Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Then & Now

The CWA of Dr. Z Smith: Episode #111: Yesterdays

  “I'm Coming, I'm coming.” Replied Mrs. Lisa Smith. 
 She opened the door.

-=fig. 682: the cat=-

  “Zachary?” She asked. “What's this?”
  “It's not a ‘what’ ” Zachary replied, “It's a ‘Who’. His name's James, I found him on the street. Can we come in?”
  “Zachary, What have I told you about pets?”
  “He's not a pet he's a–”
  “This isn't one of your…Projects…Is it?”
  “Projects? No, He's a real person, His name's James. James…?”
  “Brown. James Brown, Ma’am.”  James Didn't mind standing on the porch as these huge swaths of dialogue flew past, but he wished the porch was a bit more interesting.
  “Brown?” Zachary asked incredulously, “Really?  James Brown? That's one step removed from John Smith.”
  “Oh yeah?” Replied James, “So what's your last name?”
James laughed.  He had an nice, deep laugh. Completely incongruous with his kind of squeaky child voice.
  “Well…I guess you can come in. But wipe your feet.”  Lisa could see that this street person had ‘Dirt’ Written all over him. In Grime.
  “Thank you very much, Ma’am.” James replied, as he conscientiously wiped his boots on the mat.  It took some doing, but he managed to get most of the dirt off.
  “C’mon, James,” Zachary said “I want to show you my room.”
  “What did…”
  “Mrs. Smith.”
  “…Mrs. Smith mean when she called me ‘One of your Projects?”
  “I make stuff.”
  “What sort of stuff?”
  “Everything.  Mostly electrical things, but also some chemical engineering, monsters, robots–”
  “You mean…she thought I was a monster? That you made?”
  “Yeah, I was getting pretty good at making them right up until, um, I stopped. ”
 James decided to let that particular subject lie. “So, robots, huh?”

-=fig. 683: mk1=-

  “I call him–” Dramatic pause “Jeeves!”
  “Kinda small, innie?”
  “You would say that. You're huge, But watch this.”  Zachary ran to the control panel that took up the majority of the back wall, yanked a lever, turned a dial, and set a valve. The robot started humming.
  It jittered.
  It shook.
  It beeped.
  James stepped back. This looked…kind of dangerous.
  Jeeves took a jerky 90° turn, and raised one arm to his fore-brow.
  “BEEP” He said.
  “Is that all he can do?” James asked. It was sort of an anti-climax.
 “Well, yeah.” Dr. Smith replied “It's actually surprisingly hard to program him to do things. That–thing–he just did? Took me an hour and a half.”
  “You mean he doesn't just do stuff by himself?”
  “Autonomy?” Zachary scoffed, “That's the dream, the dream of every robotic engineer ever!  I can't program in autonomy! Robot language is hard enough as it is!”
  “You mean it's in a whole ’nother language?  What's wrong with Legopolian?”
  “You can't program a robot in Legopolian.”
  “Why not?”
  “Because…um…you just…don't. They only understand ones and zeroes, you would have to translate Legopolian letters into…that wouldn't be too hard, actually. Hold on.”
  He typed something into a nearby computer monitor.
   “Done, but I'm going to need something with more keys–” He spotted an old typewriter. “Perfect.”
     BEEEEEP            BEEP
              BEEP,                        BEEP."
  “Oh legopolis, Legahhhhp-o-lis,” James muttered absentmindedly.
  “AH HA HA!” Cheered Dr. Smith.  “By typing in the notes, I got him to sing the national anthem! Yay! This new robotic language will revolutionise the world! No more binary! At least, not on top.”
  “So is he Autonanana…can he think for himself, now?”
  “No. But it's only a matter of time.”
  “What if you did, say, this:”  James reached over to the terminal and typed:

  “How do you spell that?”
  “A-U-T-O-N-O-M-Y. But it won't work, James, because you're referencing a script that doesn't exist.”
  “Is that important?”
  “Alright, humour me, then.” And he kept typing.  He had figured out how to write the language from watching Dr. Smith invent it.

