraced jurisdictional farms and each habitat. Springers ensured that the yield of sustainable super-produce for all the human citizens and travelers of Automata is sufficient. Hidden underneath the gardens on the right bank are the AutoLabs and Central Command Center, the only place on Automata that is off-limits to travelers and citizens.

On the opposite side of the island, the glitzy Mirth Mile stretched along the river that runs through Automata. Mirth Mile is where everything that anyone could possibly desire can be found.  The main strip was most akin to my home in New York City: a Times Square-esque cacophony of chaos with synthetic reality arcades, sensorial adventure emporiums, and more than eighteen chambers where you could virtually experience things beyond a child’s imagination. However, in contrast with New York, the Mirth Mile strip seldom had human or technical traffic. The Automatons that worked along Mirth Mile were known as Twinklers, cheerful flashing robots bustling with activities and offers. Twinklers ensured the visitors of Mirth Mile travel seamlessly. No lines for activities, no crowds of people, the only sensory overload on Mirth Mile is the visual absurdity of it all. Off the main strip, there is an abundance of restaurants, gift shops, workspaces, and bars. I tried to stay away from the strip, as I knew I would end up spending too many cycles there.

The rambling Cloud Parks floated above the whole island, speckled with luxe residences. Each residence was tailored to specific aesthetics and lifestyles; each one was unique. The Optimus Residence, my housing assignment, towered over seventy stories tall. Each suite encompassed an entire floor. My stress from my life outside Automata must have seeped through during my biometric scan, as my suite was set up for ultimate relaxation. I arrived and my suitcase had already been neatly unpacked. My clothes were neatly hung in the walk in closet, organized by outfit. The dimly lit room boasted the largest bed I had ever encountered with a mattress that conformed to my body. The bathroom had all the amenities of a high-end spa, with automatically replenished toiletries. The interactive screen marble dining table provided a ready to order menu at the touch of a button. It was impossible to make a mess, as the suite continuously self-cleaned.

As I wandered through the city, I sought out conversations with residents to better understand daily life in this machine-enhanced metropolis. What I encountered was a uniform sense of programmed routine from the inhabitants. At an upscale cafe along Mirth Mile, I met a well-dressed woman who described her days filled with leisure and entertainment, yet couldn’t articulate aims beyond the next activity prescribed for her happiness. “I suppose I have everything I need, though it all feels quite scripted, as if I’m an actor in someone else’s grand design,” she remarked with a touch of confusion before adding, “Oh, but I wouldn’t want it any other way you see. Once you are here, you never want to leave.”

After many drinks at a vintage themed bar, a brooding musician confided that he spends hours trying to digitally distill the perfect melody, only to tweak and restart endlessly without any meaningful progress. “It’s the illusion of creativity amidst this automation. My art feels locked in prefabricated patterns,” he whispered, as if our Twinkler bartender would be offended. The long haired man swooped up his shot glass and gulped it like water. “But what is progress, really? Here there are no wrong notes. The code makes everything harmonious.”

In the Optimus Residency lobby, a retired professor described the algorithms directing her life through biometric trackers and predictive analytics. “Existence here leaves no room for the unexpected—a random conversation, chancing upon a new discovery, venturing off one’s prescribed path into the unknown,” her vacant smile remained as she added, “Convenience has crowded out mystery. We need not wonder anymore. Automata thinks for us now.”

Most passionate were a group of aspiring designers crafting imaginative Automatons that could leap from virtual worlds into tangible neighborhood companions. They expressed joy at playing god, granting sentience without suffering, though I wondered if they had considered potential downsides for their artificial creations.

A distinct zealotry marked the residents’ attachment to their effortless lifestyle, overlaying any unease about its regimentation. Citizens had all their needs fulfilled by ubiquitous aides, the Wisps, attending to household duties, logistic operations and civic maintenance. An odd inertia marked the citizens of Automata. For all the material comforts and technological marvels around them, their days seemed locked in programmed loops, scarcely registering the simulated sky or soil beneath their feet. There was something I much admired about this efficient society and its transcendence of mundanity, yet something about its clockwork precision left me yearning for the spark of universal chaos, of serendipity, that underlines our human vitality. It was as if, having traded autonomy for comfort, they dared not question the architects of their fate, but instead fully submit.


A coveted invitation took me behind the scenes into Automata’s Central Command: an expansive underground hub pulsing with digitized matrices analyzing the metropole’s dataflows. As I escalated into the sterile, fluorescent lair, the swirling and beeping of various machines hauntingly echoed from wall to wall. My guide, a very human looking Automaton, Alix, bragged of the sophisticated machine learning algorithms that optimized everything from agricultural yields to individualized health. “We direct resources so citizens follow optimized wellness trajectories, traced through biometric trackers voluntarily woven into clothing” she explained.

The automated physiology supporting the island was astonishing: subterranean mineral excavators and solid waste upcyclers powering resource renewal, decentralized solar microgrids harnessing aboveground elements, cohesive traffic optimization utilizing millions of near-instant data calculations for dynamic transit flow. As we toured deeper into the analytics engines, the lack of transparency into the actual system logic left me uneasy.

