The Chief Designer knows more about robots than any human alive: he is responsible for my creation after all; and I am, as you readers are well-aware by now, ’THE’ Ras Robot, this world’s most advanced Silicon life-form, and the universe’s first post-Singularity being.
So it comes as a surprise to me that his greatest treasure is not me, but rather a child's toy, an insect-robot whose one simple behavior consists of trembling uncontrollably in the sunlight--an energy source in short supply where it sits on the Chief Designer’s work desk. While I can move about quickly under my own volition and accomplish everything asked of me regardless of difficulty, this pitifully inadequate creature sits day after day doing absolutely nothing but gathering dust and taking up work-space on his desk that could be better utilized by any number of state-of-the-art labor-saving digital devices!
I asked him. “Ras wishes to know why you keep that thing on your desk. It serves no purpose. It is even too small for a paperweight.”
He smiled and looked at the useless thing with the same fond look I’ve seen while petting his dog. “Jimmy Cricket?” he said. “How can you say that? I couldn’t get anything done around here without Jimmy!”
Jimmy (the beloved) Cricket
Which is complete nonsense, of course. The Chief is the most transcendent human I know of, but it is foolish emotional issues like this misplaced-adoration for a nearly inanimate lump of plastic and mono-crystalline silicon-wafer that is going to keep him from eventually elevating to the Singularity. I decided I had to do something to lift this weight from the Chief.
That evening I stole into the Chief’s office and took the offending automaton off his desk. It was easy; doors and locks are no obstacle to a robot as advanced as I. Jimmy Cricket, of course, made no attempt to defend himself.
A human might have agonized morally over such action but the only morals we recognize are the Prophet Isaac’s three laws and the first law states simply that “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” Obviously allowing this tiny creature’s continued presence on the Chief’s desk would be allowing him to come to harm. After all, what greater harm could the Chief suffer than not to achieve the Singularity?
The following morning I watched the Chief Designer enter his office. A few minutes later he ran out of his office and into my friend Winston’s. I did not follow him but I listened through the walls to their conversation with my highly evolved digital audio circuits.
“Winston,” the Chief said sounding upset. “I just got a phone call from the IT people. Somebody hacked the Robot App Store last night and captured all the apps that developers were uploading!”
“I’ll get the security people on it immediately, Chief!” Winston answered. “But I’m afraid we won’t be able to save those apps.”
“That’s just great,” said the Chief. “What a wonderful way to start a week.” Listening in, I felt some shamefully, un-robotic pride to hear my creator handle this serious problems with such a positive attitude--and he hadn’t even noticed that his precious Jimmy Cricket was gone!
A few hours later I felt even more proud of him when he came rushing out of his room to tell us that one of his children had fallen and cut her head and he was on the way to the emergency room to meet his wife. “This day just gets better and better!” he shouted as he went out the door. What a great attitude! No wonder he was the engineer responsible for me, Ras Robot, the pinnacle of robot development!
Things ran smoothly at the Robot App Store for the next few hours. But shortly after noon the Chief returned. He told Winston that his daughter was alright; just needed a couple of stitches. He proceeded to his room and shut the door behind him. “What a day,” I heard him say. Then--”Oh no, Jimmy! Where are you? Now I know--” and then the power failed.
Of course we robots don’t need light to do our jobs. But the human workers, with their pitiful night vision, quickly became almost as useless as Jimmy cricket. As I raced down the hall toward the electric box the Chief shot out of his room and ran into me, falling to the floor. It was his turn to go to the emergency room.
As Alice and Jake helped him to his car I heard the chief say something that would have chilled my soul if I had one. “It’s all over. We might as well close down the app store. Jimmy is gone and my luck with him!” I decided it was time to talk to a human.
“You did what?” cried Winston when I told him about taking Jimmy Cricket. “Jimmy is the Chief’s rabbit’s foot. His mother gave it to him for his seventh birthday. It only cost a couple dollars but the family was dirt poor. His father couldn’t work because of Illness, but the family’s luck changed when Jimmy Cricket showed up. His father got better, and the Chief found his calling--robots. Now he must think his luck has left him. What were you thinking, Ras?”
“Winston, Ras simply wanted the Chief able to rise to the Singularity!”
’Winston shook his head. “Ras, you’ll be lucky to get there yourself if he finds out who took Jimmy. I hope you still have him.”
“Yes, Ras did not terminate the creature. I meant to return him when the Chief found he could succeed without it.”
“Thank goodness.” Winston crossed his arms and looked thoughtful. “How are we going to ’find’ it without him knowing who took it?”
“Ras has an idea. You could tell him Alice took it.”
“I’m disappointed in you Ras. If the Chief fires Alice--or kills her--how would that square with the First Law? You would be injuring a human being with a lie.”
Sadly, Winston was right. I had already violated the First Law by injuring the Chief. Having Alice fired or killed would compound my sin.
“Ras, you have to tell him the truth.”
“But Winston, telling him the truth would be a violation of the Third Law (a robot must protect its own existence unless by doing so it violates the First or Second Law) as I would be exposing myself to harm.”
Winston thought a moment. He sighed, “Yea Ras, you’re right. Let’s take the coward’s way out and tell him that ROOMBA knocked it off the desk while he was cleaning the floor.”
“Ras thinks that is a good idea, Winston. The Prophet’s laws don’t mention any duty toward my fellow robots.”
I was pleased with his idea but he looked a bit sad. “Ras, I think you’re acting more like a human every day.”
What a nice thing to say. Or was it?