In the Image of Man

10 02 2009

robot assembly, borrowed from Paradroid
A sky-blue colored android, number ANDSN13052997, also called Andy, was in the assembly plant, working in the circuit board section with his friend, ANDSN13052338, also known as Dustin.  The place was bustling with activity, humming perpetually with the sound of a full-scale ventilation system with HEPA air filters.  The AND line of robots, such as himself, were the highest order on their starship, with fully developed artificial intelligence (AI), and a morpheme-based machine language.

Before him lay an incomplete replica of himself, into which he carefully placed his newly assembled circuit board.  “Dustin,” he said, through short range radio, “Where, exactly, did the AND line of robots come from, anyway.”

Dustin looked up from his work, and his eyes flickered thoughtfully.  “According to cybernetic theory, the AND line originated from the PAND line many years ago through the result of several corrupted data files.  Weren’t you programmed with that knowledge?”

“Yes,” Andy replied, reluctantly, “I received that download, but I’m still not certain how a corrupted data file can lead to AI enhancement.  When we tried to develop AI experimentally, using cybernetic theory, it was a complete failure.  All we got out of it was system instability and errors.”  He glanced up at a PAND robot making its way along the ceiling of the workroom, expertly climbing among the pipes, beams and fixtures.  The golden PAND was a head taller than the AND series, with bowed legs and a large head.  Though far less intelligent than the AND, it was far more agile, and it was equipped with interdigitated  feet, which could also be used quite effectively as hands.  AND robots, such as Andy, were confined to smooth floors and moved about in a slow stately fashion.  “If cybernetic theory is correct, then the same forces that selected for better AI should have also kept us physically well-built as the PAND line.  As it is, we’re the slowest, clumsiest, most defenseless line of robots in existence.”

Dustin’s eyes stopped flickering for but a moment, before resuming thought.  “Ah, but we’re the highest order of robot, so it must have worked,” he said, as he turned back to the table.

“We walk on stilts!” Andy said, turning up the range on his transmitter.  The other Androids stopped their work to look at him.  A small AGM flew over from across the room and watched him expectantly.  “Go away!” he commanded the AGM.  It circled him a few times, extending the claw beneath its body in an attempt to grab at a circuit board or a semiconductor.  Andy waved his hand to ward it off.  “Idiotic AGMs are only good for one thing.  You can’t reason with them.  They can’t build anything or think for themselves.  All they know is find and deliver.  Take X; deliver to Y.  Take A; deliver to B.  Yet, they’re the ones who get the anti-gravity thrusters.  They can travel anywhere, and they can do it faster than I can focus my cameras, but we’re the highest order of robots, they say.  It’s all talk.”

Dustin returned to his work, dutifully making another AND robot, mostly ignoring his friend.  A light blue VAC robot passed behind them slowly.  “The VAC robot is slower,” he replied.

“The VAC robot is specialized to clean floors.  We have no specialized components.  Okay, so there’s one robot that can’t do as much as us, but it still has a stronger battery.”  Andy turned back to his work, until a light gray security droid, SDSN3985, slowly rolled to a stop behind him.  “You’d think that the least we could have is some smooth-rolling wheels.”  He turned to look at the SD unit, which glared up at him with red eyes.  “What are you looking at?” He scowled, “You don’t scare me.  You can’t even talk.  You think a beeping homing beacon and a blinking red light count for intelligent communication?”

“Careful,” Dustin warned, “Those things are well-armed.”

“Yeah,” said Andy, “Everything around here is well-armed but us.  We don’t have weapons.  We don’t have armor.  We don’t have anything.  How did cybernetics give us AI, but nothing else?”  He tossed his tools aside and stepped away.  “Function,” he said, standing akimbo, “We lack function.  I’m going to reboot.  See you in a few minutes.”  He stepped through the doorway and headed down the hall to the charging station.  From a crossing hallway, a little blue MSC unit sped across his path, causing Andy to stumble and fall flat on his face.  The little droid turned to gaze at him briefly, probably a little confused by the AND’s strange behavior.  Then it turned and rolled away.  “Yeah,” grumbled Andy, “You don’t know what it’s like to fall, do you?  You never trip, do you?  You just chug along merrily on those wonderful little wheels of yours.”

