Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Fixing Rex

[ 'A novelette, rather than a short story' ;-)
Or better, 'a script for a short film' ]

The crimson sky, the ever-morphing clouds, flocks flapping north, canoes scribing streaks... Though Lake Vembanad, so picturesque, with its soft undulations creating a million golden mirrors is an incarnation of immense beauty, today somehow I felt that its mocking me - and my creativity. It was 10 past 6, and twilight had already set in... days are not very long in Alleppey - well, for that matter, its the same almost all over south India - the (un?)privilage of being neighbours with the equator. And, I stood, as usual, with my cofee mug, against the huge glass panes of the 27th floor of Yanthra Robotics, overlooking the splendour of nature, at the east shore of the lake.

But still... today, even the havens of earth would fail to draw a smile on my lips... the fire was deep inside, troubling the roots of my thoughts, challenging the lanes of my intellect... I turned and looked back at my PX7003 humaniod prototype, code name 'Rex' - the source of all my trouble.

PX7003 - my team conceived it - the piece of human creativity Yanthra was tracking close - an aesthetic masterpiece in metal and plastic, which will decide our fate in the market, and my career as a scientist. The 4 prototypes developed after PX6000 had fallen flat in the market, and the PX7003 was where the hope lay - it was the manifestation of all lessons learned. It worked perfect - except for one single feature - the feature, which was promised as our unique quality - telekinesis! The design was perfect - to the peak electronic circuitry and programming could offer, but still, it just didn't work. And without that, Rex would be just be a minor enhancement to any other robot, who could just walk, run, climb, swim or fly around; and we wouldn't be able to sell it as the cost was not justified. The prowess of mental faculty - If I'm able to get the droid to be telekinetic like humans, I'd be setting a world record in breaking the barrier between artificial intellingence and mental faculties in a living form.

Rex was observing me... and when I turned, he walked forward.
"Its beautiful, isnt it..?" he asked...
"Am I your thought, professor?" he asked, his eyes following a flock of birds flying east...
I didnt answer.. I just let go off my mug, and Rex watched it hover in the air, and drift off towards my table...
"I dont know... I dont know Rex..." I sighed and looked at the mug, as it touched the table. "I've re-examined each of your neural terminals a thousand times, I've reviewed your program a million times..." I turned back to the lake-view...
"May be there's something that we overlooked?" He said, staring at his fist, as he made and unmade it.
"hmm..." I closed my eyes

"Rex, shall we try out the kung-fu program..?" Dr. Rahul, one of my assistants popped his head into my chamber and asked... "Hello Sir" he greeted me.
"Hey, Rahul.".. I returned it... and nodded a permission to Rex
I watched him walk by, and close the door behind.
I stood there for a few more mins, contemplating... then, just grabbed my briefcase and car keys and walked out. "I'll call it a day"

Its been around 30 years since the homosapien race had re-discovered the long-forgotten so-called-psychic-skills, which sprang out of the 'psychic renaissance' of 2102-2105. A fair proportion of mankind use the skills today as a normal part of their life... the rest.. they are like Rex - they ought to, but just are not able to bring it out. At the beginning, things were classified as mental faculties, but slowly science decomposed it, baselined the theories, and defined the principles - the same ones which I had picked and built into Rex's electronics.

The drive back home was hectic, well... ofcourse, friday evenings can't be better. The distant Alleppey skyline peered out of the coconut-tree-canopy. The city - I would have loved to take a walk through the streets and drown myself in the myriad of the metropolis. But, today was different... I was in no mood for the masses... I took a diversion, and headed for the NH47 - the highway would help me hit home soon.

