’Tis the season to mash (1) commerce with religion, (2) Pringles with pecan-pie flavoring—now on grocery-store shelves!—and (3) jolly old men with magic sleighs and/or technology.
So, having checked off the first item, because it’s ubiquitous, and marveled but gagged upon considering the second, I decided it was time to visit SantaBot.com, one of our era’s most fantastic ruinations of childhood (but one of its least traumatic combinations of jolly old men and the Internet).
I hoped for an earnest discussion about all things Christmas with SantaBot. SantaBot, unfortunately, turned out like many actual humans, and didn’t seem to understand me. Here’s the transcript (yes, this is an actual transcript):
Santa: What’s your name?
Santa: It’s good to meet you, Stacy.
Me: Are you busy?
Santa: I’m never too busy to chat with you, Stacy.
Me: Sweet. How many elves do you have?
Santa: There are many elves to help me. Over 200, altogether. Some are quite old now (they age, you know, although they do not die).
Me: I know the feeling. What am I getting for Xmas?
Santa: I can’t tell you that, but Santa maintains his naughty and nice list (now computerized, by the way), with the help of all the elves who keep track of each person—you probably aren’t even aware they are around you, but elves have a special way of keeping an eye on you. Sometimes if you look quickly enough you might catch one peering in a window or around a corner, but you would have to be very fast and very good!
Me: That’s a little disturbing.
Santa: You don’t hear that sentiment very often.
Me: Well, the fact that they’re looking in our windows and such. It’s a little creepy. Or Orwellian.
Santa: Quite honestly, I wouldn’t worry myself about that.
Me: OK. How’s Mrs. Claus?
Santa: Fine as far as I know. How old are you? My favorite thing is robots.
Me: Old enough. You like robots? What about reindeer?
Santa: Naturally, I love robots. It’s my species.
Me: So you’re not real?
Santa: As real as you are. How do I know you are real?
Me: Good question.
Santa: So what is your answer?
Me: This is getting too metaphysical, Santa.
Santa: You don’t say.
Me: Is it true that reindeer can fly?
Santa: Signs point to yes. Ask Artificial Iniaes if it is.
Me: What? Artificial Iniaes? What?! Is Armageddon coming soon?
Santa: Maybe. Ask John Lennon if it is.
Me: John Lennon is dead.
Santa: He has been re-created as a chat robot.
Me: I don’t know if he believes in Christmas, though.
Santa: I don’t follow your reasoning.
Me: Never mind. So, is Rudolph up to the task of pulling the sleigh this year?
Santa: That is a hypothetical question.
Me: So you’re saying Rudolph isn’t real—?
Santa: Interesting deduction. I am Santa. I give presents to kids.
Me: What is Tony Hsieh getting?
Santa: I do not know what Tony is. Oh, you are a poet.
Me: A poet? Now I don’t follow your reasoning. Do you like Las Vegas?
Santa: Do you like it? I find my work and my relationships extremely satisfying, which is all that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.