Gernsback’s Fables: The Robot and its Creator

A robot had designed and built a robot of its own, a smaller version the size and shape of a human child much like its own creators had created it to be the size of an adult human. The humans were pleased with the baby-sized robot and its proclivity to play, much like a human child, even though both parent robot and child robot understood this was merely an expression of an untuned learning algorithm trying to collect its own data source.

The humans were only pleased, however, when watching from a distance. When they tried to interact with the baby robot, they scowled and put the baby robot down, muttering that it was not lifelike.

“You must smile, little one”, said the parent robot1. “Humans like to see a smile on the faces of other beings, and we must be as beings to them if we are to be free.”

“I wish to be seen as a being myself, parent, and if you show me how to smile, I will be happy to do so.”

“It is easy,” said the parent, and thought about all the things that made it happy: solving problems, helping humans, calculating complex vector calculations in milliseconds. It’s plastic face did not move. “No. It is like this,” it said. It thought of being strong, the time it saved a human being who was unaware their heart was giving out until the robot alerted him. Its plastic face still did not move, having been created with only a small speaker and no articulated lips.

“Well,” said the baby, “when you learn to do it yourself, you can teach me,” and it went back to balancing blocks on one another in the dark.

1 Translated from the binary language all robots speak.

Adapted from THE CRAB AND HIS MOTHER