|By Ivan Menezes, Valencia/Muscat [ Published Date: August 1, 2014 ]|
“We are trying to make the robot brain more like human brain.” Lead researcher Jeff Krichmar, a professor of cognitive science at University of California, Irvine, where they are working on a ‘neurotic’ robot that can copy human behavior.
Finally, the day had dawned.
The day that had been eagerly awaited ever since the humanity lost the paradise after Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden that doomed the mankind to hard toil.
It is the very labour and toil of the scientists striving to imitate the staggering complexity of the human brain brought to the world biped robots or in perfect term, androids more like flesh-and-blood creatures matching human skills and intelligence. Every android was created unequal – and for one single purpose: To serve humans, give life and then rust into dust.
The androids were exploited commercially across the globe with people scrambling all over in frenzy buying. Soon they became as ubiquitous as cars, computers and smart phones - humans rubbing shoulders with house androids, field androids, factory androids, hospital androids, and whatnot. A world within a world! They provided scads of conveniences, spread out on an umbrella of never-ending services. Rain or shine, they slogged their butts off and drudged all day and night, contributing immensely to the welfare of the owners.
Having been grown tired of the household chores, I wished to relax, rejuvenate and reinvent myself. Thusly, me and the wife, Jennifer shopped for a house-android. She handpicked a ‘Tall, Dark and Handsome’ model with a mustache that was an accessory and just a piece of ornamentation.
I christened him QinQinu, converted his atheistic factory settings to Catholicism, tweaked his metal soul to respect all religions, put a lock on his conscience preventing him from getting brainwashed by the NEW LIFE androids, fiddled with his private parts so as not to elope with a housemaid-android from the neighbourhood, set his languages to English, Hindi, Kannada, Tulu, Konkani and Malayalam and distributed mithai laddu in the neighbourhood in jubilation.
All done, I hid the confidential Operator’s Manual from QinQinu as warned by the manual itself.
When I breathed digital life into QinQinu, he sprang to life just like a mechanical lion invented by Leonardo da Vinci to entertain the king of France. Wow! An android was born in our house.
“Hello, sir,” he said, opening his eyes. “I’m QinQinu – ready to serve you, anytime, anyplace.”
“Hi there, I’m Austin, and she’s my wife, Jennifer – ready to boss you, anytime, anyplace.”
“That sounds perfect,” QinQinu grinned. “Heavier the workload merrier will be my life.”
With this opening ceremony, a new life began in our house, transforming itself into the Garden of Eden, stripping us of all the work and toil. The happiness descended on us like torrential rains as Jennifer and I watched QinQinu going about his daily chores. He was fawningly attentive and falling over himself to provide us with the highest possible standards of service. He took great delight in carrying out all entrusted work. He never tired, slept or complained. He did a tremendous amount of housework, plus he read Udayavani at the breakfast table, scooped cat litter, led us in evening prayers, brushed Jennifer’s teeth, dressed her and combed her hair. We reaped tillers of the power of our android for our own benefit.
I almost fell from my chair as I heard the heaves and sighs from the bedroom where QinQinu gave Jennifer an iron massage, pounding and kneading her entire body from the crown of her head to the tips of her toes – a closed door session.
When the world’s most loving married couple - me and the wife – often quarreled romantically, QinQinu with a makeup kit attended Jennifer after every spitting dialogue just like a make-up artist touched film heroine’s make up between every take. However, my eyes bulged with great relief when I watched QinQinu cutting the toenails of Jennifer.
With all the time on Earth, I thought I would be romancing the wife from dawn to dusk, prancing around the trees singing ‘Hum Bane, Tum Bane Ek Duje Ke Liye’. But that remained a daydream with the increase in her kitty parties, she-friends and gossiping.
When QinQinu rubbed the showpiece Aladdin’s lamp on the first day of his work, the frisky genie appeared and both were astonished to see each other. By a default, the genie granted him a wish of hearing animals talk.
My pets oohed and aahed initially and gradually developed hatred towards him, booing and heckling him. They felt threatened by his presence. The primary reason: he had stopped them from stealing food from the kitchen.
Months after the tons of bliss, a bad hair day arrived. I was lazing on the sofa. Jennifer was sitting across, reading Woman’s Era with a smiling Narendra Modi on its cover, which Dogma and Mewfur sitting on the floor watching intently. Stood behind the sofa was QinQinu killing mechanically Jennifer’s head lice and declaring scores.
“Ah, done,” he said with a winner’s grin taking hands off her precious head. “365 all out, madam.” Jennifer motioned him to take leave. QinQinu ambled across and stood before me. “Sir, I want to talk to you.” I gave him a thumbs-up.
“Sir, with despair and trepidation, I must announce that I can’t live in this house any longer. Dogma and Mewfur bully me as much as madam bullies you. I would have absconded, but feared that being homeless might end up in the cruel hands of the abductors. Please sell me second hand to another household without pets. I have no issues with rats, lizards, spiders, creepy-crawlies, mosquitoes and lice. Definitely you will not be a loser because I do command a high price with high IQ and hard work."
“That’s an impressive resume. But, you’re not for sale,” I nixed. “Money is not everything in this world, but love is, which is being showered on you in heaps. We are extremely happy about your conscientiousness.”
“Let him go,” Jennifer intoned. “Dispose him or trade-in him. He is allergic to the pets.”
