Benjamin Law Plans to Spend His Old Age with a Robotic Seal


Always awe-struck by technology, the creator of The Family Law has his eye on a robotic baby seal. As told to Kate Barracosa.

How much time do you spend looking at screens?

Every waking hour. When I wake up, I look at my phone to scroll through Twitter. I read news over breakfast on my laptop (I buy newspapers on the weekend) then I work at my computer and I look at my phone to take a break. It’s endless.

Do you ever put limits on checking your mobile phone?

I had a new year’s resolution to stop taking my phone to the bathroom but I’ve given up. I think most people do it now; it’s an unspoken shame we all carry.

What social platform do you use the most?

It changes. I’m on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They all have their place and I go to them when I’m in different moods and wanting different things.

Why did you join Twitter? 

I’m a freelance writer, which can be an incredibly solitary pursuit. I don’t have a regular workplace or get to talk over the cubicle so Twitter simulates that for me.

What apps do you like?  

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock wakes you during the lightest part of your sleep cycle so you don’t get up feeling like you’ve been punched. I read the news via the ABC, The New York Times and The Guardian apps. I bank with Suncorp and, weirdly, love their app. I like Instapaper for saving stories to read later and Pocket Casts for podcasts.

What podcasts do you listen to?

Everyone listens to it: This American Life. We [Law and his partner, Scott] used to order it from the US on CD before podcasts existed.

So you liked it before it was cool?

I did. But I think that also shows how old I am. And I really like Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb’s Chat 10 Looks 3, Richard Fidler’s Conversations, Gimlet’s Science Vs and, if I’m in the mood, NPR Politics. Don’t judge me but I also listened to Making Oprah, an oral history about how The Oprah Winfrey Show was made. 

Apple or Android?

I’m a total Apple geek. I’ve got a MacBook Air and I feel like that’s the perfect computer – it has the right number of ports. I’ve got an iPhone 6, a really old iPad and Apple TV. I’m imprisoned in Steve Jobs’ fortress of technology.

What was your last tech purchase?

Apple TV. I wanted to watch SBS On Demand and ABC iview in a native app rather than throwing it to the TV.

Does any technology confuse you?

Snapchat. I guess that’s when you know you’re old: you stop listening to Triple J’s Hottest 100 and are baffled by a social media app that everyone’s using. 

As a writer, where do you stand on e-books?

They totally have their place but I still travel with books because I’d miss their tactile quality. The way books are packaged is a bit of a gift.

How would you describe your attitude to technology?

I was one of those kids who watched [television show] Beyond 2000 and had their mind blown away by the idea that one day you might be able to order a pizza through a computer. Now you have this palm-sized device that has more processing capabilities than the computers that took humans to the moon. It’s extraordinary. And when I get to an old age, I hope those robot baby seals from Japan [Paro therapeutic robots] are so cheap that I have one.

You could have a room full of them...

Exactly. They will be my best friends. 

SEE ALSO: Craig Reucassel on E-Waste and Wi-Fi-Free Holidays

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