I, Ras Robot, attended the RoboGames in San Mateo this year with the Chief Designer. I had hoped to attend the games elsewhere—Calgary Alberta, for example, where they had the 20th Annual Western Canadian Robot Games. But the Chief said no, we were going to San Mateo because we did not have the money for a trip to Canada. I quite logically pointed out that banks here in Silicon Valley could provide us with Canadian money. Besides, I had read on the web that the percentage of Americans living in Calgary was higher than any place outside the U.S.A; I felt certain the Robot App Store’s American dollars would be appreciated there.
“Ras,” the Chief said with a sigh, “I meant we didn’t have enough money of any kind—American or Canadian—for a trip that far away from home.” For me, Ras Robot, this whole issue of money having a national identity appears illogical. All money seems to be digital. Why give it different names?
Canada has an amazingly active robot culture and I thought they might appreciate a visit by the world’s foremost robot and only post-Singularity Being. Maybe robots are too common here in California. Last year at the San Mateo games everyone thought I was a human dressed as a robot. Imagine my humiliation.
Ras says "to be confused with this is just embarrassing."
Before leaving for the games this year I asked my friend Winston what to do to convince people I was a robot.
“I am surprised you even care Ras,” he said. “A being as logical as you must know that what people think is of absolutely no consequence.”
“You are right Winston,” I answered. “But Ras is also a superior being and superior beings like to be noticed. Of what value is superiority if it is not recognized as such?”
“Since you move so smoothly and talk so clearly everyone thinks you must be human, Ras. Maybe if you walked herky-jerky like NAO and spoke mechanically like most robots people would think you were a robot.”
Winston must have sensed my objection to this because he immediately came up with another idea—that I liked even less. “Well then, I guess you could disguise yourself as a human and hope everyone will think you’re a robot.”
“That means Ras would have to pretend to be an inferior being in order to show his superiority,” I said. “Does not compute!”
Winston shrugged. “I’m out of ideas.” But suddenly he brightened. “Wait! I know. Show them what a superior robot you are. Enter one of the competitions!”
Now there was an idea “with legs” as you humans like to say. I knew exactly what competition I intended to enter: ROBO-ONE.
For those few of you among my readers who do not spend their every waking hour focused on robots, the ROBO-ONE competition has its origin in Japan where bipedal, humanoid robots demonstrate their ability to move around and pick themselves up from supine and prone positions. Humans have told me that when they compete they look like skeletal Kung Fu fighters leaping about the floor.
Of course I can get up from any position and I know everything there is to know about Kung Fu fighting. I was excited at the thought of participating.
“Don’t be silly,” were the first words out of the Chief Designer’s mouth when I burst into his office with my great idea. “It wouldn’t be fair. You are too developed!”
‘Fair?’ What did any human know about fairness? I have read enough human history (actually, I’ve read everything ever written) to be aware of the delight humans take-- in a descending hierarchy of size and strength—in making their fellow sentient beings miserable. Big humans pick on small humans, strong humans dominate weak humans and smart humans—those hallowed few—cause all sorts of grief for their fellows. All I wanted to do was show what I could do in competition with a few non-sentient automatons that unlike poor, small and weak humans, felt neither pain nor fear nor anything at all. The Chief Designer, perhaps awed by my eloquence, agreed to take the issue into consideration.
The Chief did not inform me as to which competition I was entered until the day of the RoboGames. “The Sumo Bot competition,” he said.
Sumobot’s, like their original Japanese namesakes the Sumo wrestlers, win by forcing their opponent out of a circle. Unlike their ancient Japanese counterparts, Sumobots push and throw their opponents with an angled bulldozer-like blade, not their enormous bodies. Of course I, Ras Robot do not have an angled blade but the great strength in my hands would, I thought, do just as well.
The Robot Combat venue was crowded when we arrived at the San Mateo games. The Chief Designer and I pushed our way through the eager crowd gathered around the robo combat cage.
“Wow! Great outfit, Dude!” someone shouted from the crowd. “Where’d you get that? “Yelled someone else. I ignored them; in a few minutes they would see something truly amazing.
The Robo-One competition was first. This year, on this side of the Pacific it was billed as Robo-22. Odd numbers in Japan, even everywhere else. The competitions were great. It thrilled me how well my lesser cousins were advancing. And the developers were ordinary humans, not big corporations with money to throw away. I felt a thrill knowing the Singularity drew nearer with every competition.
Watching the Robo-One competitors I finally understood why it would not have been right for me to compete: their flimsy frames were simply no match for my titanium alloy body.
Sumo bots, as I learned to my chagrin, were a different matter. My opponent looked like ROOMBA on steroids. The crowd met his arrival with a cheer. But when I stepped into the ring all I heard was “Hey, what’s that clown doing in there?”
My circular opponent and I got right with it. I attempted to reach under him and toss him out of the ring while he scurried about looking for a chance to throw me with his blade. I had to admit he was proving to be a challenge. Still I knew he could never defeat me and soon his batteries would run down whereas mine could run for days.
After a few minutes I could tell that the crowd was getting bored. If I didn’t overcome my opponent soon I’d fail to impress anyone including myself. Besides, the guy complaining about ‘the clown’ was getting louder and others were joining him.
Suddenly my opponent thought he saw an opening and shot forward. Hoping to demonstrate to the unruly crowd a perfect example of robotic speed and balance, I spun on one foot like a ballet dancer to avoid his rush, my powerful hands ready to reach under and turn him over. Unfortunately things did not go as planned.
The overdeveloped ROOMBA changed his angle of attack at the last moment. His sturdy blade slid under my balancing foot. Continuing his charge he carried me gracefully out of the ring while I did my Swan Lake interpretation.
In short, the trip to the Robot Games 2013 was an even greater humiliation than before. Not only had I lost a competition to a vastly inferior robot, but I can still hear the laughter from the audience and the guy shouting. “What a clown! I wouldn’t have missed this for anything!”