28 May 1986 / Magnus Estate

This morning, I made good on a promise to visit some friends of mine that had moved to the suburbs. I should have called, but I figured that my unannounced appearance would be a pleasant surprise. Since I spoke to them last, in 1959, it seems they have two children and three grandchildren, and that my visit coincided with their plans to attend their grandson's little league game.

I was happy to join them, and was amused by the youngsters' sporting ineptitude and intrigued by their insatiable desire for orange slices. Unfortunately, my interest soon waned. The game dragged on and, unfortunately, my friends, Garrett and Ardith have become quite square in the intervening decades. Luckily, I had insisted on loading my folding bicycle into their Saab, so I was able slip away during a scene caused by a vomiting outfielder.

Within a few minutes, I came upon a mega cineplex. The scope of the thing was grotesque and magnetic. Almost in a trance, I wandered into a screening of a film called "Rocky IV." I was not able to glean much of the movie's plot because I left after being informed I would have to pay money in order to remain in the theater, but I believe it is the story of a troll-like creature called "Paulie" and his robotic companion who brings him soda.

Having had my fill of the suburbs I returned to my estate, but the film's robotic protagonist stuck with me. The more I thought about it, the more the idea of a robot friend appealed to me.

I got to work immediately, quickly cobbling together the servos and motors that would make up my robot's body. The difficult part was the brain. I knew that I needed to take a leap forward in robotics and that I would have to do it quickly, before I lost interest in the project. By early evening, I had reworked a chess playing program (whose intelligence I have long admired) into an electronic nerve center. However, in my goal not to create a machine that would bring me a soda because I told it to, but a friend who would want to bring me a soda, I may have overstepped my role as a scientist, or human being.

Was my new robot self aware? Could it "feel"? Was it new "life"? Sadly, it could not answer my questions, because it mainly beeps and fetches root beer. If I had indeed created a new, sentient life form it was wholly possible that I, as a carbon based life form, would not even be able to recognize the signs of an emergent silicon-based intelligence.

Worst of all, what if I had created a being whose self-awareness was a curse? The nightmarish thought of waking up to one's existence, only to realize that you are the only one of your kind, neither man nor machine, sent a chill down my spine. I stared into my robot's sphinx-like eyes, and saw nothing that could conclusively confirm or dispel my fears.

In the end, I decided to affix some animal skins to the robot and send it into the woods. If it was indeed a new life form, but not quite human, it might find kinship with the animals of the forest. I suspect that it (or he/she) may well become the leader of a pack of animals and one day return to kill its maker, dealing me the same fate as our other modern Prometheus, Frankenstein.