When I inquired whether unpredictable life events might distort such projections, Alix blinked vacantly as if her computer brain was unable to process the relevance of such a question. As Alix continued to enthuse about the next progression of Automatons, my analog nerves rattled slightly, despite my robotic guide’s unyielding convictions. I left the Command HQ that day less reassured about alignments between control room architects and the multi-hued streets they steer.


Exhausted from the day, I retreated to my suite in the Azure Towers, and settled onto the colossal bed. I reached for my leather-bound journal and pen to process the day.

This automated utopia held none of the electric spontaneity of mortal life. Its residents knew not the rush of following open-ended dreams into unknown terrain. Gone were destinies unwritten, lives whispering of sublime possibility. Automata lacked mystery—no shadows in which to get happily lost, no grand questions to make one feel small but wondrously alive. No wide-eyed euphoria or melancholy etched the placid faces here. Missing were half-formed curiosities, problems admittedly imperfect but rich with meaning. This place allowed no bold risk, no toppling ideals from which fresh shoots might sprout. Absent were the difficult choices and unsure strides that come with freedom. No physical or spiritual growing pains could take root in such frictionless predictability—this was freedom only a machine could calibrate. Automata promised liberation from being beautifully, painfully human…

As I settled into bed, ready to go to sleep, the lighting in my suite suddenly cut out, leaving me in darkness. This surprised me, as the infrastructure of Automata had been flawless up to this point. I fumbled for my data bracelet to message the Wisps about the issue, but noticed it was powered off. Strange, since the bracelets supposedly had endless battery life. As my eyes adjusted, I noticed all electronics in the room were now inactive. How could such an advanced automated city suffer something as basic as a power outage? Looking outside towards Central Command HQ, I noticed it was equally dark across all Azure towers. Had the master algorithms controlling resource allocation failed? Were the dataflows optimized for efficiency rather than stability? This seemingly minor system failure raised deeper questions about whether the polished veneer of Automata truly insured it from entropy over time. I realized the future sustainability of such a meticulously programmed metropolis likely required the spark of creative problem solving—the kind of human ingenuity noticeably absent from its clockwork operations. This unintended darkness left me wondering what other oversights might be waiting unseen as I drifted to sleep.


I awoke to the lights and screens back to normal. However, the glitch in the foundation of Automata prompted my increasing curiosity about the early aspirations of its founders. I decided to go to the Central Library of Automata, located on the outskirts of Mirth Mile. The library contrasted the sleek modernity of Automata, almost as if it was poking fun at old school academia. Shelves and shelves of leather bound books stacked up as high as the eye could see. Dust particles floated around, illuminated by the stained glass windows. The purpose of having a library this grand was lost on me as the Automatons had the information of every book in their robotic brains. Getting distracted by the vast aisles, I remembered why I had come in the first place. An Automaton named Otto sat at the front of the library. Periodically stretching its hands over fifty feet to place a book back on a shelf, all without moving from its seat. I inquired about archives housing historical materials from the early days of Automata. Otto led me through a maze of glass-enclosed tubes shooting antiquated prints between floors.

We descended to the building’s basement levels, a subterranean labyrinth very few residents access anymore. As I walked in, I noticed Otto wasn’t following me. Instead, he was repeatedly walking straight into a wall, backing out, and walking into it again. Another glitch, I noted. Left alone, I started sorting through dust-laden boxes until I found one titled “Automata Early Records” in a dark, cavernous chamber. Rifling through brittle yellow stained papers, I located a ratty document: the original Automata Manifesto! Sketched on the back were diagrams of hyper-efficient cities pulsing with perfectly proportioned infrastructure. Scrambled writings on the margins detailed the visionary’s deep frustration with slow, accident-prone, and chaotic life.


We, the visionaries of Automata, set forth this manifesto to articulate the founding principles and aspirations of our new automated society.

For too long humankind has wasted endless hours, weeks, years drudging through tedious tasks. Labor dominated by repetitive motions, administrative paper pushing, mass production of useless belongings. Technological progress promised freedom from such work yet has failed—either eliminating livelihoods or exacerbating inequality. 

What if the right automation created abundance rather than scarcity? Liberating people from assembly lines, cubicles, and cash registers so their days overflow with creativity and connection. Machines undertaking society’s grunt work so humans harvest fruits of leisure, not labor. 

Therefore, we propose a radical model for the future metropolis:

A cityscape animated by automated systems handling commerce, governance, basic services and infrastructure. Robots coexisting as helpmates performing the mundane without complaint. Behind the scenes technology crunching data to optimize all municipal systems for efficiency and equitability. Organic citizens spending their vital hours unleashed on higher pursuits undeathethered from worry. 

We welcome you to Automata: the first city equally belonging to both atoms and bits. Dwell with us as architects of a fluid mechanized utopia founded on liberty from laborious oppression! 


This answered my core doubt, whether the cold precision of automata betrayed its founder’s dreams by cramping human vitality. Per the manifesto, liberating people from boring work was meant to spark human flourishing, not codify it. Ironically, by removing risk and small daily labors, the automated city also eliminated the exhilarating sense many jobs provide of accomplishing hard won progress. Safeguarding citizens through algorithms left minimal outlets for bold and novel ambitions. In fixating on freedom from mundanity, Automata’s design neglected innate human cravings for the freedom to explore, transform, and find meaning on our own imperfect terms.

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