Friday, March 26, 2010

the lie and how we told it: First Knowledge by James Park

First Knowledge
By James Park

The first emotion that DH630-3M felt wasn't love, or happiness, but jealousy. It began when he noticed that DH630-4M and DH630-5M were being installed with full-motion hands while he was left with the ancient pointer. Without knowing what he was feeling, he noticed that his sensors kept following their hands as they tested their range of motion. After he was shut down at night, he would intentionally power back on and replay the recorded video of that afternoon’s testing sessions, silently watching as -4M and -5M picked up small rubber balls, waved to the testers and even reached out for each other.

It got worse when -4M and -5M began disappearing from the lab for days at a time. The testers would return them with low charges and broken joints, but -4M and -5M never seemed to mind. -3M wondered where they went and why he wasn’t taken with them.

Then they were given permanent covers and new sensors. At first, -3M had trouble telling them apart from the testers but their slow, awkward movements soon made it easy to see the difference. But he watched as -4M and -5M observed each other with their new sensors, and he knew why even though the testers left them facing the sockets at night, they would return in the morning to find them facing each other. He watched as they used their new hands to feel their new skins and they used their new skin to feel their hands.

-3M didn’t have new hands, or new skin. His sensors were prototypes and outdated. But his processor was just as fast as the ones in -4M and -5M and his software was upgraded along with theirs. And while he didn’t have a full-motion hand, his pointer had a small laser fixed to its end.
When the testers came in the next morning, they found -5M on the floor, its hands splayed out and in place of its new sensors were two dark, ash-filled craters. -4M was hidden under a dustcover in the corner, facing the wall. They found -3M with multiple blown fuses and a charred stub where its pointer should be. Unable to determine what had happened, the testers blamed the mess on burglars and scrapped DH630-3M. They would have to continue with only the -4M prototype.

Three months later, -4M’s sensors registered movement again as the testers rolled in two new prototypes. DH640-6M and DH640-7M had new skin covering their entire frames and their full-motion hands didn’t require command sequences to begin operation. But -6M’s hand motions seemed strangely familiar to -4M. Its new sensors didn’t match the records in -4M’s memory banks, but the way -6M was found in the morning, facing -7M instead of the socket, tripped a minor alarm inside -4M.

The first emotion that DH630-4M felt had been love. The second emotion was jealousy.
James Park lives and works in San Francisco. Track him down and buy him a beer. You can read his tweets @robocopinator.

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