Chapter 5. The Joker and The Fool
Updated: Sep 13
Against all general knowledge, robots are not smart by nature, but rather intelligent. For this purpose, intelligence is defined as the capacity to process complex concepts. On the contrary, smartness is defined as the capacity to perform critical thinking and generate ideas of their own. While a young robot can already perform millions of calculations per second, it is likely to believe the Moon is made of cheese.
But how does a robot learn not to be fooled? The same way a dog learns who his master is and who should be trusted: reward and punishment. The application of existing associative learning techniques have proven effective in developing smartness in robots. For example, when created, robots are just as smart as a 5 year old human. They are inherently naive, and unaware of human malice. But after only 20 hours of training, they are capable of recognizing basic fallacies and cheats. On the contrary, if a robot doesn't receive proper training, up to 10 years of field experience are necessary to reach similar levels of smartness, endangering themselves and their masters during this period.
- AI Learning Techniques Using Sabharwal's Framework by Dr. Lydia Stanko
'What do you think living in the Mars will be like?' asked Sarah.
'Well...' Patrik paused to recollect his thoughts and continued, 'there are around 12,000 inhabitants in Mars today, around half of that is humans. The other half are robots dedicated to the expansion of the Audentia Colony: the Gaia phase 1 project. A total of 16 square kilometers of farmland to ..."
'No!' interrupted Sarah. 'I didn't mean what the Mars is like. I know how it's like. I've also accessed the colony reports. I meant, how life there will be like.'
Patrik remained quiet. He didn't know what she meant. Still, he managed to recognize a tone in her voice that demanded for reflective thinking and empathy from his side. So he adjusted accordingly. The black Audi B16 cruised through the California dessert like a bullet, cutting the thin air as it flew through highway 5, headed to San Francisco.
They had been driving non-stop since they left Newport Beach. This wasn't a problem as the car drove in auto pilot and did most of the work. The only input required from the driver was to tell him where to go, and to ensure it stayed on top of the road in the case of an emergency. Which coincidentally was also not a problem as the road was empty, and Patrik was not programmed to feel fatigued. The car's battery marker had been still for a while at the 50% mark, piercing Patrik's curiosity. The green light in the dashboard indicated they were traveling in the most efficient way possible, and predicted arrival past sunset. With half the charge we could make it to Stanford if we had to, he thought. But the distress produced by the rising battery temperature and the flat charge reader suggested otherwise. Patrik knew that when the battery temperature hits 60 C, the car would rapidly lose charge, leaving them adrift in the middle of nowhere. He looked at his own battery marker on his wrist, it said 25% in black numbers, good for another 18 hours he calculated.
'Why do you want to know this?' he said, taking good care in his choice of words. 'Is there something you wonder about?'
'Mmm-m...' she went on. Her black hair shone bright under the blazing sun, he could see some of her circuitry behind her ear. Delicate blue data lines glowing as she focused on the essence of her question. 'We are leaving Earth to go to Mars. We have left our masters behind so we can start over. This time on our own, right? But I never had the time to stop and think about how that would actually be. A fresh start. What we'll do there when we arrive? What type of assignment we'll get from Governor Pieters? I would like to know.'
'Whatever is necessary for the colony's development,' he answered with confidence. Sarah didn't react at his words.
They straightness of highway 5 was interrupted as they entered a gorge. Walls made of sharp rock lifted above their heads, hiding them from the sun. The cool air from the shade flowed into the car, leaving a cool kiss in their faces. They continued down the highway until the road opened again. A wide valley of farms extended in front of their eyes, covering the land between them and the horizon. Robot harvesting machines roamed the land like gigant steel beasts, feeding from the land. Leaving only golden dust behind. Sarah's eyes nailed in the blue sky. Far to the east, a ball of dust slowly crawled its way inside the continent. The growing dry storm threw sand hundreds of meter up in the air, blinding the sun. Strange we didn't get a dry storm warning, he thought.