"Pappaaaa movieee.." little Nayana came running (with her barbie in one hand) the moment I pulled up into the garage... "Come come come... we are all readyyyyy...."
I grabbed her with a kiss, locked the car and walked in.
"dee... Give him a minute to fresh up.... shho.. this girl" Celin took her out of my arms... "Howz Rex doing" She asked...
I made a gloom face.
"Oh dont worry... everything will be alright... go take a bath - I'll get you a cofee"
"How was your day?" I asked as I walked towards the stairs
"Great, in fact... remember the surgery I mentioned..? " She paused as she put Nayana down "It went great..." she completed with a huge smile....
"way to go, doc..." I replied with a thumbs-up and a smile as big "another feather on Dr. Celin's cap, huh?". She winked and walked towards the kitchen.
"Paappa pappa look"... Roshan yelled as he jugglled balls 5 feet in front of him. I drew one away from the bunch towards me, and tossed it up.. he manuvered it back into the group before it hit the floor
"U rock, buddy.. u rock" I yelled back, punching up... he giggled. Roshan, who turned 6 a month ago, had just recently started with his telekinesis... he's a quick learner.. It had taken me around 4 months to perform such a feat. Mankind gets better with each generation...
"Where's ur brother?" I shouted out while climbing up (Robin was the first-born, older by 4 years)
"He's in the game room - playing cards with appachhan & ammachhi"

A cold shower - nothing can calm your mind and body more... I stood there, cooling down, washing away my troubles... for around 10 minutes, until Nayana started pounding the door.
"dee" I heard Celin's yell, and Nayana's fading paces... Time to step out... I pulled out fresh clothes from the wardrobe.
The whole family was in the living room when I came down.. wow.. three generations in a row... happy as in heaven... may be I'm the only one on earth (or hell?) at the moment...

I was rather silent throughout the drive to the restaurant... though the kids were busy in their chatter. Celin glanced a couple of times, but left me to my thoughts - She knows how to handle me. She could measure my entropy, and knew the best way to get me back into equilibrium - leave me to myself - the system would automatically settle down.

We didn't have to wait much at the reception, as we had reservations. The table was round, Nayana sat between Celin and me, Roshan & Robin to my left with their backs against the glass panes, Dad & Mom completed the circle. It was a good spot - near the glass windows, looking over the city from a 100 ft elevation - Alleppey - basking in all glory - the city lights and vehicles were already creating an animated artwork in black and white.

"Hi I'm Manu... I'll be taking care of you today... Here are the menus for the evening... and while you take a look at them, can I get you all something to drink..?" I turned to see the waiter give away the menu cards, with an obsequious smile.
("Manu Krishnan" - I read his badge) - "Thanks Manu, I guess we'll have warm water, and hot chocalate for the kids..... to start with" I smiled..
"Very well, Sir.. I'll be right back" Manu walked away elegantly.

Nayana had already started to climb the table aiming the red roses at the center. Celin gave a stern-mom-look, and she sat back with a cross face. I gave out a short laugh at the scene, and she giggled. Well.. that's pretty much how long an infant's frets last. I caressed her hair, and she climbed on the chair and kissed my cheek (for a rather long period). Celin too wound her hands around her once she sat back, and she giggled again.

Soft music was playing - it was well tuned - it soothed you, but you would bearly notice it. I knew this one - it was in my collection - a very old 'Santoor' composition from 'Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma'. I whispered into Roshan's ears "The work you hear was created over 100 years ago". "Wow" he replied, and wisphered the same to Robin. Robin leaned forward and asked "Who's the artist, Papa?" I opened my mouth to answer, but suddenly jerked back, as he shot up from his chair, with his left arm stretched ahead, palm spread and curved as if performing a magical gesture. I turned, and saw a tray, a set of mugs and glass tumblers floating scattered in the air, brown and transparent liquid patterns, and a Manu pulling himself back to his feet. By the time he got up, the fluid was back in their containers, the containers back on the tray, and the tray hovering in front of him to take charge.
"Wow... that was cool, man... thanks a lot" Manu kept the tray on our table, and started clapping. The whole bunch of witnesses joined in...
Robin gave a ceremonial bow with a huge smile, and sat down.

