What is it that makes us ‘human’? Is it our flesh and blood, or is it something else, something deep inside each of us? Many people dedicate their lives to finding an answer to these questions. One such person was an elderly inventor who specialised in artificial intelligence. Despite a long and successful career, they still hadn’t reached an answer they were content with. And so, they decided to do one last test with humanity and built a robotic woman.
To look at, the robot was no different from any human female. The inventor designed for her an approachable and pretty face, and long graceful limbs that gave her the posture and movement of a demure young lady. No one would have guessed that she wasn’t a real girl just by looking at her.
Over the next few years, the inventor helped the robot girl develop her social skills and her personality and recorded her progress. The girl became as gentle and kind as the face she was given, and gradually acquired an interest in the arts, often finding herself studying artwork and music. But the one thing she enjoyed most was reading. It wasn’t long before she had read everything the inventor owned, and had started reading books that the inventor purchased for her and borrowed from local libraries. She became particularly attached to books that involved robots like herself, and she would question the moral messages about humanity that such books offered.
“That’s something you need to work out for yourself.” The inventor would tell her.
"How did you find your answer?" The girl asked.
"I built you" was always the reply.
In time, the robot girl started to wonder about the world that lay outside the workshop where she and the inventor lived. She wanted to know about humans and how they were able to create so many things. For a long time, the inventor refused to let her leave. They were sure that the world outside was not ready to accept an artificial life-form, no matter how convincing, and they had become as protective of the robot as if she were their own flesh and blood. However, the inventor knew that their experiment would not work if the robot girl did not interact with other people and so they eventually let her go out into society.
Contrary to the inventors worries, the robot girl thrived. Each night she would return to the workshop to recharge, full of stories about what she’d seen and the people she had met. People were drawn to her because she was kind and pretty, and she soon found herself with a number of individuals she called her friends. Thanks to a combination of the inventors’ guidance and her own interpretations of what she’d learned, the girl was able to talk and act just like her new friends, and gave not even the slightest impression that she was just like them. For quite some time, she was considered ‘human’.
Sadly, it was not to remain this way. While walking towards home with her friends, she came across two men arguing in an alleyway. One of the men pulled out a weapon and pointed it at the other. After a moment or two of them shouting at each other, the armed one motioned forwards to strike. Without any hesitation, the robot girl leapt at the two men, knocking the unarmed man out of the way. She grabbed hold of the armed man and managed to take his weapon quite easily, for her robotic body was much stronger than most humans’. She crumpled the weapon with her hands, slightly tearing the false flesh on her palms. Both men stared at her for a moment and then turned and fled, yelling. Turning towards her friends, she saw that all their expressions were of shock and, to her surprise, terror. She took a step towards them and they all flinched, stepping backwards to maintain their distance.
It was at that point that the girl became aware that something was not right with her body. She looked down and put a hand to her shoulder. Raising her hand to eye-level, she saw her fingers were coated with a black oily substance, which was also leaking out of the tear in her hand. The man’s weapon must have impaled her when she disarmed him. She knew that this ‘oil’ was what helped her to function, allowing her parts and joints to move as smoothly as a humans, and that she had to get back to the workshop as soon as possible so she could be fixed. She made to move, but her companions were blocking her way, their faces twisting from fear into disgust.
What is she, she heard them say to each other, she’s not even human. She pretended to be like us. Is this some sick joke? No, she’s not even a ‘she’. She’s an ‘it’. Look how easily it pushed those two men and squashed that weapon? What’ll it do to us? We have to stop it.
She begged them to let her pass, but it was too late. They no longer saw her as a friend, or even as a person. To them she was a monster, inhuman. Without warning they all leapt at her, tearing at her clothes and skin, determined to ‘stop’ her. She tried to cry out, but found herself unable to. The ordeal only lasted a few moments, and the people who were her friends only moments ago stepped back, took one last look at her, and walked away together, leaving her alone in the alley.
The robot girl pulled her torn clothes around her and fell to her knees. Knowing she didn’t have long until she shut down, she used the oil dripping from her wounds to write on the ground. She finally had an answer, an understanding of one of her books and she wanted to use her last moments to convey what she had learned. Someone had to know, to understand. As she finished, the last of her strength left her and she lay down. She thought of everything she had seen and learnt, and she couldn’t help a small smile curling her lip as she closed her eyes.
Some time later, one of the robot girl’s friends returned to the alley. They called the girl’s name several times before finding her lying in the same spot she had been left. The friend knelt down and apologised profusely, realising what they and the others had done. Picking up the girl, they turned to head towards to workshop, when they noticed what was written on the floor:
“1.A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2.A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3.A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.”
The first ‘robot’ had been crossed out and above it, in writing barely legible because it was so shaky and smudged, it said
I created this story and picture to go hand-in-hand. Both were inspired by a number of things, especially the laws of robotics from the works of Issac Asimov.
The first time I heard the laws, I wondered what the world would be like if all people lived by them. That’s where the spark for the story came from.
I’m really sorry for the crap quality for my writing! I’m so out of practice with my writing, but I really wanted to get this story out. When I have a better version, I’ll upload it!
As for the picture, I’m actually really pleased with how it turned out. I put a lot of work into the mechanical arm, as I have very limited practice at drawing robots. The hardest part was the wound on her face, trying to show that she was a robot underneath in such a small space! The ‘oil’ was done with scribbling an excess of black gel pen and then smudging it with my fingers. I’m not sure how much I like the effect, especially on the fingers as it’s not that noticable.
Drawn on regular sketch paper and coloured with Crayola pencils
I hope this story and picture have been interesting and thought provoking!
*edit* Hurrdurr I forgot to include a thing, which is now in there. It adds a little more continuity to the story, and helps the transition between the inventor's and the girl's arcs go a bit smoother