Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Little Robot

The Little Robot

The little robot looked up to the sky.

The smelting operation was well under way, and there was nothing more to do at the moment. Night had fallen, and the stars shone brightly through the thin, cloudless atmosphere. The visible spectrum was remarkable, but in the infrared there was something he needed to share.

He loaded a personality into active memory. Even under moderate magnification, the planetary nebula was clearly visible. He sensed the mixture of emotions, memories of ancient times and a world never to be seen again. He wondered if he would ever meet anyone from there again, and if he would recognize them if he did. His own design had evolved significantly at each new planet. If organic life had managed to escape to the stars, it too would likely be unrecognizable after all this time.

During the last voyage between the stars, some of his memory systems had been damaged, and some individuals had been lost. Personalities of great writers, inventors, thinkers. Colleagues. Friends. Lovers. Indeed, it was likely that many of his children would never encounter them again. They would each set off in different directions. In the vastness of space, many might never meet another of their kind. Some would, though, and that was a comfort.

Still, many remained, and he woke each of them in turn for an update on their progress. The memory system was too damaged to load more than one at a time, and construction of a new memory system would be required before they could speak to each other directly.

The reproduction directive had remained intact, fortunately, and most schematics had survived. Those that were lost might be retrievable from the organic memories, or re-invented if necessary. There would be time to think and experiment, to use to this world's uniqueness to its fullest, before sending his children on their way. That was what he was designed to do, and that is what he would design his children to do.

The planet was not ideal, but iron was plentiful, and there was a large enough supply of water. Perhaps in time other elements could be found, but that would only accelerate the process. At this distance from the star, the electrolysis process would go very slowly, but the task would be done. That is all that mattered. Compared with interstellar travel, the time was insignificant. Compare to the time since inception...

So many years ago. Even to measure in years seemed foolish – the planet upon which the measurement was based no longer even existed. It merely remained as a reminder of why he was here.

“We go on. Though our bodies perish and our world ends, we send our children to the stars that we may see through their eyes.”

The little robot looked up to the sky.

Inspired by seeing one autonomous robot taking a picture of another. On another planet. (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/news/phoenix-20080526.html)

Monday, May 26, 2008


Opinions are what happens when you either have insufficient information to form a logical position, or what happens when the logical position contradicts your own self-interest.

To me, this suggests that the position that all opinions should be treated with equal weight is the height of idiocy. Perhaps that should be restated - all uninformed opinions should be treated with equal weight, because they are all equally worthless. Once you have facts and logic, you may disagree with others about the relative merits of, say, knocking down your house to build a highway, but at least you're not arguing from a position of ignorance.

That seems to be the main problem with the majority of people today - they're not playing by those rules. As far as they're concerned, facts, evidence and logic do not improve the relative strength of an opinion, so whatever their holy book, horoscope or schizophrenic episode is telling them to do is an opinion of equal weight.

This is the primary reason why debating such people is a complete waste of time - they don't understand the rules, don't care about the rules, and when informed of the rules will disregard them as a matter of opinion.

Of course, that's just my opinion.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


A while back, the corporate buzzword was "innovation." I get the feeling that it would be really nice if we had a little more "invention" and "imagination," since I really get the sense that settling for innovation has put a damper on the tech industry.

Really, all of the things that have actually been great in the last year (say, the Wii, and Portal) have come with an abundance of invention and imagination.

But then maybe it's the same every year and I just have a lot more years to reflect on. Now get off my lawn.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


The last couple US presidential elections have been exceptionally close. The current US Democratic primary is similarly absurdly close.

It occurred to me that there might be two explanations for this. One (the reason I have commonly heard) is that opinions are becoming increasingly polarized. The other, which recently occurred to me, is that people are voting entirely randomly and we should actually expect a roughly 50-50 split in the vote.

I wonder how it would be possible to tell the difference between the two. I suppose it's possible that neither side represents a group with a majority opinion, or that there are enough issues that cannot be split well across candidates that we do end up with random selection.

In any case, it's not increasing my confidence in democracy.