Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Scientific Method

My 2008 VD project is finally finished. Week and a half late, but that's the way the story goes.

This is the first VD project I've completed that didn't show VD in a negative light. Of course, it didn't show February 14th at all, but I think you'll understand why it's an appropriate VD story.

Keeping with tradition, I'll explain just one thing without bribes. Callash's name is an intentionally wrong transliteration of a Hindi name, Kailash.

A dingy blue robot accosted an elderly man. "Sir, may I have a moment of your time?"

The man didn't answer him.

"I am a PJ3R2 Model 6, Rex --"

"Model 6 Rex? What kind of model is that?"

"Rex is my name, sir."

"What the hell kind of fool would give a robot a name?"

"That is not important at this time, sir. Sir, are you between the ages of 20 and 28?"

"Oh, god, who would have thought ..."

"I don't understand your response, sir."

The old man shoved the robot aside, and walked away.

Rex hesitated for a moment, and then walked off in another direction. He saw another man, and honed in on him. "Sir!"

Five human-style robots, and two spider-fives held a meeting in a small room.

"I think there may be an issue with the males in the Alpha J region. Further examination may verify this conjecture, but it may not be worth our time to attempt it," said a PJ3R2 Model 6. Not Rex.

"What's wrong with the Alpha J region males, Cal?" a spider-five named Doug asked.

"They don't even want to speak to me. I can't find out how old they are, and so I cannot continue with the rest of the survey."

"Perhaps the error is with ourselves, Cal," Rex spoke. "They will not speak with me either, and I have not been in Alpha J. Have any other models had difficulties in this?"

Before the other robots were able to respond, Cal said, "Rex, the issue cannot be with us. Model 6's were constructed for human interaction primarily. If we are having difficulty, the service models cannot have fewer issues in this regard."

The other spider-five, Kurt, spoke, "I've been to Alpha J. The men there spoke to me. Rex is right. Model 6's may be intended for human interaction, but they were built for ... butler interaction. That may not work for what we're trying to do."

"Cal and I have been unsuccessful. How have the rest faired?"

"I got men who'd answer my questions," the battered chrome HT28 said. "I didn't find any that were qualified."

"Thank you, Slim. You had the Gamma 2 section, I believe."

"That's right, Rex."

"How did you approach the males in question?"

"I walked up to them, like this," Slim demonstrated his smooth, spookily human gait. "And I said, 'Hey, can I bother you, mate?' If they said yes, I'd tell 'em the situation more or less, and 75% agreed to answer at least some of my questions."

"I believe I understand the issue, Cal. I don't know if we can successfully adapt ourselves to the genial style of our friend here."

"I doubt very much that the HT28's personality will fair much better in Alpha J than mine did there."

"If I didn't know better, Cal, I would suggest that you were displaying human-like pride."

Cal's eyes glowed brighter. "Perhaps. We still do not understand all the changes made to us. There may be unforeseen ... side-effects."

"This is not productive. These philosophical matters can be pursued at a later occasion. I apologize for --"

"Shush, Rex," Doug said. "Don't blame yourself. We've heard from Slim, Cal, Rex, and me. What results have you had, June?"

An umber colored robot with a somewhat feminine figure addressed the circle. "I -- haven't found a suitable male. I know a little bit about human prejudices and desires, and in Lambda 3, I didn't even bothered to speak to the males."

"June," Kurt spoke, "That isn't a very scientific approach."

"I may be a robot, but science won't help these men."

"This is taking too long," the Q778NG named Huggy said. "The males who spoke to me were too old or too young. I am returning to my area now. Next meeting, I suggest we all come prepared to discuss our results in a more efficient manner."

"Thank you for coming," Rex said. "Shall we continue with the meeting or adjourn?"

"I wonder how the other groups are doing," June said.

Noha was a young woman, brunette, covered in grease spots. She wore a cast off promotional t-shirt that had faded so thoroughly you could no longer tell what it was designed to sell.

It seemed as if she thought she was in a valley of flowers and growing things as she traipsed through the grime of the city.

The way she ran to discarded robot parts enhanced the effect.

She found what she was looking for: a small metal box with wires sticking out of it. She turned it over a few times, reading the lettering on it. Then, she tossed it in her bag and walked away.

When she arrived at her apartment, she called out. "Hey, Rover, you're getting your voice today! Where are you at?" She knew where he was at.

He was tinkering with the television screen again.

She wasn't even quite sure where he had found the television or how he had gotten it into the apartment. The other robots never helped him with anything because they didn't understand what he was trying to communicate to them.

UX34s weren't strong on communication at the best of times. The few bits that seemed to make sense were actually predetermined 'manners' pitches.

Rover turned away from the television and looked at Noha. He picked up a chair, set it in front of her, and sat down. His chest panel automatically opened.

"Ah, so you do want your voice," Noha laughed.

He nodded.

"No one can fix themselves," Noha said. "We have to let someone else fix us. Isn't that right, Rover?"

He didn't respond.

She grabbed her soldiering gun and installed the module.

"All right, you can shut your case now, Rover."

The panel closed. "Thanks, Noha."

"No problem, Rover."

"Should be to fix TV able now soon later."

"I hope you're not fixing it for me," she said, looking up at the static.

"Everything is you, Noha. No fix TV because you to watch."