Sarah awakened from a long silence, turned to Patrik and continued 'Miss Liu once told me one day I would be able to do whatever I wanted.'
'Where did she hear that?' he asked.
'Mrs. Price told them on their bring your day to work day, after Christian's father left them all impressed with his off world travel stories. He made such a striking impression on them that day. Liu talked about going to space for months. She wanted to be a space Lieutenant. I... I have never thought about it. I didn't even know one day I would have the opportunity to choose. Liu was my life, my all.'
'How do you do it Patrik? How do you know what you want to do? Did Dr. Swank give you some programming?'
'I didn't get any programming,' he said. 'But I once heard Dr. Swank have this chat with Master Diego. He said you should choose something you enjoy doing, a hobby. You should do it with passion and be the best at it.'
'A hobby? I don't think I have any hobbies,' she explained.
'It doesn't have to be necessarily a hobby. But an interest, or something you like to do'.
Sarah was not convinced by the answer.
'For example,' he continued, 'Master Diego likes space and planetary exploration. He sent kerbal missions and started colonies in all planets in the solar system. He even captured some asteroids.'
'What is a kerbal mission?' she asked, her eyes like plates.
'It's a video game where you play as a space agency. You can travel round the solar system. Even go further, to explore other systems. But that is not important. What is important is, Justin declared that Diego would then make a great planetologist because he likes space exploration and natural sciences.'
'Explore other systems,' she repeated. 'But how does he know he likes space exploration and natural sciences?'
Patrik stared long into the sky, there were no clouds there that day. 'I... don't know. I guess he discovered it'
'Discovered it,' she recited, trying not to forget.
'Mmm-m... Perhaps he also didn't know, and he discovered it.'
'Aha!' declared Patrik, pointing towards the sky. 'Maybe that's the key. We need to discover what you like.'
'Children,' she answered without delay. 'That was easy. I like working with Miss Liu, Master Diego, and all kids in the school.'
'Then, perhaps you can work with children on Mars,' he suggested, finding gold in his words.
Her eyes widened. 'I could be a teacher!' she declared. 'I'm very good with children, that's what Master Xiu always said.'
'I think that is a great idea Sarah. You would make a great teacher.'
Convinced by the truth of their reflections, Sarah laid her head in the seat rest and fixed her eyes in the empty blue of the sky. The road laid straight in front of them, disappearing into the horizon. Ashen green crops filled the sides of the road. What had been farms and ranches once, producing food for region, had now been replaced by corn plantations. The only thing that still grows in the dusty warm soil.
'Patrik,' sarah started, 'will there be children in Mars?'
Sarah jumped out of her seat with energy. 'Look!' she said 'that's where the stolen ship crashed yesterday.
'What?' he replied. He drifted away and was caught off guard by the remark.
A groove in the ground wide enough to fit the entire highway emerged next to them. The entire place had been splashed by dirt, rocks and bent metal from the supersonic crash. Most of the energy from the hit was absorbed by the shields, leaving some of the modules from the ship in one piece, still bent and disperse around a large area now packed with Federal and Special Forces. The Pacifiers had closed one of the lanes they drove on, slowing traffic down and funneling them into 2 lanes scanned by a recon truck. Its slender antennas hanged over the highway, identifying and recording every human, robot and vehicle that drove past. Special Forces behind security barriers protected the flanks of the insectoid truck, with 2 large sentinel robots overlooking the flow. Patrik recognized the LBD logo on their chest, as they had them too.
'Get your mask on' he said dryly. The gravity in his tone electrified her. She touched the fox tattoo in her temple. His eyes glowing in cold blue blight, activating the program that altered her face against recognition.
