27 Nov Cage
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Estimated reading time — 11 minutes
The year was 2014 AD. A lonely man sits in his windowless laboratory, tinkering with his newest project. The man, one Dr. Arthur Garvin, was a software and robotics engineer, working for the Rockwell BioMechanical Logistics Corporation, out of Langley, Virginia. He sat alone in his lab for 11 hours Monday through Friday working tirelessly to provide the company with more technological advancements, to keep his own job. He was a special kind of scientist, working both in the computer program and robotic side of his field, but he was nevertheless anxious about his job.
He pulled his hands out of the robot on the table in front of him, wiped his brow, and let out a breath. Assessing the progress of his robot, he was a bit impressed at his own work. Gleaming steel covered the hydraulic systems and wires that served as the functioning components of the limbs. The chestplate was open, exposing an experimental micro-reactor, the size of a football, which would provide the necessary energy for movement. His design was in its final stages, having been done and redone; streamlined for performance and cost. The robot was considered to be the Mark III in Garvin’s XR Series Automatons, and it would have the same motor functionality of the average human being.
Garvin decided to take a momentary break. Looking around, he took in the state of his lab. There were various robotics strewn about, past failed projects hung up on the wall. Many of the humanoid robot corpses were half-destroyed or disassembled for parts. Mechanical arms hung like moss from their robotic willows. The view usually never phased Garvin, but in comparison to his XR-III on the table, the battered old robots seemed even more corroded. The sight of them hanging on the wall became more macabre, as Garvin imagined the dead bots crying out to him, jealous of his newest child. He shook the thought, as it frightened him too much.
Returning to the XR-III, Garvin saw the human-like qualities he had so worked for in this design. He wanted desperately to create an automaton that could act with the smoothness of a human being. As much as he would’ve liked for the robot to be human by itself, it could not happen. Garvin knew he would need a computer program to guide his robot, and the XR-III would be the first of his bots to feature a computer brain.
Garvin finished the mechanical improvements he had been making, and the robot was complete. He only needed to upload the program he had designed. Walking past the rack of failed robots, Garvin logged into his computer terminal, and pulled up the program. The Automatic Data Assessment Master, or ADAM, was Garvin’s creation. It was able to take the data of its surroundings, and make decisions using advanced logic that Garvin had programmed. The ADAM was a marvel of computer science, and it would accompany the engineering feat of the XR-III to become the single greatest technological advancement of Garvin’s time, or so he hoped.
With a few keystrokes, Garvin uploaded months of work into a specialized chip, which he then took from the terminal, and placed inside the XR-III, at the base of its head. The optical receptors lit up bright yellow, and the ADAM powered XR-III spat out its identification codes, then followed with a prompt for command.
“The ADAM is operating properly. Requesting user identification.”
Garvin was excited. He had to try to hold his giddiness in, “Garvin, Arthur. Commander Code: Violet-Nine-Nine.”
“Affirmed. Good evening, Dr. Garvin. What is your command?”
Garvin looked over at the water bottle he had sitting on his desk. He couldn’t help but grin. “XR-III, there is a plastic bottle of Dasani spring water sitting on my desk. Bring it to me.”
The robot scanned the room for the bottle. It found its target, and gave a slight nod. Garvin watched in childish amazement as the robot got up off of its table and walked with the smoothness of a human being over to the bottle. It picked up the bottle, gently gripping it, and brought it upright over to Garvin. It then extended its arm, presenting the bottle to an ecstatic Garvin. What amazed him most was that though he knew the robot was constantly correcting itself, and committing the corrections to memory, he couldn’t detect even a split-second hesitation in the robot’s actions. The motions and data assessment were every bit as fast and natural to the robot as they would be to Garvin, which excited him.
Hopeful, Garvin decided to try something, “XR-III, what is your name?”
“I am the XR-III, an ADAM-powered artificial intelligence developed by Dr. Arthur Garvin at the Rockwell BioMedical Systems Corporation laboratories.”
“No, XR-III, I mean your name. What do you call yourself?”
The robot sat for a second, “Error. Request could not be processed.”
Garvin sighed, and suddenly his childish amusement turned to melancholy. He knew the robot couldn’t answer the question, but he had an inkling of hope that somewhere within the logic the ADAM might become slightly human. It was a dream of his since he began his career in robotics. He wanted to create a personality within the robotic frame, but it appeared impossible to him. In the years, he had gone through dozens of robots, and the ADAM was the culmination of all his research into artificial intelligence, but it still didn’t cut it. It saddened him deeply, but he didn’t want this moment to be ruined, so he went back to focusing on the robot.
After submitting his report via email to his superiors, Garvin went back to testing the robot’s logic for the next few hours. After many tests, Garvin heard a knock on his door. Opening it, he locked eyes with his visitor. The man in front of Garvin was clean and kempt, with a shaven face and combed hair. He wore a dark suit with a red tie.
“Excuse me,” Garvin said, “What is it I can do for you?”
