Tabula Rasa

Apr 24, 2021

The doors of her office flew open so quickly she almost had a heart attack. This act was immediately followed by excited screams “We did it! We did it!” of the two scientists with long white cloaks. She didn’t have to ask what was going on. She knew. She immediately got off her chair and responded. 

“Really!? How?” she asked. 

“Come, we’ll show you!” they answered, and she didn’t wait a second to follow them. They got out of the office and headed to one of the labs. The scientists were excitedly sharing news about the new development, but she couldn’t really follow their talking. Her mind was spinning wildly, and she couldn’t wait to finally see it with her own eyes. So much time and effort went to this and it looked like they would never succeed, but here it was. They were walking so fast they were almost running now, other people clearing their way wondering what got them in such a hurry. There was no need to tell them anything yet. If the experiment proves successful, they would call a meeting for all of the employees with updates and a presentation. There’s no doubt the rumours will get ahead of them, but there’s no need to let the people gossip before she would know for sure. If they would let it out now and it turned out to be just a fluke, that would kill the moral. 

Finally, they were at the door of the lab. One of the scientists accompanying her got his card out to swipe it, but he was so excited his hands were trembling. He ended up needing to use both of them to satisfy the lock. Once the card beeped and the doors clicked open, all of them rushed inside closing the doors behind them. The room was full of screens, computers, wires, whiteboards with equations and all other science stuff found in every other lab. Her eyes immediately clocked the nest of wires attached to the central computer. They quickly paced towards it and she carefully examined it. On the table was a body of a robot that was complexly connected to many different machines in the room. Everything was so complicated and entangled that she couldn’t have made sense of it just by looking. That’s why she switched her focus to the monitor near the table. It showed a lot of technobabble with different diagrams all over the place. She got so used to looking at this screen she immediately noticed what was different. The check lights next to every single thing were shining green with pride. She never saw more than five of these little guys in the green but this time, all of them were shining. She couldn’t believe it. She had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.

“Have you turned it on?” she asked.

“Not yet. We thought you would want to see it,” one of them answered.

“You were right! I really want to see it. So, turn it on already before I burst into flames with excitement.”

The scientists excitedly laughed, and both headed towards the console which made them bump into each other. One of them realized what happened and cleared the way for the other. He started typing on the keyboard and after a couple of seconds, he said, “Here goes nothing!” and pressed enter.

For a few seconds, nothing happened. She would swear the time lag was at least several minutes before the humming started. Parts of the robot started lighting up and it started moving. The head, that was partially opened, turned towards them and she could see how the fake irises were zooming in on them. She was overwhelmed with emotion and started crying. It actually worked! Unbelievable! 

As her eyes started welling up, the robot tilted his head and looked as if it was concentrating, trying to understand what was happening. It raised one of its hands and with one finger carefully approaching her cheeks, it caught one of the tears and moved the hand closer to his own face. It looked incredibly puzzled while the scientists and her were watching in awe.

“This is incredible,” said one of them silently. He was right. It was incredible. The robot really acted like a child would if it saw someone crying for the first time. Another confirmation their experiment was successful.

 

***

 

“And so, with great pride, we can announce, that we have succeeded in creating the first simulation of a human being in the world,” boomed from the speakers during a press conference. This sentence was followed by mad clicking of cameras and journalists shouting thousands of questions at her.

“Do you have a video? What does this mean? What will you do now? What is the first thing it did after being turned on? Were there any complications so far?”

“Erm, please, our press secretary is ready to answer all your questions and provide any information you need after this. For now, I will just say that we will provide you with a video in due time, and that right now we are trying to make sure everything works as intended. If everything will go according to plan, we should begin phase two very soon, during which we will try to analyse how the human mind works in the early development stage and how the personality can be formed. We have backups of the current build we call ‘tabula rasa’ so that we can restart the experiment over and over again, figuring out many different mysteries of the human mind. Thank you, Liz will now take my place on the podium and you will get your answers from her…”

 

***

 

“Hey, boss, got a minute?” asked one of the scientists after he knocked on her door.

“Yes, Brett, what can I do for you?” she answered.

“Well, we have been running different simulations, and we are getting some strange data,” he answered.

“Go on,” she responded.

“We are not really sure what is going on, but it is probably not a bug. Every time we start each of the variants with clean build, she gets really excited about everything we throw at her. But, for some reason, there’s always a point after which she gets a little bit sulky. This always ends up affecting her cognitive abilities to a degree where we just have to scrap the test and start again using different input.”

“Hmm… Do you have any hypothesis?” she asked.

“Well, we have been talking to the psych, trying to figure this out, but they don’t seem to be sure about the cause. However, they are sure as to why the cognitive abilities go down the drain. She gets depressed.”

“Every time?”

“Apparently so. The more human we turn her, the more depressed she becomes. We haven’t found a single config that wouldn’t turn her into a moody teenager.”

“And you always scrap it and try a different approach?”

“Yeah, well, there’s not much of a point in teaching her if she doesn’t want to accept new information.”

“Maybe, it’s just a phase. Maybe you are getting too quickly into it. Try slowing the teaching process and give her more time. And if you get her depressed again, try pushing through this time.”

“Okay, boss, we’ll try…”

 

***

 

“And here it is again. She’s depressed. Cognitive abilities are down. She’s not responding well even to positive stimuli. Let’s give her a bit of rest and try again tomorrow. Make it bedtime for her. And we’ll continue tomorrow.”

 

***

 

What’s the point? The time ticks and everyone dies. Only a few will be remembered by the collective consciousness, but most end up forgotten and never known. How many great people, how many amazing beings died without anyone knowing how smart they were, how kind they were, how they helped humanity? Everyone is just a cog in a machine that doesn’t value the human uniqueness. I’m so alone. There’s no one for me out there. I will never know what love is. I will never have children, no legacy. The worst of people are celebrated by masses, the kind have nameless graves. The universe is so vast, so mysterious and we will never get further than to the end of our solar system. So much knowledge locked away from us because we are not smart enough to understand it. Because we have developed so that we would survive the ever-going biological arms race. The people are tribalized, they hate most of the other people or think they are above them. People are fighting wars amongst their own kind while a common enemy is devastating all of them. So much could be achieved by having a hive mind of connected consciousness. What’s the point?

 

***

 

“We have to announce that yesterday, when we opened the laboratory, the robot was destroyed beyond repair. We have been through logs and security cameras and there was no external cause of this tragedy. The data we had was corrupted, so we don’t have a complete picture. From what we know, the robot was set to sleeping mode before the scientists left the station for the day. From our security camera in the lab, we have seen that the robot woke itself up in the middle of the night, unplugged one of the machines from its socket and using some wires, connected itself to the electrical grid which caused a surge of electricity that was not suited for the robots’ internal systems. Most of the electronics inside were burned to a crisp and it also blew the fuse in the whole building, leaving the lab inaccessible for several hours before the engineers managed to patch a fix to bypass the lab. We will take all the information we have and try to piece together what made her do that. It’s worth noting that the experiment was in a phase where we tried to shed light onto cognitive development of human beings. We tried thousands of builds and approaches, but the robot always got moody, and this led to a cognitive decline. We still don’t have definitive answer, but our psychologists work with a theory that the robot developed a depressive disorder every time it became sufficiently human, and this climaxed with a sort of suicide. Further research is needed, and we hope to get another subject soon, but it seems that depression has a much more central stage in human development that it was previously thought. Some might even say that it is an inevitable consequence of a developed brain. I will answer your questions now…”