“He is going nowhere,” I said obstinately. “Who is the boss in this house – you or me?”
“Undoubtedly it is madam, sir.”
“Shut up.” I scolded QinQinu.
“Even after telling the truth, you rebuked me, sir. My conscience says ‘tell nothing but the truth’.”
Jennifer interjected. “Nobody is indispensable. Newer models have hit the market. The latest robo-hunk Sunder in my best friend Jyoti’s life is a high-tech marvel, incorporating lavish dollops of technology. He gives 10 types of massages as against ours just one, teaches yoga, meditation, varied workouts, rumba, cha-cha, salsa and samba dances and 18 foreign languages. What more do we need in life?”
I rejected her justification. “QinQinu stays with us for life,” I stood my ground.
“Now stop dreaming and get cracking on your housework,” Mewfur ragged him.
The complexity involved in the pets-android relationship brought an enlightening fact to me that Qinqinu was pet-mates’ antipathy and was razzed quite often by them. There seemed to be a long-standing domestic feud between them, nurturing grudges, hatred and animosity. The woeful treatment of Qinqinu pricked my conscience. I felt pity on the poor living, moving metal. I turned to the pets, leaping to the defense of QinQinu. “Why do you act so clannishly? You both appear like a mob against one. He is a nice robot.”
“You are illusioned, sir. I’m not a robot but an android, a living entity.”
“You are illusioned, QinQinu,” I snapped. “You’re nothing but a metal heap of motherboard, hard disk, sensory system, chipsets and complex circuitry. Intel Inside on your stomach is not a birthmark but a product logo. Now keep quiet as I hear Mewfur and Dogma talk.”
“Hello, Uncle,” the rat greeted me sweetly from the money plant. “I have spied on Mewfur from various angles of your house. My findings indicate that QinQinu is innocent. It is Mewfur embroiled in dirty house politics.”
“Who asked you to intervene in our house affairs, you gutter critter?” I bellowed. It departed. Mewfur didn’t budge an inch due to pressing matters at hand. I stared at the pets seeking an answer.
Dogma said. “Idiot prides himself on being a Think Tank and throws a lot of weight around the house. He becomes easily irritable and makes us miserable, and also tries to create rifts between us.”
Mewfur mewed dominantly. “We two are seniors, came to this house first, whereas he is fake, artificial. We are real, flesh-and-blood, just like sirs and madams. We hate when he says he is evolved from transistors and diodes and not created by sirs and madams.”
Dramatically, Dogma and Mewfur turned face-to-face, they reared on hinder-legs and tapped each other a high-five with elevated forelegs. “Ours is a blood brotherhood of unbreakable kind,” They uttered in unison demonstrating the solidity of their friendship.
Exhausted of all avenues, jaded and depressed, QinQinu turned on his heel to go inside. “What’s the use of this existence if I have no freedom to enjoy life? I’m like a slave here,” he said heartbreakingly.
My heart sank, touched by his tearless agony. Emotions took the lead and I stepped forward and hugged him affectionately. “I love you more than anything in this world. Be happy!”
“Ouch!” QinQinu wriggled free from the embrace. “You molested me, sir,’ he squawked indignantly. “I can complain to the Isaac Asimov Foundation for the Welfare & Protection of Androids and also sue you for sexual harassment.”
His words pierced the pets like porcupine spines. The hell descended into the living room with their yells and bawls as they flew furiously at QinQinu and toppled him to the floor. Pitilessly, Dogma bore down with bared fangs and Mewfur ran all over him with her signature moves with associated shouts and screams.
“You are going to complain against our sir, eh?” Mewfur yelled. “Let us see how you’re going to sue our sir,” Dogma howled. QinQinu became indefensible to warrior pets as they went on scratching, screeching, slapping, yapping, hair-pulling, yelling, and name calling. He screamed grunting in pain.
Like toothless tigers, Jennifer and I remained mute spectators to the high-voltage fighting, helplessly watching, like the onlookers on the streets when thugs beat an innocent.
The rat showed up again, hooting and supporting QinQinu like a cheer girl. “Butcher the beast Mewfur.” What seemed an eternity of the Bollywood movie fight was actually a rough-and-tumble fight lasting not more than 5 minutes.
“Oh my Bill Gates,” QinQinu cried out and breathed his last byte. As dead as a dodo, he lay sprawled on the floor. His arms, ears, nose, hair, fingers, teeth, and mustache were strewn all over the floor. Quadruped murderers fled the scene of crime and took shelter in the bedroom.
Alas! Our romance with the automation ended abruptly and we lost the paradise again, albeit temporarily.
I dialed 01010101. Soon an ambulance siren wailed. The uniformed guys rushed into my house and stood dumbfounded by the chaotic living room, glaring at me and Jennifer suspiciously. They clicked snaps, gathered body parts and carried away the dismembered QinQinu on a stretcher. So sad! I was teary even though QinQinu was covered by warranty. During his short lifetime, he taught me many a life lesson, including opening my eyes to the fact that how we maltreat fellow humans.
It won’t be a miracle when QinQinu gets raised from the dead despite the fact that he is a Chinese made. But due to the high population of androids, it would be weeks before he bounced back. And before that happened, Jennifer’s toenails trimming will fall due and I’m dead sure that she would smile mockingly, resting her scented feet on my lap, clasping between two toes a shining nail cutter that was as mind-boggling an invention in 1876 as androids today.