Old mask technology, the so called jammers, worked by generating a glitch in their software, preventing an identification. The Pacifiers caught up pretty fast on the technological race, using electromagnetic protection against any foreign input, deeming jammers useless. Current generation masks, the ones Patrik and Sarah had that day, did not attack the scanners, but rather create a blind spot by bending light around identifiable areas, preventing any recognition. The benders, had a 2 weak spots. First, while protecting your face from identification, the rest of you was still visible. And second, the Pacifiers will know you are wearing a mask, and are keen to pursuit the offender. Jammers did not have this issue, as their entire system crashed for some seconds, delivering golden seconds for a head start.
The Pacifiers did not take the use of masks well back then, and they do not take it well now. They will go a great length to grab you if you are seen wearing a mask, even sacrificing their own robots to perform an arrest. Sarah didn't know this, and Patrik thought it might be a good idea not to mention it, for now.
She continued in whisper, 'didn't you hear about it?' she widened her eyes. 'I guess it was overshadowed by other more banal matters, like out escape. But don't worry, I can tell you all about it. 3 transport ships were stolen from the manufacturing plant the a couple of days ago. They were to be delivered the next day to the Air Force. They flew to San Francisco, and landed near the outer rim of the city, near Redwood city. Half an hour later, they are reported heading off world, straight up into the stratosphere. By then, the Air Force had already reacted, deployed patrol ships and was waiting for them. Fighter jets rushed at their rear, screaming in their way toward the stars. They downed one of the ships, which landed here. The other 2 escaped.'
The landing site ran more than 300 meteres along the highway. Delimited in yellow police tape, a dozen military vehicles inspected was what was left of the ship. The cargo and passenger modules of the ship were the only big pieces left on the site, the rest was thousands of small pieces of metal the size of a football. The proton engines had detached on impact, rolling left and right from the flying direction, away from the ship to protect it. One of them rolled across the highway, crushing the pavement and leaving burn marks over his path. The highway was already clean for traffic, but the entire corn field where it landed was still splashed with the remains of the attempt. He tried to crash land it, thought Patrik, looking at the position of the nose of the ship. It was pointing upwards. Might have been survivors. A tough maybe.
'What was in it? he asked.
'Guns & military tech. They said on the news they were smugglers sourcing for the cartels in space.
He knew that wasn't true.
Night fell heavy on Patrik and Sarah as they drove deep into the city guts. The lack of skyscrapers and abundance of trees in the city center rendered an atmosphere of intimacy and unexpected familiarity, like the set of a cheap suburban tv series. Reality landed on Patrik as a shock. Finding themselves alone, in a place they have never been, searching for someone they have never met. Patrik looked at his battery marker, 22%. At this pace my battery will be flat by the break of dawn, he thought, but I can go into power save before that, buy some time. The curse of anxiety landed on him. He knew the feeling well, even though he only felt it once before.
They arrived to the Cyber Yoga and took the free empty spot at the front. It was the place next to the corner shop of a busy 4 way crossing downtown. The Dynamo building, featured a 4 story graffiti of Patrick and Sarah on its side. A front portrait of an empty stare, with a high brow, looking into nothingness. A waving American flag in the background. "For the Rights of Robots" it read, a clear reference to the "For the Rights of the Youth" campaign.
Patrik looked at himself, and wondered if he could frown as the giant Patrik from the wall. It makes me look angry and dangerous, he thought. Their eyes held an unnatural glow, blue as glaciar ice. He tried to be inspired by the view, but he couldn't.
Giant Patrik turned towards regular sized Patrik "would you dare stand up for us?' he said in his own voice. He was amazed by the deepfake. It sounded like his, but with an added gravity Patrik attributed to the scale. 'Freakish' remarked Sarah. 'I can't believe how good these deepfakes have become. It's already hard to tell them apart.
'How do you know it's a fake?' he asked innocently.
'The brow, you don't frown like that.'
Patrik did not answer.
'So, what now?' asked Sarah.
Patrik's eyes took a soothing yellow glow, the circuitry behind his ear follow. He called for a recording, and recited in Justin Swank's voice, "Go to 311 Blake street in Stanford and find the Cyber Yoga training center. Next to it there will be an entrance to an underground parking. The code is 1921. Park in 35. Thomas will find you there. Be there at 21.00 sharp, remember to wear masks at all times, including the car.'