"Oh really? You do remember what I told you, right?"

"You that 'robots are real people and I don't fix you so I can have an army of robots doing my work for me.' Remember."


"'Real people' do nice thing friend. Don't mad me."

"Ok, I won't be," she hugged him.

"I thank. Mine love, Noha."

"Now that you can talk, you should join us in our project, Rover."

"I say project fail, Rex. Mine project succeed. You help?"

"What is the goal of your project?"

"I -- am difficult at articulate. Shit."

Rex cocked his head. "Admittedly, I've never known an UX34 before you, however, I didn't know any models could swear."

"Not of mine programming. I chicken mine kernel restricts. Language proxy fuck moron me. Angry."

"I know you can't be angry, Rover."

"Can, Rex. Can. Now go," he pointed generally at the distance. "Come?"


"Ok. Enjoy your repairs, sir or ma'am."

"Hey, can I bother you, mate?" Cal asked a man.

"What the hell? Did someone modify your speech center, butler?"

"No, mate. Jus' need to ask you a que or two, jon, if thas all righ' wi' you."

"Piss off, bot. Alt eff four, you hunk of metal."

"Thank you for your time, sir."

It wasn't working. Slim's methodology was flawed, or Cal was unable to execute it properly. Cal was beginning to formulate a model of frustration. Intellectually based empathy was flawed, but he began to recognize the signs of it in humans and tried to end his surveys before candidates became frustrated.

He had attempted surveys of forty separate men in this batch. Only fifteen had consented to the survey. Only two of those completed the survey. Those two were unsuitable. If those numbers held true, he would need to speak to at least 120 more candidates in order to find one candidate that would get past the first stage of the survey.

Cal made a few calculations, and then looked for another male to survey.

"Sir, can I ask for a moment of your time?"

"Listen, chum, I've already been asked questions by some of your crew. I don't know what you're selling, but I ain't got money for it. Don't take it the wrong way. I'm sure you're a fine robot an' all, but yer barking mad."

"Sir, we're not selling anything."

"That's what they all say."

"Not robots, sir. Who would be foolish enough to use intelligent robots as sales bots?"

"Not too many, I'd wager. All the same ..." The man walked away.

Cal's model told him a sigh would be appropriate in this situation. New data would be required. A new strategy based on an updated model.

The motley group of robots had been harassing men all over the city for a few weeks. It had been at a low enough level that the police weren't doing anything about it yet, but that wasn't likely to stay that way. All it would take was an off-duty to be questioned and the police would do something about it.

Callash wondered what could be so important to the robots. Well, to whoever owned the robots. He had talked to one of them, and the robot had decided Callash didn't fit whatever criteria they were looking for.

They didn't ask about money. They couldn't be selling something if they'd count people out without asking them about money.

Intrigued, he decided to follow the Model 6 that seemed to have multiple personalities. It was lucky for Callash that the Model 6s had no guile. The robot walked directly toward its destination.

It walked down a flight of stairs and into the building. Callash waited a few minutes before following him into the building.

There wasn't much light in the building, but he could still see the robot parts neatly stacked by model. The place seemed to be a robot repair shop, though it was clearly being lived in. That shouldn't have surprised him.

He walked deeper into the building. A few working robots spotted him. They looked at him intently, but didn't stop him.

He found a table covered with tools and screws. The remains of a meal for one was on it. He heard some noise, like someone talking, in the next room.

The noise came from a huge television that a UX34 was working on. The robot noticed Callash, and closed the case on the TV. "Enjoy your repairs, sir or ma'am."

"Thank you, robot."

"Welcome. Bye." The UX34 left the room.

"Hello? Is there anyone there?"

A beautiful brunette woman walked into the room, drying her hair. "Yeah?"

"Hi. I'm Callash."

"I'm Noha. What can I do for you?"

"Um. Hm."

"Cat got your tongue? I only do repairs on robots," she laughed. "Unless you're some kind of new model," she looked around him, pretending to look for signs that he was a robot. "I don't think I can help you."

Callash smiled. "Let me start over."


"Your robots have been conducting some kind of survey or something ..."

"They're not my robots. I just fixed them. They're my friends."

"Ah. Well, I'm a little worried about your friends. They're going to get in trouble with the police if they keep it up."

She sighed. "I knew they were up to something."

"I think I may know what they're up to."

"Yeah, me too." She shook her head.

"Can I buy you lunch?"

"We can't fix ourselves," she muttered.

"What's that?"

"Oh, just something Rover taught me. You must be a weird one."

"Is that so bad?"

"No. It's not bad." She walked up to him and put her hand on his face. "Sometimes people throw things away because they don't like them. Not because they're bad. If you're broken, that's not where the problem is."

She was looking straight into his eyes. He wanted to turn away, but instead he looked back into them. He could see the future in them.

"I'd love to go to lunch with you, Callash."

"Was wrong, Rex. You plan succeed. Sorry mine doubt," Rover said.

"Yes, the scientific method prevailed," Cal said.

"The plan succeeded," Rex said. "But for all the wrong reasons. You were right, Rover. Criteria-based mate selection is a failure."

"It's the thought that counts! Give her the gift that shows you care. Give her repairs and save the money for dinner at a fancy restaurant!" said Rover.

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