Thursday, 18 June 2009

The Test

The Test.

He opened the large box. He was excited. He ripped off the polystyrene packaging and plastic wrapping. It was a robot, man size and streamlined. Fully six feet tall and weighing just over seventy kilograms, the JX86 was a class act. He spent a while perusing the instruction manual, not that he didn’t already know everything there was to know about robots, and robotics for that matter.
In fact, the JX86 was his own creation - well not creation per se, but created based on his design. And now he’d been given a complimentary copy, even though he knew The Company just wanted to be sure it worked according to his specifications before releasing it to the general public. His daughter would be thrilled by the new addition.
He called out to Samantha, and she came running.
“Hi dad!” she said, running up. She stopped dead when she saw the gleaming robot with humanoid proportions. She was stunned.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“Samantha, this is Alexander.”
At that the robot came to life. He really was called Alexander. Samantha thought it should be able to talk if it responded to its name with those beautiful lights in its eyes.
“Hello Alexander,” she said.
The robot looked at her. Scanning its database for what kind of creature. It could recognise over two billion different species of living matter and could focus on anything from a nanometre to a few kilometres in length. It came up with juvenile Homo sapiens sapiens, female. Alexander scanned his language database. He understood well over a thousand languages, including Esperanto, Lojban and Klingon. It located English, Caucasian New York accent. Speech centres activated, simulated human intelligent thought relayed messages to the core processor.
“Hello young lady, what is your name?” Alexander said in a perfect New York accent.
“Daddy, it talks! It talks! Yay!”
“Why don’t you spend some time with Alexander,” her dad said.
“Super,” said Samantha. She turned to the robot.
“Alex? I can call you Alex, can’t I?”
The robot nodded.
“Nice. You can call me Sam.”
The robot smiled. Well it wasn’t exactly a smile, as the robot’s face did not have the expression range of a human’s, but Sam easily recognised it as a smile. It was its eyes. The robot had the most extraordinary eyes. They changed colour according to its emotions, from a neutral grey to a tranquil blue, excited yellow, angry red, pious white, and a happy green. Sam didn’t know that it could do that, but somehow could recognise the warmth in the green eyes and slight rise of the robot’s shoulders that signified a smile.
“Do you have friends Alex?” Sam asked, spurred on by the robots obvious enthusiasm for her.
“No, but I’d like some,” said the robot, the emotion module of its simulated human intelligent thought centre coming into play once again.
“I could be your friend, if you like,” said Sam.
“I’d like that very much,” said Alex.
Then Alex and Sam launched into conversation. They talked and talked and talked, about anything and everything. They talked about school and friends, people and robots, pets and wild animals, quiet times and adventures, and all sorts of stuff. Sam didn’t get tired of talking, and Alex didn’t have an exhaustion integrated nanocircuit in his entire system.
Morning sped into afternoon and dad came to call Sam to lunch.
“Are you going to eat with us?” Samantha asked.
“I’m an android. I don’t eat.”
Sam was curious.
“Then how come you know what ice cream tastes like,” she asked.
“I don’t. I only know that people like it, so it must taste nice.”
“Oh... okay.”
She stretched her little arms out wide for a hug. Alex’s simulated human intelligent thought centre had a strange thought. It thought that this child was a bit too demanding. It recognised the gesture, after an extensive database search that took all of three seconds. It immediately evened its surface to human temperature, and knelt down to briefly hold the girl, in what humans call a hug.
“Goodbye Sam,” the Android said, with just the right amount of ruefulness in its voice that Samantha thought it sorry to have to leave.
“It’s alright,” she said brightly, “we’ll see again soon.”
While Sam was at lunch, dad - who’d been watching the whole episode - took Alex away. He led him up to the lab.
“Quite a test, don’t you think?” dad asked.
“Quite,” the robot replied.
“She’s innocent, impulsive, inquisitive and inadvertently insightful”, the robot continued, alliterating, “definitely a girl.”

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