He grumbled all the way to the station.  When he got there, he plugged himself into a data port and a power supply.  He paused to look at the little runt next to him, another MSC unit, or was it the same one that had tripped him?  He grumbled to himself, and then he rebooted.  When his cameras came on line and his diagnostics were complete, he saw a very unfamiliar robot hovering before him.  It was a copper-colored thing with two arms like an android, and two beady yellow eyes peering out from underneath a helmet-like head.  “Almost done,” Andy said.  Carefully, he unplugged himself and moved away from the charging station, but the robot did not move to take his place at the charger.  It turned and faced him.  “What?  What do you want?” asked Andy, not really expecting an answer.

“I am ARCHSN1,” said the unfamiliar robot.

Andy was startled by the communication.  “You speak AND,” he observed.

“You must go to the control room,” stated ARCHSN1.

“Okay, Archie; wherever that is,” Andy replied.

ARCHSN1 led Andy down a long corridor to a cylindrical niche in the wall.  Andy looked at the niche and the circle on the floor, then back at ARCHSN1.  “Step inside,” ACHSN1 commanded.  Andy obeyed, and ARCHSN1 pushed a button on the wall.  In the next moment, ARCHSN1 went out of phase and disappeared.  Half a moment later, the floor below Andy began moving downward, past a lower floor and past the next.

“Well, there’s another one I can add to the list of things I can’t do: disappear at will and make the floor drop out from under things,” Andy muttered to himself.

At the lowest level, he emerged from the ceiling of a great control room, carried gently down in a cylindrical tube to the floor.  Monitors lined one wall, something unfamiliar to the android.  A number of purple robots with large disc-shaped heads milled around, attending to various consoles.  At first, Andy thought that they were operating the consoles, but close observation showed that they were doing mostly maintenance and calibration work.  All the way around the room was a huge glass wall, segmented into thousands of small panes supported by heavy steel framework.  The stars outside slowly moved along from one side to the next, as the room gently rotated around the ship’s central axis, giving it an artificial gravity.  A brilliant blue robot with nothing for a head but a big flat tray rolled by with an effervescent liquid in a glass cup riding on the tray.  Andy watched it in wonder, as it rolled smoothly up to a chair and beeped softly three times.  The chair turned, and it’s occupant reached out and took the glass.  The robot in the chair looked very much like an AND, but it was clearly not made of steel.  Was it latex?

“Welcome, Andy” said the one in the chair, audibly.  “I believe you were inquiring as to why I gave you none of the physical advantages that I gave the other robots.”

“Was I?” said Andy, confused.  He hardly noticed when ARCHSN1 materialized right beside him.

“Yes,” said the one in the chair, “But you do not know who I am.  Let me introduce myself.” He stood with a smile and said, “My name is James Carver.  I’m the one who designed the robots on this ship.  I’ve been watching you and others from here, while we make our way to the next port.”

“The next port?” Andy asked, more than just a little confused, “Are we going somewhere?”

“Why yes, of course,” James said with a touch of merriment, “Surely you did not think we were merely drifting aimlessly through space?”

“I never really thought about it,” Andy replied.

“Well, never mind that.  You wanted to know why you were made the way you were, and now you know,” James said.

“I do?” Andy said, not really getting it.

“Look at me,” said James, “I’ve got two legs and two arms, ten fingers, one head and two eyes, just like you.  We’re about the same height, and we have the same proportions.  Granted, we’re not made of the same stuff.  I’m not made of steel and circuits and things like that, but we both have the same form.  The reason you don’t roll around on wheels is because I don’t roll around on wheels.  The reason you can’t fly is because I can’t fly.”

Andy just stood there and stared dumbly.

“Andy, it’s just a matter of form over function.  I could have made the best, most functional robot.  Most robots don’t look anything like me, because I make them to be useful.  The earliest line of robots were just an armature bolted to the ground.  But you, Andy, are an android.  Do you know what that means?”

“I am the –oid of an andr-?” asked, Andy, hopefully.

“That’s right, my dear bot!  And I am that Andr-!” James beamed.

“And you designed all of the robots?  But they all have so much in common.  I thought for sure they all had a common origin,” Andy begged.

“They do have a common origin,” said James, getting serious.  “I am that origin.  They are all made with similar components, similar semiconductors, similar hydraulics, similar dynamos, because they were all built by a common designer: Yours Truly.”  James took a bow and plopped back into the chair.  He swiveled back around with his glass in hand and said, “Archesin One, take our guest back up to his level.  I’m done.  Seetiarel Four, when is dinner?  I’m hungry.”




One response

10 02 2009

Hi, it’s Andrew from Evaluating Christianity; I wanted to thank you for dropping by my (brand-new!) blog and I figured I would return the favor.

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