  “Okay, We need a complex thing for him to figure out with his autananamy.”
  “This won't work, but um, here. Put in…let me.”
 “There.” Zachary pressed the Carriage Return key, and the code was uploaded into Jeeves.
 “That dosen't seem all that difficult of a task, retrieve a teacup?”
 “Trust me, it is.”
They watched Jeeves.
At first, nothing happened.
Then, something did.
Jeeves lifted his stubby robot legs and stomped across the room.
He reached out both his arms, for he didn't have fingers {or even claws,} and gently grasped the teacup.
He then stomped his way across the room, until he was standing in front of Dr. Smith.
Then he dropped the cup and it smashed on the concrete floor.
Zachary was dumbfounded.
He had worked for months learning binary, teaching his robot simple things, terribly difficult simple things, and this…stranger comes in, not even a genius stranger, and in an afternoon they had a completely autonomous robot.
But what really got him was that they did so by referencing a file that does not exist. 
  “Are you a genius? A Savant?”  Zachary Smith asked, staring disbelievingly into James’ eyes.
  “I…Don't think so. I would know if I were, wouldn't I?”
  “It's just, to get that sort of behaviour, I usually have to start with some sort of organic brain or something.  But I've abandoned that method ever since we had to leave Quagmireland because of it. Organic brains are finicky, too randomized. So I made another robot, a new one, a completely mechanical one. But all these things understand is binary, so I learned binary, and it's hard! Really hard! And then you come in, no experience, and all of a sudden we have a new language, a simple one, and my completely mechanical robot is thinking for itself!”
  “You sound, are you angry?” James asked.
  “No.” Zachary replied, “Just don't ever leave!”
James looked at the completely insane child sitting next to him, and said “Well, I have to. I don't live here.”
  “You know what I mean.”
dingdongdingdong dingdongdingdong 
  “No, Don't get up.” Mrs. Smith grumbled, “I'll just get it then, shall I? It's not like we have servants anymore. Oh no, Wait, I forgot. You have me.” She was in a bad mood. 
  She opened the door. 
  “We don't want any.” She said. 

-=fig. 684: Sunt vânzarea acestor clone amendă piele=-

  “Oh, no! You misunderstand me, madam, I am here for Zachary Smith.” The stranger had a Romanian accent. 
  “Which one?”
  “There are more zan von?” 
  “Yes, there is a big one, who I'm married to, and a little one, who's my son.”
  “Oh, I am Looking for ze little von. He's a…friend…of mine.”
  “Figures. ZACHARY!” She shouted over her shoulder, “ANOTHER ONE OF YOUR WIERD FRIENDS IS HERE, Please, come in Mr.…?”
  “Von TipRău. But pleese, Call me Villiam.” 
  “Well William if you'll just–”
  “Villiam. Vith a ‘V’.” 
  “Oh, Okay, Villiam. Please Sit?”
  “Zank you.” He sat at the table. 
Zachary Morton Smith, Zachary Smith's father, came into the room carrying some boring papers. “Hi honey.” He said. “What do you make of this?  I say they're all exactly the same machine, But I need a second opinion because–”  He saw the guest. “Who's this?” 
  “Dear,” Said Lisa, “This is Mr. Villiam Von TipRău, He's here to see Zachary.”
  “Oh,” Said Morton “Nice to meet you Villiam, Names Zachary, Zachary Smith. But you can call me Morton, Everybody does.”
   “It's a pleasure, Morton.”
    “Ah, Romanian!” Morton said excitedly, “You don't happen to know Ludwig Aufenstien the brilliant scientist, would you?”
    “I am he. Von TipRău is the name zat I travel under, to avoid ze crowds, you know. Don't tell anyone I'm here.” He gave a smile like the last part was a joke. 
   Morton was overjoyed. He couldn't believe it. “You're really Ludwig? Or should I say Mr. Aufenstein? EEE! I have every paper you've ever written! Your study in the journal of scientific research on the hyperactivity of subcutaneous psychoanalysim? GENIUS! Wait right here, I'lll get it for you to sign OH MY GOSH!” He ran out of the room. 
  Mrs. Smith sighed. “Sorry about that, my husband gets a bit…excited about stuff sometimes. Which is weird considering the line of work he went into.”
   “Patent clerk.” She said in reply to Von Aufenstien's inquiring look. “Probably the world's most boring job.”


-=fig. 685: dinner party=-
“Ah, Zere you are my boy!” Said Von TipRău with a huge smile, “So nice to be seeing you…again.”
“I don–
“And Who's your friend?”
“This is James, In fact, we were just going outside to test this robot's–
“Just what I Vanted to talk to you about, You see, I'm having trouble with a robot of my own I vas vondering If you could help me.”
“Really?” No one had ever asked Zachary for help before, this was new.
“Yeah, he's just out back–Zat, is, if you'r mother say is alright?”
Lisa gave a brushing hand motion, as if to say ‘Off with you.’
They exited out the back door.
“So,” Zachary said, “Where's the robot?”
“About that, ” Von TipRău said, “I lied. Mr. Monoid?”
“Right Boss.” said Mr. monoid, as he grabbed Zachary.
“What, hey! Hel–”
“No you don't.”
-=fig. 686: kidnap=-