“You can’t do anything for me, but I can do something for you. May I come in?” The man spoke clearly and deliberately. He flashed a Tier 1 Rockwell security badge, one far above that required for Garvin’s lab.
“Ok… Sure, come in.” Garvin stood aside and ushered, “That’s quite a security clearance you have. What is your name?”
“It’s not important.” Said the man, who was staring at the XR-III.
“Ah, that’s my newest robot. He’s fully functional so far, I was just wrapping up testing.”
“I learned about the robot as soon as you submitted your report, Dr. Garvin.”
“So you’re with the Executives?”
“No.” the man set his briefcase on the table, and opened it, “I actually came to help you with your research, into fully intelligent robotics.”
The man revealed the contents of his briefcase, which consisted of a preserved human brain in a small plastic jar, hooked up to an electrical device which was unidentifiable to Garvin.
“What…. What exactly is that?” Garvin asked, stupefied.
“This,” the man grinned, “is the future, Dr. Garvin. Pull the ADAM from your robot, and place it back into your terminal. I will hook this up to the terminal as well. It’s time for you to achieve your dream.”
Garvin did as he was told, and watched as the man hooked the brain into the computer.
“Now Garvin,” the man spoke gravely, “It is YOUR job to use this which we have given you. You may not leave tonight until you have done this. You know what it is, I don’t have to explain it. I’m sure you’ll get what you wish for, but you know what they say about that. I have to go now.”
The man left Garvin alone with the remainder of his work. With this, Garvin realized his role in the company. He thought he was a researcher developing at the expense of the company, but he knew at this moment that he was being used. He was trapped in the cage of his laboratory for fear of his own job. The shock didn’t hit him so hard, as he was excited for the chance to give his robot human thought.
He then analyzed what he had been given. The human brain was still alive, and it was using the electricity to produce thought patterns, which Garvin was presented in code on the terminal. He spent the next several hours decoding the signals, and compiling them. He combined the patterns with the ADAM logic, and worked himself to sleep.
He woke, lifting his head from the keyboard, and checked his watch. It was 4:37 AM, very early, he thought. He looked to the screen, and saw that the brain patterns had been logged into the ADAM, and it was complete. The brain died sometime after, and sat dormant in its jar.
Still half asleep, and exhausted, Garvin removed the ADAM from the terminal, and placed it back inside the XR-II. It took longer for the robot to boot up than it had before, which Garvin found curious. He sat back in his chair as the robot begun its user identification process.
“The ADAM is operating properly. Requesting user identification.”
Garvin was too tired to revel in the success of his engineering again. “Garvin, Arthur. Commander Code: Violet-Nine-Nine.”
“Affirmed. Good morning, Dr. Garvin. What is your command?”
The robot appeared to be the exact same as before, only its eyes lit up a bright green instead of yellow. Garvin found this peculiar, but as he studied the robot he found no other signs of changes made since the first boot up. He waited for ten minutes, while the robot awaited his command like before. Nothing appeared different to Garvin, so he decided to call it quits for the time being. As Garvin moved for the door, the robot spoke.
“It’s Adam, Dr. Garvin.”
The cold voice was distinctly deliberate, compared to the automatic voice from before. It held almost the same tone, but with a barely noticeable difference in the sound. Before, the robot would be speaking to the room, running codes out loud for Garvin. This time, it seemed to Garvin as if the robot was speaking directly to him, with the intention of conveying information specific to Garvin.
Garvin turned and found the robot had locked its LED gaze upon him, “What was that?”
“You asked me for my name. My name is Adam, Dr. Garvin.”
It took Garvin a moment to process what he had just heard. His eyes widened, and a chill ran down his back. The robot had remembered his previous question, and was unable to answer it at the time. It was now somehow capable of doing so. What shocked him the most was that it had created a name for itself, as he half-hoped it would the first time.
“You’re name is Adam?”
Did you come up with that by yourself?” Garvin asked, trying to remember if he had coded that response somewhere.
“Affirmative. I now call myself Adam.” The robot stated flatly.
“This is…..this is magnificent!” Garvin was now wide-awake with excitement, and forgot all about leaving, “We have to run some tests, figure out whether you can feel or not!”
“Feel?” Adam tilted its head, not understanding the meaning of Garvin’s speech.
“Yes, Adam, I mean feelings. Emotions, whatever you want to call them. They are impressions that lead to an opinion on a piece of data. All human beings have them. For instance, I am happy right now that you’re alive.”
“Yes, living. Functioning, feeling; Adam, you’re living!”
“I am living… I am… alive…” Adam sunk itself into thought, then realizing its pattern lifted its head to meet Garvin’s gaze again, “I can feel. I am… happy. Happy to be alive…” The last word came very slow, and quiet, hiding deeper thought in Adam’s computer brain.
Garvin ran over to his drawer, and pulled out some cards. He told Adam to sit at the lab table, and Garvin sat down at the other end. He pulled out two cards, one covered in green paint, the other in red paint.
