I Dream of Robot

Last night I had an unusual dream. It’s very rare that I wake up with a dream retained in my head in vivid detail. So I thought of sharing it here…

I was talking to a robot. She was a janitor servicing a restroom of one of three space stations orbiting an unnamed planet. The three artificial satellites were about a tenth the size of the moon. They provided the communications needs of the planet they orbit: broadcast, telephony, global positioning and what have you.

Going back to the mechanical janitor…she was about 4 feet tall. But don’t bother getting your teenage anime inspired fantasies fired up. I would best describe her as a small forklift with flimsy aluminum telescopic arms instead of “forks”. Her body, or more appropriately, casing, seemed retro-futuristic in design complete with faded paint and a rich patina of scuffs, scrapes and dents. I can only tell that she’s a she by her Siri-like feminine voice. She had small wheels as feet hidden underneath her boxy frame. I would guess she was an old, obsolete model which is now assigned to menial tasks, rather than be decommissioned.

The dream started with me standing alone with the female robot in the dark, cold lavatory. I could tell it was the men’s room, as one of the walls were lined up with what seemed to be a dozen urinals. The facility seems over-sized for the satellite, because the she-janitor told me that in a day, only one or two humanoids would drop by to use it, and most of the time there was nobody there. Maybe the satellite had no permanent humanoid residents, I never did find out. But the toilet was dead quiet, and uninvitingly frigid. Only a constant faint hum of what could be an air circulation system can be heard, plus the random gritty whirring of the robot’s servos as she moved about. And speaking of the air, the lavatory smelled strongly of cheap apple scented sanitizing chemicals, masking the slight odor of chlorinated water and urine.

Then the robot told me that she is very lonely, as she slowly scrubbed a portion of a wall, the sponge on her hand developing just a hint of detergent foam. I could tell by her “face” that she is indeed lonely. Or maybe she just looked lonely because her face is actually just sagging, tired and dilapidated. Her eyes are two incandescent bulbs glowing dimly. Somehow it didn’t surprise me one bit that this machine is capable of emotion; like it was a given fact. She goes on to tell me with her digital tone corrected voice that, although she was designed to be capable of perfectly communicating to humanoids using their language, no one ever bothered to talk to her. She gets one, maybe two “visitors” to her lavatory in a day, yet not a word was spoken. You would think that a robot wouldn’t care less, but this one was clearly depressed.

I couldn’t say anything, and just stood there listening, trying to show empathy. I can sense that the robot was grateful that there is finally someone who is at least listening if not speaking to her. She went on with her task, which seemed futile. Why would a virtually unused toilet have to be constantly scrubbed? Was it the only way to keep them from pulling the plug on her? She went on to speak and told me that the last time she was able to talk to someone was years ago, when she was swapped with the male janitor of the second satellite and was able to briefly meet and talk to that other janitor at the transport bay…

Then I awoke with a heavy heart.

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Geek Firmware Upgrade Version 2012

A.K.A five New Year’s Resolutions for twenty twelve. A new year is a chance for us to tweak ourselves, run smoother, remove the bugs and the occasional crash. Truly, a man’s preferences evolve. He is also forced to adapt to the changing times, and most importantly to adjust for irreversible aging. And like firmware upgrades, it doesn’t have to be dramatic revisions. More often, some subtle tuning is all that is needed.

And so, here’s my personal list of five improvements and bug fixes for this new year:

1. A few steps forward towards health. A few months ago, I’ve been hitting the stationary bike and lifting some weights. Not hard core, but I began wearing pants a size smaller and it’s quite inspiring. I’m also saying no soda (not even diet), and no artificial sweeteners. My blood sugar was on the high side of normal, but I figure artificial sweeteners might be more dangerous than helpful in the long term.

2. Move towards organic. Not only for food, but for other grocery items as well. It is only lately that I realized that some products such as shampoo and toothpaste produced by multinational companies may not be entirely safe and healthy to use. After all, for most products nowadays, price and profit margin are the main consideration and heaven knows what they put in those things. I could only hope for a Whole Foods Market to open in the Philippines.

3. One watch a year, one gadget a year. This is an attempt at a stricter discipline when it comes to spending…for geek vices in particular. Wrist watches have been a recent passion, and it is very easy to lose control–and my entire savings for that matter–to this addiction. Limiting myself to buy only one watch will not only save my wallet, it is also a fun, exciting and challenging quest to research and pick just one from a sea of choices. Same goes with gadgets: if I decide to ditch my crappy Blackberry Playbook for a Macbook Air, that’s it, upgrading to iPhone 5 would have to wait until January 1, 2013 the earliest. If I am unable to buy a watch nor a gadget for 2012, that would be better. My savings account will thank me (hey, that actually sounds very mature!). Hopefully I can apply this resolution not only for 2012, but for the succeeding years beyond.

4. Tweet the traffic for public service. Not everyone has the MMDA iPhone app. And not even MMDA can tweet the traffic situation in all areas at all times. If I get stuck going south bound in South Luzon Expressway (which happens a lot but fingers crossed for 2012), I’ll let the Tweetdom know to help others from falling into the same trap. It’s the least of a good that I can do, given my permanent mean streak and irreverence on Twitter which will not change anytime soon, by the way.

5. Migrate from iPhoto to Aperture. Truly a geeky and trivial new year’s resolution but just to explain: currently I upload my photos to both which is not only uselessly redundant, but a waste of hard drive space. 2012 onwards, I will use Aperture as my only photo management software (and I encourage everyone to do the same).

Just like the Facebook app that releases an update every so often, this set of personal resolutions is by no means absolute. Besides, we all have to apply kaizen to keep us from hanging and crashing.

Have you installed your own personal firmware upgrades yet? Happy twenty-twelve everyone!