Author : Mae Thann

“It’s incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“No, but you knew it’d happen eventually.”
“At this level, Joel? This soon?”
“Why not? If anyone was certain that this was attainable, it was you.”
“I know, but I can’t for the life of me figure this out.”
“Hey, you the girl, Sandra. ‘Leading authority on programming’ and whatnot.”
“Yeah, but look at this! These algorithms – you know what? You decipher them!” She rocketed out of the rolling chair and sent it spinning toward him.
“Sandra – ow!” Joel hopped on one foot while he pulled the other away from the chair’s wheels.
“I need fresh eyes.”
“Whoa, hey, I look at brains, not computer code… much.”
“Quit hopping and sit.”
“Fine,” he conceded. “But you know I’ll probably be of no use to you, right?” He glanced at the robotic boy on the observation table, wired into the system. Joel turned to the computer screen and scrolled through miles of code. Behind him, Sandra shifted her weight, folding and unfolding her arms, sighing at the bot, fuming at the computer. “Wow, this is really… You sure you want me looking at this, Sandra?”
She exhaled impatiently and proceeded to pace, unintentionally clicking her heels in time with the faint mechanical ticking from the observation table. Joel continued in silence. He understood fragments of the code, but the rest seemed little more than a mindless jumble. He stared until his eyes crossed and still nothing made sense.
“I just don’t get it,” Sandra finally said to no one in particular.
Joel clicked on a tab and was met with several graphs. Click, click, click went Sandra’s heels.
“We’ve made very much functional robots before, but this is something we’ve only ever dreamed of.”
A couple graphs spiked, then dropped.
“It’s like… like it understands something. And not just command codes.”
Certain graphs spiked again. Sensor activity? Joel slid the light switch up and down. Sure enough, the graphs labelled “liteSnsr_port071” and “colrSnsr_port080” registered change.
“I’m talking about real understanding,” Sandra went on. “It tried to excuse theft. Excuse it! How do you program excuses? It’s like it’s capable of thinking! Maybe a bit crudely, but compared to other bots…”
Joel typed a command prompt.
“Where did this come from? You don’t just find robots walking out of stores with groceries. You don’t argue with them about… about ethics.”
The performance manager opened, blinked, glitched, then rapidly fired code. Joel chewed his lip, then slid his cursor over a tab that read “WaveReader”.
“And what does it do? Analyze reports? Run diagnostics on hospital patients? Collect information and build business strategies?”
A chart loaded in the window. A line bobbed up and down upon it, just like a… His eyes caught sight of something just under the chart. “Uh… Sandra?”
“But who needs a humanoid bot to do that? Why program the balance needed to make it walk? And why the clothes?”
The chart continued to update itself. Continuous streams of text flowed under different labels, but Joel’s eyes were fixed only on the label “ThotPattrn_Dominant”. “Sandra?”
“And the name!” Sandra rambled on. “What kind of name is -”
Processing query: name. Assessing threat level: minimal. Accessing archived data. Formulating response.
She leaned over his shoulder. “What the…”
There was a great whirring and clicking from the observation table. Joel raised his hands as though to prove he had nothing to do with this behavior. Programmer and neurologist alike gaped as the mechanical head faced them.
“My name is Pinocchio and I’m a real boy.”

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