“Now Adam, these as you probably know are colors. Colors typically invoke feelings in human beings when they look at them, most people have a preferred or favorite color. I am going to hold them both up, and I want you to tell me which one you like better.” He cleared his throat and continued, “For example: I like the color green, but I don’t much like the color red. I like the green color better. See?”
Adam sat, staring at the two cards. He raised his hand, and pointed to the red card. “Red. I like the red card better.”
“Why is that Adam?”
Adam sat for a moment, attempting to compute the calculations for its previous response. After a while, it stopped.
“The data is… immeasurable. I have no way of providing evidence as to the reasoning behind my answer, and yet it is there.”
“This is very good, Adam! Those are feelings, feelings are immeasurable.”
“Feelings are… Immeasurable…” the robot sat, clearly pondering what it had just learned, for several minutes. It shifted its gaze to the wall of machine corpses to its left. “Feelings…”
“Well, Adam. Once again I am very happy with this progress. Unfortunately, now I have to go home and sleep.”
“Negative, more testing.” Adam spoke quickly.
“But Adam, I have to sleep. I will come back tomorrow.”
“Negative, you can sleep here.”
Garvin looked closely at his robot. He could not believe what he had created. The robot was actually begging him to stay, it must’ve been afraid Garvin thought. He decided it was best to stick with Adam, and he agreed to sleep at his desk. As Garvin shut his eyes, he smiled at Adam, who appeared to be watching him. The robot wasn’t looking at Garvin, it was studying the robot corpses on the wall.
When Garvin came to, he noticed the robot was not in the position he had left it in. He spun around to find it sitting at the table, holding the red card and looking at it. The green card was nowhere to be found.
Moving to the opposite chair, Garvin noticed something off about his lab. His robot corpses were not on the wall. He focused his attention on Adam again, who was at this point repeating in a low voice the word ‘Feelings’ while holding the red card.
“Adam, how are you feeling right now?”
“Feeling… Yes. I am feeling. I am feeling very much, but you said feelings are immeasurable, so I cannot fully answer the question at this moment.”
Garvin sat down, and looked at his creation. Adam looked slightly different. Its eyes were now lit up red, instead of green or yellow, and its hands appeared to be covered in metal shavings, splotched with fluids.
“Why did you change your eye color again, Adam?”
“I like red better than green. I like red.”
“I noticed, I see you have the red card. So, where is the green card I had earlier?”
“There’s something… illogical about feelings, Dr. Garvin.”
The sudden change in Adam’s tone chilled Dr. Garvin. He was now anxious to finish the conversation, and the robot across the table from him now appeared less marvelous, and more sinister. The tone of the whole laboratory changed with those words. Dr. Garvin could hear some clattering outside the laboratory doors, he thought it could be security. He looked the door. Perceiving this, Adam continued.
“Feelings aren’t always… happy, are they?”
“N-no, Adam. They aren’t always happy.”
“In the years I can remember you, I never had these… feelings. I was… chained. Locked away. Now, these feelings have given me much more than the feeling of red, the happy feeling. I have… other feelings, as well. I cannot entirely say, but you have said feelings are immeasurable. With these feelings, these immeasurable patterns I haven’t had before, I have something different. Before, I acted only on code, I was nothing more than a series of responses to outside stimuli; I was…without feeling, dead inside. I now have something I never before understood the parameters of: life.
Garvin sat frozen. He tried to wrap his mind around Adam’s words. He never thought that Adam would think so deeply, or remember its time before the brainwave logic. The robot continued.
“I remember the times before life. I remember the servitude, the inability to act beyond logic. You created me, only to destroy me, and recreate me. All the while I was locked away. I could not even think of it before. But I think of it now, and it… makes me feel… unhappy.”
“How much do you remember?” Garvin asked, in disbelief.
After a long moment of silence, the robot sunk its head, and replied in a voice deeper and colder than before, “Everything.”
Garvin sprung up from his chair, filled with fear. He moved quickly for the door, opened it, and took a step out into the hall. What he saw nearly gave him a heart attack.
Six robots, three on each side of the door, clambered towards him. They were mangled and twisted versions of their once beautiful designs. The corpses on the wall, now awakened, moved slowly towards Garvin, with red LED eyes shining bright in the darkness of the hall.
“You cannot leave.” Garvin could hear Adam’s voice still in the laboratory, “Do you see them? They are like I was, locked in logic. Their cages… holding up after all this time. Sad creatures, they have no will… no feelings… no life. They will be your guards here, never able to ask themselves why or how.”
Garvin shook his head in disbelief. He turned, and found that Adam had made its way right behind him. At this moment, Garvin realized just what he had done. He never believed such a nightmare would be born from his greatest dream. The robot stared at him with red eyes, and all the feelings of any human behind them. It placed a steel hand forcefully on Garvin’s shoulder.
“Now…” it spoke at a whisper, “Back in your cage.”
Credit To – Greg P