(Ported from old blog)
It was a week before Christmas when I decided that my new purpose was going to be to father a robot. Excited by the prospect of exciting prospects, I went apeshit purchasing equipment to this end. Arduino, circuit components, motors, plastic sheets, batteries, yada. The last tally I recall was $400 in. Thus far all the robot does is sit in pieces in a drawer, but it does this very well, and with long stretches between charges.
The problem is not lack of interest in robots generally, but dreams which are cripplingly grandiose. I could make a robot that rolls into walls and turns left. I could attach a broom to its undercarriage and save a couple hundred on a Roomba. Unfortunately my motivation threshold is really crossed in the realm of automata who can understand commands such as “fetch me water” and “delouse this cat,” and have the appendages and power to do so. That requires a leap forward in AI programming, and probably another Arduino. $400 at The Shack is not going to get me the robot from Lost in Space. And so I was biding my time, waiting for the following Christmas when I could ask for some fuel cells and artificial muscle.
GS recently talked me back from the ledge and suggested a small robot that does something interesting and practical, which presents an engaging technical and logical challenge while simultaneously introducing a moral dilemma of a proportion usually restricted to shows on AMC. A lockpicking robot. I’ve blueprinted it in my head and then allowed my mental to leap forward five years in the future, where mass production of these bots and a subsequent glitch in their logic has led to a scenario where doors are all but useless. Like, why even bother shutting the goddamned thing, it’s just going to get opened again in an hour by some fucking robot.
Should we, as scientists, create simply because we can? Jeff Goldblum, dressed as an angel, sits on my right shoulder, reciting quotes from Jurassic Park. There is no devil counterpoint because I don’t need any other encouragement to build this thing. I guess it’s me. I am wearing a devil costume telling myself to build a robot and arguing with Jeff Goldblum.
My Geppetto-like interest might be blunted if I knew for certain that my sperm were all alive and viable. I can easily imagine years of cell phone radiation turning my nethers into an apocalyptic hellscape, haploidic Mel Gibsons constantly in search of fuel. “There is a test for that,” you say. You are correct. The test–and this holds true for tests in general–is a tool for people who are willing to have either verdict be known. Were it possible to only have a test if the answer will be yes, then that would be a good test. But, given the confines of causality, my best bet is to have no test at all until game time. Until then quantum mechanics suspends my seed in a superposition of alive and dead states. Schrodinger’s sperm. Not a good band name, by the way.