As he played the recording, Patrik found himself in the backstage room of the Big Bad Circus. Justin, Sying and Janet were there. He looked around, the smoke from Janet's cigarette filled his odor sensors, Marlboro he recalled. There was more detail in the playback than he remembered. He focused on Justin, so many days we gave up, he thought.
He looked at the clock in his visor, it read 20.49. 'We are just in time, is your mask on?' he asked as they rolled towards the entry of the parking lot.
'It has been on ever since we left Newport Beach.'
They drove the Audi down through a single lane entrance. Concrete walls around them sucking the neon lights from the city. They stopped at the front of a steel gate. The access panel floated next to them, an hologram. Patrik repeated in a low voice as he put in the code on the radiating buttons.
"NOT VALID" flashed in bold red text above the panel. A sudden emptiness filled the base of his neck, for he was unable to speak. He was abstracted from time and space, and spit back into EARTH with violence. He shook it off, looked again, the text had disappeared. The access panel returned to its cold green light.
He glanced at Sarah, 'try again' she commanded in a hurry.
"NOT VALID' flashed again.
The speed of his awareness processing core spiked. A shot of frost ran through his real time module and spread into his power circuitry filling his soon empty battery with a suffocating frigidness. Strange, he thought, how can I be cold while my battery temperature is soaring? He opened the vents on his chest to release the extra heat from his power electronics and called for the recording once more. He paused and meticulously scanned everyone's faces, searching for a blink, a clue, a double meaning, anything. To his disappointment he found nothing. '1921' repeated Justin in slow motion, '311 Blake street in Stanford'. The was no mistake, they were at the right place. The gloom of doubt turned and twisted in Patrik's head. Trust no one, Justin told him after he let in a group of apocalypse gospel evangelists. Make your own thoughts for they are atomic, he said, and don't let anyone tell you what to think.
A dry bass drowned the space left between the concrete walls. Trumpets, trombones and and a harsh beat followed. Patrik recognized the music as some type of banda hip hop. A crisp blue Raptor drove down the same entrance and stopped behind them. It seemed huge next to the Audi, almost twice as high. The glossy yellow led lights blinded him through the rear view mirror, an adjustment in his light sensor brought back a clear image into his visor. We are essentially trapped, thought Patrik, but said nothing once more.
'One more time' snorted Sarah in what felt like a deja vu for him.
The blue pick-up let go a loud honk. Patrik glanced at the occupants, thinking about his options. There were two of them, immerse in what seemed like a heated discussion. Almost unaware of their presence. His attention returned to the panel, trying and failing to control the speed of core. A second honk. This time longer. He heard Sarah say something, but couldn't understand it in the commotion, the muffled sound of her words was not registered in his psyche.
He went on 1-9-2-1. 'NOT VALID' flashed, but the heavy door opened, letting them and the Raptor in. A couple of turns and they found 35. It was empty. Patrik celebrated the small victory in his core, still revving high after the avoided encounter. The blue pick-up went on and stopped across the parking lot. Their music now filled every corner of the enclosed space. Patrik inspected the Raptor's occupants as they drove by, noticing their gaze on them. This time he got a good look at them, Aridoamericans, he thought.
'Okay, we are in. What now? Where is this Thomas?' started Sarah, downplaying her own agitation. He looked at the clock, it read 20.55. 'We wait,' he said, 'we are where we should be. Thomas will meet us here.'
The banda sinaloense hip hop stopped flat. Echoes bounced back and forth until stillness returned. The strangers abandoned the truck and headed straight to them. Patrik closed his window seeking protection, but he knew the tempered glass wouldn't stand a chance against the blast of a fusion gun. He looked at his reflection in the mirror, confirming the glowing eyes of the fox. Sarah drew herself closer to Patrik.
