Friday, January 13, 2006
“What’s that?” The boy pointed toward a dimly lit display case. The father took the boy’s hand and led him to the case.
“Let’s find out,” he smiled weakly, “then we have to go, okay?”
He hated these museums. He tried to hide his disdain. Who cared about these relics? Well, his son did, for one. The kid couldn’t get enough of them. And the endless questions he would ask. There would be no peace tonight.
“Wow, look at this mask. It looks really fancy and scary at the same time.” The father stared at it. It looked pitiful with it’s rough feathers and shoddy painting. His robots could do a better job.
“Ceremonial mask, circa 2800. Dad, what does circa mean?”
“Uh, what? Oh. That means that it uh, circled the planet on display at least 2800 times.”
The boy wrinkled his nose. “Are you sure?”
“Of course, why would I make that up?’
“Because you make things up when you don’t know what it means. You do that a lot.”
“No I don’t!”
“Yes, you do.” He turned back to the display. “I think this mask is beautiful. I’ll bet it’s really old. What’s it made out of?”
Hi father shrugged.
“I’ll bet ‘circa’ has to do with the time frame that the mask was used.”The father grunted, “Maybe” Angry at his son’s remarks, he stood powerless. The boy was right. The boy was always right. He’s smarter than I am. And I’m smart!
“You’re right, I don’t know what that means I don’t know what it’s made out of either. Maybe it’s a plastic biopolymer resin or a mass produced lightweight metal or something.”
"It’s very rough and ….dad, what does wood look like?”
“You’ve never actually seen wood, have you?” The boy looked shocked.
“Sure, of course I….no, no I haven’t. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before. Wait a minute…Trees, that’s where wood came from, trees. I have seen images of trees.” He beamed at his son, proud of himself.
“I know it came from trees, dad. What kind of tree did that wood come from?”
“What kind? Well, ah…You ask too many questions,” his father said irritated. “Always asking about this and about that? Why do you care so much about this stuff? "
The boy looked up and asked “Why don’t you care?”
“Because it’s old, it’s dead and it doesn’t matter anymore. I worry about today and tomorrow, not yesterday.” The man’s head started to ache.
“If you don’t learn from yesterday, you’ll make the same mistakes tomorrow…and the next day…and so forth.”
“What is this, philosophy??? Soon you’ll want to learn about religion! All these ancient ways don’t amount to anything now. I don’t have to remember yesterday because I don’t make mistakes!” What an incredulous child!
“That’s right, the robots and cyborgs do all the work.”
“Look, I make sure they’re working and they do their jobs young man. Those robots do what I say. They are real and important, not this...junk.”
“What happens when they are able to take care of themselves? What will you do then?”
The question nearly floored the man. “That’s unheard of!!! Robots taking care of themselves! It’s not like they’re …”
He stopped. He was going to say “smart”, but couldn’t. They were smart, smarter than him, and maybe smarter than his boy. Artificial intelligence exceeded natural intelligence. He never thought about it before. He always assumed he was in control because they never stopped or took a break, and he stood at the helm, watching. He monitored their levels and voltage, recharging and adjusting as necessary. What if they learned to do that? What if they already did do that, but still needed people just in case?
“Dad, Are you okay?”
“Yeah, fine. You ready to go?”
“Not yet. I want to look at this mask some more.”
His father nodded, blinded by the realization that he didn’t have the control he thought he had. I’m in charge of them, I can shut down the plant anytime I want! Can’t I? He wasn’t so sure, though. Would they try to stop him? Could they? Would they know what was going on? Several of the robots were wired into the main operating system. They programmed updates into the operating system. Of course they would know what was going on!
“Dad, what was earth like before all the robots and cyborgs?”
“I don’t know. I guess it was uncivilized, people living in the dirt, killing each other for food, wearing masks like this one. Religions killed one another in the name of their god’s. Eventually, the governments faded, religions died, and technology ruled. Just like today. That’s what I’ve heard anyway.”
“You don’t really know for sure, do you?
“No, I don’t really know. Who really knows for sure? Maybe the person that made this mask knows, but where is he now? You make it sound like I don’t know anything. Well, since you’re smarter then I am will you stop asking all these questions? Let’s get out of here!”
As they walked out, the boy asked “Dad, if I stop asking questions, how will you ever learn?”