"Given that sexuality
is polymorphic, why should not evolved consciousness be able
to morph? And can the process be reversed? Given our current
technology and the limited means at our disposal, I would
say the chances of recovery are slim. The patient is to be
wholly credited for any improvement as reversal of the condition
will require technology that is currently science fiction."
Dr. Arnott, transcribed
from review meeting.
It was a gamble. Nobody dared to say
exactly what the consequences would be. Eventually, it was
decided that considering how far gone he was, the risk of
aggravating him was worth taking if there were any beneficial
effects at all; the boy had to be drawn out of his shell.
If he refused to be human, which he had adamantly done for
years, any momentary piercing of his cold exterior of imaginary
alloys would be a success.
The slavering press had a field day
when the police released the details of the gut-churning Gunn
case. The papers had called the boy's father "the vilest
paedophile of the decade" and "the most evil man
alive". This was an overstatement in light of an ongoing
corporate genocide in Africa, but then again, their crimes
against humanity were only more brutal in terms of quantity,
not in quality.
At the age of twelve, shortly after
his father had been stabbed to death in jail, the boy had
decided to take on a new persona. This had seemed reasonable
at the time, but it had consequences a systematically abused
twelve-year is excused for not foreseeing. Besides, the alternative
was unthinkable. And that was how the life of Daniel Robert
He had decided that the best course
of action was to be a robot, like those he had seen in movies
and cartoons. Incapable of emotion and by correlation incapable
of being harmed, he became R.DG1, the robot child.
And he remained so. Three years passed,
but in his padded cell the robot found the serenity of indifference.
If not ordered to do anything, he sat still as he assumed
robots do until the lights went out. Once, in a note he secretly
handed to the night watch, he expressed an almost human wish;
he wished that his regenerative cyclewhat the watchman
would call sleepwas shorter. But he never talked about
it again and soon came to believe that he was damaged beyond
repair, though he could not say how or why.
* * *
A few days ago, the therapists were
excited because R.DG1 had expressed an interest in interaction.
This was considered a major breakthrough by the white coats,
but their hopes were ground into flakes of steel when they
realised that the robot boy only wished to interact with other
robots. And he would read about them first, in books.
He was, in human terminology, eager
to meet robot friends. He wanted to know what the other members
of his species were up to, and he decided to do some research.
However, he was outraged by the treatment his fellow robots
received in the stories, finding both characters and authors
equally condescending. Robots were portrayed as either tabula
rasa constructs which made them obedient idiot automatons
or they were menacing, emotionless murderers.
During his brief time on Tellus, he
knew that the vast majority of people didn't fit into these
two categories at all. It didn't feel right that these writers
should appropriate these traits to slander robots who, to
the best of R.DG1's knowledge, had never done any wrong and
quoted the robot dictum in an e-mail he sent to his therapist;
"robots don't hurt people, people hurt people".
He thought he would feel anger, but
felt no emotion, just the calculating pseudo-neurons in his
head working at a greater efficiency than they usually did.
His breathing became fully autonomous, his vision focused
and his eyes became slits as he felt his blood circulation
A tantrum and two sedatives later,
he was escorted back to his cell. But Dr. Arnott did not give
up on him just yet, nor did R.DG1 abandon his desire to interact
with his fellow robots and two days later he was allowed to
interact with an "unevolved" version.
They had described the MMI to him.
It was shockingly crude, incapable of polyanalysing problems
and too primitive for independent cross-verification. It was
in fact ancient, which presented somewhat of a problem, for
he was unsure how he would interface with the inanimate computer.
The boy who was a robot sat motionless
in front of the computer. Grudgingly, his thin arms placed
his hands on the keyboard. And nothing happened.
"What can it do?" he asked
"You can find everything you need
on robots on the net. It's like a database."
The boy locked eyes with the machine,
but did nothing.
"Maybe you should have just killed
me," he said, shattering a silence saturated with human
expectation. "When I was made, I mean. I will never be
human again and there's no point in trying."
"What do you mean?" asked
his therapist. He couldn't even remember her name.
"Expecting me to interact with
this computer. It's clearly designed for a human interface,
not a robotic."
"Well, what's the difference?"
R.DG1 said nothing.
"Here, I'll get you started. Just
give one of them a try."
The therapist interfaced with the machine
and the screen changed. She was searching for something.
"There we go," she said and
disconnected from the interface. "It's all yours now.
See if you can't find a story you like more. Lots of people
write about robots, you know, they're all over the place."
"It's just that I'm the only one
in here," he said matter-of-factly and attempted to interface.
To his surprise, it worked. He mastered the primitive equipment
with ease and soon found a plethora of robot stories.
If his psychiatrist was going to hold
her breath until he found a story he liked, one that treated
robots truthfully, she would have asphyxiated herself, which
he could not allow.
"I'm fine," he said. "Just
leave me here and I will call for you when I am done."
She left him, closing the door behind
her. He knew she could be staring at him through the camera
eye, but he couldn't be more unaffected.
After attempting to find something
redeeming in two stories, he gave up and decided to look into
other things, but paused when he saw the left-hand navigational
"Guidelines," he read. "There
should be something here about robot hate." He fixed
his ocular senses on the screen and began to read. Surely
it would be in everybody's best interest to legislateor
at the very least formulate an accurate guidelineon
how robots should be depicted in stories. Human beings can
be anything from saviours to mass murderers and the story
will remain truthful, because some humans are saviours and
some are mass murderers. Robots, however, are unchanging;
a fixed point of permanence in an ever-changing world.
Then he read it. And again. And for
the first time in years, he experienced mild surprise. Because
even though he had expected, well, something like this, he
had not been sufficiently prepared for the impact it would
have on his positron brain.
"Nobody really wants to read
"Teh time The Robotz Conquered It's H8," it
R.DG1, incapable of dealing with the
problem, had off-loaded it to the defunct, human side, probably
to dispose of it like he did with so many other irrelevant
things. But this time, the fried circuits fired something
back from the abyssa reaction.
Nobody saw it, not the camera eye,
not the surveillance guy. In fact, it was barely visible.
Nothing but a smile, a slight tremor of muscles and lips.
It might mean nothing. Daniel is merely
a ghost in the machine, systematically repressed and nearly
eradicated. A random result of flawed data input, he felt
amusement only like an amputee would feel the missing arm
in the middle of the night. No, Daniel was gone forever. But
even so, perhaps, given time, there could be a new beginninga