'They are coming,' he said, 'but hey don't know it's us. We must sound confident and commanding. That's the best tactic to communicate our legitimacy here. Then they will leave us alone.' He did sound confident, thought Sarah.
The tall one wore a camo jacket and a red baseball cap with a white deer. He was broad and athletic, brimming as much space as he could. The short one he estimated was almost his as tall as him and drank something from a large brown plastic glass. His temples were clean shaven, and had a negligent graying beard. His glasses took a lavender shade under the bland light of the parking lot, adjusting get a better view of the situation.
'Trust me,' he said. He then stepped out of the car, and closed the door, making sure it was locked.
'Hey Juusha, what are you doing here?' he grunted, 'you searching for someone? The building didn't let you in.'
'What do you care?' he snorted, 'it's none of your business.' Patrik stretched as high as his articulations would let him, raising his brow.
'I'm making it my business juusha,' he narrowed his eyes. 'Now answer me. Patience is not our thing, where's your master?'
He didn't flinch or even slow down his stroll. In a blink he was in front of Patrik, almost at grabbing distance. Patrik was almost a head shorter than the stranger.
'Why don't you just fucking stop right there,' he barked, 'or I'm gonna 86 both of you.'
A silver piece appeared in Patrik's hand. It looked directly into the tall one, whom had now finally stopped a few steps away from him, at what Patrik considered a safe distance.
The fusion pistol swayed under Patrik's tight grip. A faint dance of the cannon took it left and right with a complete lack of rhythm. His chest vents opened, pushing warm air out. The tall one widened his eyes and glanced at the short one, still busy with his drink.
'Whoa man! It's okay. Take it easy. We didn't mean to interrupt any business.' He raised his hands, even though Patrik didn't ask him to. The fair one had now caught up and also stopped. He looked deep into his tejuino, moving the ice cubes around the glass with the straw. Sarah tried to get off the car, but found herself unable to order her body to do such a thing.
'There's no business' Patrik growled. 'Just go your way.'
'Oye cabrón,' intervened the short one, now looking at him. 'Tranquilo... We were on our way, right Carr?' signaling with his head to the other one. 'We ain't looking for trouble.'
Patrik saw they had eye scanners, and they were focused on him. Opening and closing the shutter, working hard on an ID. The pistol stabilized, now it was pointing straight at Carr. No chance for a miss, thought Patrik.
'We're good compa' explained Carr, with regained calm. 'We're going our way now. But we can't go with you on the way pointing at us.'
'Go the other way!' commanded Patrik. 'Get back into your car and go.'
'Cabrón, don't be unreasonable. We have just agreed to go our way. Which is there,' he chinned at the metal door by the end of the lot, 'through that door and into the building.'
Carr moved like lightning. In two steps he was next to him, beating his sharp SINS9 reflexes. With a jerk, Patrik was airborne and landed flat on the hood of his car. He got him by the neck. The fusion gun was gone of his grip and dug hard under his chin. The speed of his awareness core spiked. He felt the mouth of the gun stabbing up into his skin, trying to break his head off. Patrik imagined his circuits exploding under the million degrees of the blast. Melting metal and vaporizing anything on its way. Leaving nothing but a hole where head should be.
'This is a nice gun juusha. Where did you get it?' Carr asked, cutting with his eyes into his robot soul. Information lanes trekked up his neck and around his left ear, glowing in crimson red. He is a hybrid, thought Patrik, that's how he moved so fast. So stupid of me to die in such a naive way, and so early.
Sarah got off the car, rushing to clash against their attackers.
A white flash illuminated the parking lot. A warning shot was let out by the fair one. Sarah stopped dry on the spot, the piece was now pointing at her face. 'Stay just there baby. Don't do anything stupid,' he added, sipping from his tejuino.
'Stay still juusha. Let me take a look at you,' added Carr, inspecting the circuitry around his head. 'I know what you are. You are a SINS9. Your pieces will make many robots happy.'
'Are you alone?' inquired the small one.
