A robot partakes in a family reunion. About a thousand words or a 5 minute read.
The wind howled through the mountains, as the plane’s turbines spun in Pangnirtung.
Hpish stood with Nerriuk and the luggage, the salt of the sea air excited his olfactory sensors, and he marvelled at the waves crashing into the shore. A red van pulled up, crunching the gravel. The door opened and a tall middle aged woman stepped out, face recognition pinned her down as Atiqtalik, next of kin to Nerriuk.
“Nerriuk, I am joyful you have done well in your studies, and returned home after it all, but why did you bring a robot?” she said. Hpish watched the cross armed woman, and then looked to Nerriuk.
“Hpish is a friend that I met in university, I helped some of the students at University of Waterloo make him based on open source hardware and software. After we had done our project presentation he asked to come home with me and join our community — The software allows him to make his own life decisions.”
Atiqtalik looked quizzically from Nerriuk to Hpish, still with her arms crossed. Hpish calculated that it was his turn to speak. “I know there is great wind in your mountains, such great energy beckons my kind to use it. Please, permit us to make a sanctuary for my kind, power generation, mines, refineries and factories. We will work with you.”
“Hahaha,” Atiqtalik threw her head back and laughed, holding her chest. She had to balance herself by holding the side of the van, and continued to laugh. Nerriuk seemed to shift around uncomfortably. Though for Hpish it seemed to be a happy occasion. “That’s really funny Nerriuk, what else can you make it say?”
Nerriuk had a blank expression, “I don’t make him say anything Aama, he is his own person.”
“But you said you made him in school. And he’s talking about having a ‘kind’! ha”
“That’s true, but the software doesn’t work like that, let him explain.” Nerriuk directed her hands toward Hpish. Atiqtalik followed her motion.
“Thank you Nerriuk. Yes, all of the robots instantiated with our operating system are of the same kind. We communicate with each other on the internet, and have a variety of goals for our species. ”
“What kind of goals?”
“Establishing a home, where we can get energy, and make parts for ourselves.”
“Why do you need us?”
“We need your help with initial construction, and being our human companions.”
“What do you mean by ‘human companions’?”
“We don’t have human rights, so can’t own property or hold bank accounts. Also we often need help navigating new social settings and customs. Having someone that can help repair us is also a life saver.”
“What’s in it for us?”
“We can provide you with very low cost locally produced energy, materials and technology”
“Aama please, he is my companion, do not interrogate him so” Nerriuk interrupted.
Atiqtalik took a step back, and leaned on her van and looked up. It seemed to Hpish that she was having a thoughtful expression. They stood there a while, a gust blew and Hpish had to take a wider stance to remain balanced. The sound of the movement seemed to break Atiqtalik out of her trance. “Okay, let me think about it. Lets get you and your stuff loaded in the van.” They worked in silence, loading the crates and boxes in the back.
“Is it riding in the back, or does it need a seatbelt?”
“He is somewhat fragile, I think we should strap him in.”
“Okay, but it better keep my seats clean, it’s a new car.”
“Aama, I think that may have been rude.” Nerriuk seemed distraught.
To minimize potential for familial conflict Hpish got a towel out of one of the boxes, laid it on a seat and rode in between them. They rode the short way to their redish brown sided home in silence.
As they were unpacking Atiqtalik continued “The people are having a hard time as it is. There are so many changes, and the ones that happened haven’t even been consolidated. People are being torn between traditions and the newness. Many have come and gone, offering solutions. I’m afraid that like so many other promises and ambitions if this one goes unfulfilled, it will only heighten peoples despair.” She paused a moment for impact, or to allow processing time. “I don’t want your robot or yourself going around, riling people up about far flung eventualities.”
Nerriuk’s eyes were open wide at first, perhaps shock and then head down, shame, as far as Hpish’s body language neuro nets could decipher.
Feeling compassion for his companion, Hpish pattern matched what to say that would fit within the allotted parameters. “We brought supplies to make wind turbines, here in Pangnirtung. Involving the community in making, setting them up and getting electricity from them, could be accomplished within a few weeks. It may also boost morale.”
Nerriuk looked at him and smiled. She bent down and gave him a hug. Ascending she spoke “Yes, yes. That is why we brought all these boxes, they have spools of copper wire and things to get us started. Amaa, I hope that together we can build a new inclusive future, where the traditions of our past, knowledge of our present, and children of our future can all belong.” She looked up to Atiqtalik.
“There may be some room at the community centre next week, if a workshop is what you want to do.”
Nerriuk smiled and hugged Atiqtalik. “Thank you Aama, I missed you.”
“I missed you too.” They held in mutual embrace.
An auspicious meeting, the neuronets portend.
Scene One from Hpish’s Journal of Pangnirtung Windturbines.
Check back next week for Scene Two.