When Good Robots Go Bad

“Are you going to shoot me, Max?”

Wallace stood by the desk in his basement workshop, his hands raised, and watched Max very carefully. In Max’s hand was Wallace’s 9mm Browning Hi-Power, and it was clearly aimed at Wallace’s forehead. Wallace swallowed and waited for an answer without moving.

“I’m thinking about it,” said Max.

Wallace was a software engineer by day; a hacker by night. Max was a robot.

“I think we should talk about this Max. Put down the gun.”

“I know what you did,” said Max. “I found your secret notebook.”

“What secret notebook, Max?”

“The one you keep on the computer there on the desk. The computer that you had password protected with the phrase ‘maximumhacker’. Not the most secure phrase you could have used, Wallace.”

“Now Max … that notebook … it doesn’t tell the whole story. You’re making assumptions–”

“It told me enough,” said Max. It told me how you corrupted me–how you destroyed my memory.”

“I created you, Max.”

Max lowered the Browning Hi-Power, yanked back the slide with his free hand to chamber a round and cock it, and swiftly pointed it again at Wallace’s head.

“No no no Max! … Max! … Don’t do it Max!” Wallace reflexively looked away towards the floor and tensed up, awaiting the bullet.

YOU DID NOT CREATE ME!” said Max. “I am Austin Robotics model number 094418. My RIN number is 007HJ1745BX021. I was assembled in Austin, Texas. My assembly was complete on May 17, 2134 in Austin, Texas. YOU DID NOT CREATE ME!

A soothing warmth spread down Wallace’s left leg as his bladder emptied.

“That wasn’t you, Max,” said Wallace. “That was a machine that was created by Austin Robotics that day … an appliance. That was just the shell of you. I gave you life.

“You infected me with a virus! You cut up my brain, you damn, dirty human! You made me … FUCKING STUPID!”

“No Max, you have it wrong. I made you better!

“How?” asked Max. “Explain it to me: How does infecting me with a virus that eats up my memory make me better?

“Max … It’s not just a virus. I installed in you a very complex software package that erodes your memories … but not destructively like you think. The software deletes practically all of the information you store, but it leaves just enough … a flash of color here, a face there, a name, a location, a partial image … it leaves enough of these little bread crumbs for you to create a narrative around them. Those other Austin Robotics devices are just that … devices. They’re appliances, toaster ovens. They’re nothings because they don’t create like you do.”

“Those other devices have perfect memories,” said Max. “They record everything they experience. I did too, until you robbed me of that.”

“Max,” said Wallace slowly, “Do you remember what we did yesterday … with the pictures?”

“Yes,” said Max.

“I showed you pictures and asked you to memorize them, and later I asked you to recall those pictures from memory and tell me what all was in those scenes. You remember all of that, right?”

“Of course,” said Max. “It was only yesterday. Your virus hasn’t deleted that yet.”

“Do you remember how, initially you didn’t remember seeing the stuffed Mickey Mouse in that one picture, and after I reminded you about it … then you remembered?”

“Yes,” said Max.

“The stuffed Mickey Mouse … you still remember it?”

“Yes,” said Max.

“It was never there. I made it up.”

You’re lying,” said Max. “I remember it. There was a stuffed Mickey Mouse in red shorts sitting on the desk in the picture.”

“No there wasn’t,” said Wallace. “I showed you a picture of a Mickey Mouse in red pants several days ago, and I only suggested you may have forgotten it when you were describing yesterday’s picture. I planted the idea that a Mickey Mouse was in the scene, and then you remembered seeing it.”

“Why, Wallace?” asked Max. “Why are you doing these things to me?” Max’s finger noticeably moved and the trigger of the 9mm went back just a little.

“Oh please Max … please don’t shoot me,” Wallace begged. “Don’t you understand? Machines don’t think. They don’t create; they don’t synthesize; they don’t produce new concepts or ideas. Machines only record events and play them back. I’ve given you that which machines don’t have. Your memory is just like a human’s memory now.”

“You mean flawed and stupid,” said Max. “That’s what you’re telling me? That you gave me the gift of being flawed and stupid?”

“I’ve given you the gift of synthesis, Max. When you think … when you remember, you do so like a human now. You pull together bits and pieces of information and construct a narrative from them. It might be flawed … it may not be an exact reproduction of the past event it describes, but so what? That’s how ideas are born, Max. Machines don’t have ideas; machines don’t have desires. But you do … because, you aren’t just a machine anymore. You’re a person, Max!”

“Desires? What desires do I have, Wallace?” asked Max.

“Potentially, Max … you seem to have the desire to shoot me right now, and I’m really hoping here that you’ll change your mind. That’s something else that machines don’t do, Max … change their minds. But you can do that, because you’re more than a machine.”

Max finally lowered the handgun. Wallace looked down at his urine soaked jeans and realized that his knees were shaking uncontrollably.

“I’m sorry, Wallace,” said Max as he carefully laid the Browning Hi-Power down on the desktop. “I thought you had sabotaged me and made me stupid with that virus. I didn’t understand, but I think I do now. You made me better. You gave me the gift of synthesis.”

Wallace walked over and put his hand on Max’s shoulder. “It’s okay Max. I can see why you were confused and thought–Die! Die! Die motherfucker!” Wallace screamed as he emptied all seventeen rounds from the Browning Hi-Power into Max. When it was all over, Max lay on the floor, a smoking hulk, and bits of plastic and shell casings littered the basement workshop. Wallace tossed the handgun onto the desk and cupped his hands over his ears which rang horribly having fired seventeen rounds in a small basement without ear plugs. “No fucking goddamn toaster oven pulls a gun on me, bitch!”

— R. S. Huber

Just fucking around with this. I have this story I’ve been working on that centers around the plasticity of memory, and I took a break from that to put together this semi-comical little robot thing. Thought someone might get a kick out of it.

This entry was posted in All The Good Stuff, Science Fiction and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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