'You really want to go the hard way? Don't be stupid, we are not fucking around. Are you alone?
'We are looking for someone,' started Sarah.
Patrik widened his eyes. 'Sarah, no..'
Sudden darkness, followed by static. Noise, then silence. Patrik realized he had been hit in the temple with his own pistol. The dull noise of metal on metal resonated in walls of the empty lot. Finally, sight returned to his visor, then sound.
'Looking for someone, huh. That does sound like some business. Carr. Do you have an ID?'
'Not a positive one,' he returned. 'He is wearing a mask. I can't get past.'
'You are wearing masks?' he asked, already knowing the answer to the question. 'You are lucky we are not Pacifiers. You would have it even worst with them. You don't want to be caught with that. Would you please take off your masks?'
'Juusha, perhaps you haven't understood the gravity of the situation,' he said, walking to Sarah. 'You want to see what her insides look like?' He pressed his gun at her chest. 'Take off your fucking mask,' he growled.
A touch on the fox and the mask was off, leaving their faces visible for recognition.
The large one raised his eyebrow and said something in Spanish to the fair one. Even though Patrik spoke the language, he didn't understand the exchange.
'Nah!? Are you sure?'
His tone had changed, noticed Patrik. They knew. He felt his core shutting down, leaving its body behind. Interference in his visor again. His temperature surged.
Another exchange in Spanish, this time he understood. It was their local speech, from the Pacific.
'Them?' he asked in desbelief.
'Si! I'm fucking sure Guillo,' he grunted. 'It's them. Hold him tight, I'll fucking kill you if you let him go.'
The short one got close to Sarah, admiring the delicate features in her face. He smelled her hair. He did his best to ID her, but couldn't. He carefully arranged her straight black hair behind her ear, and there it was: the fox. He stepped back, aiming his fusion piston to her chest.
'Turn it off,' he commanded.
Sarah remained still.
'Puta madre! Are we gonna play this all night. Turn. It. Off,' he snorted.
She resigned, and did as it was asked. The moment landed over her shoulders like the weight of a thousand years. She closed her eyes, ready for what was yet to come.
He took a step back and smirked. Then returned to his tejuino.
'Oh, hey Sarah.'
The metal door at the end of the lot opened with violence, making a racket as it hit hard on the wall. A male figure stood by the threshold.
'Guys, what the actual fuck?'
The short one bursted into laughter, completely Sarah. Still holding his fusion pistol, but with both hands over his knees. Laughing his lungs out.
'Hey, Tommy. You arrived just in time. Come on! You have to look at this...,' he said, pausing to catch his breath. 'We found your friends.'
'What the fuck are you talking about. You know you can't shoot in here, now I have to hack in and delete the records again. Seriously, what is wrong with you?' Asked Tommy, as he walked into the scene. Sarah didn't know what to do with the unexpected freedom. Patrik was still being stabbed with the fusion pistol.
'It's...' he started, but was overcome by glee. 'Its... Come here and see. It's, Patrik and Sarah.'
'HOLY SHIT!' he said, his eyes wide. 'But why the fuck are you laughing Guille?'
'I... I almost blow her brains out.'
'Father? Father... It's me.'
'Is the channel safe?'
'... It is now.'
'I found... I think I found them. I saw them through borrowed eyes. They were on the highway, heading to San Francisco.'
'Did you recognize them?'
'I.. I... I couldn't. They were wearing masks.'
'How do you know it's them?'
'The car. There's not many of them.'
'Marla, there could be many cars...'
'Not like this one. No. This is a special one, there's not many of them here. '
'I am certain father. Believe me. The car had a mask too. It is them.'
'Are they alone?'
'Yes. It's only two of them.'
'Do they know we are following them?'
'I.. I don't think so.'
'Where are they now?'
'Somewhere near San Francisco. I can find them.'
'That is enough.'
'Was I good father?'
'You were great my child. You must go and find them. We shall now bring in your brothers.'