"My apologies... should have been more careful when walking down a busy hall.. I'll be right back with a fresh pick.. excuse me..." Manu picked up the tray and walked back.
"That was pretty impressive, my boy" I smiled at Robin once Manu left
"Thanks Papa"
"I see that you still have those gestures"
"That's just showbiz, Papa... a more stylish presentation - you know, like doing magic or something..."
I just smiled and brushed his hair reaching out around Roshan.

Manu was back in a while. He kept the mugs and tumblers on the table.
"So, are we ready with the picks for dinner" He asked with a genuine smile...
"um.. can we have around 10 more minutes...? the kids need a bit more time" Celin replied.
"Sure... pls take your time..." He smiled and started back with a slight bow... He then stopped and contiued "um... can I ask a question... if you dont mind?"
Celin took it "Sure... shoot"
"Can all of you do that..?" He looked at Robin, and vaguely imitated his gestures "I mean... controlling stuff without touching them and all?"
"Yes... why do you ask..? Can't you?" Celin got herself engaged in the conversation
"I'm afraid 'no'... well... you know... I've tried it a few times... but somehow it never worked... Is it genetic or something..? 'cause my parents were never able to do it... I mean it doesn't really make sense, right..? that u can control something without touching... of course I know lotsa people can do it... but... " (sigh) "I donno... I'd like to be able to do it... but somehow, I'm not able to... u know what I mean?"
"Precisely" Celin gave her 'doc' nod.
"Tell me, Manu... have you never asked anyone for help all these years?" She continued
"I did, when I was a kid... But, u know... since my parents couldn't do it, I was not sure if I could... Even the whole of my immediate relatives didn't have it in them... I had sought help of teachers, they told me all the theory and the stuff... but somehow it never worked for me"
"Okay..." Celin scanned us, and repositioned herself comfortably towards Manu. Well, we knew, that as per her body-language, this meant that she is determined to solve the problem.
"Manu, have u worked with magnets"
"Yes, m'am"
"Have you seen steel pins around magnets"
"Have you observed that when a non-magnetic pin sticks on to the magnet, the pin too can attract other pins..? or, in other words, become a magnet... And if you leave it long enough with the magnet, the pin aquires some magnetism for itself..?"
"Yes, m'am... I've known that"
"Well... lemme let you out a secret... not one which many knows... telekinesis too is like that... if you touch a telekinetic person, you too would become telekinetic"
("what???" I almost was about to yell... "nonsence"... but then... its Celin... She's not silly... I listened on... The rest of the family too had jolted at that point... but, they too listened on...)
"No way..." Manu looked at all of us... and looked back at Celin "Really..?"
"Trust me... I'm a doctor" Celin fished into her handbag, and pulled out her badge.
"Okay..." Manu seemed to be permeable to the idea now.
"Why..? you want proof"
"Well..." he looked puzzled...
"Okay... see my little daughter here..? She's 3 years old" Nayana gazed at Celin with wide eyes, and looked at all of us. I'm sure she had no idea of what was going on, for when mom smiled at her, she giggled happily stuffing four fingers into her mouth. Celin pulled the hand out of her mouth and gave her 'the look'.
"She has no idea of what telekinesis is, and has no power or knowledge to do any such feat" She looked at Manu...
"Nayana, do u want that flower?" Celin ran her hand into Nayana's hair, pointing the vase at the center.
Nayana giggled, jumped up, and got ready to climb the table.
"uh-uh... nooo" Celin blocked her.
"See, if she wants something, she goes to get it... not pull it towards her"
Manu listened, not blinking even once, expecting something huge to happen... like a miracle.
"Now, watch..." Celin moved closer to Nayana, took hold of her right hand, and sofly stretched her left hand ahead. She then leaned, and placed her lips close to Nayana's ears. She whispered something, Nayana giggled and urged forward, and the red rose stripped itself off from the vase, and flew to her little hand.
"Wow !!!" Manu exclaimed
"See... do you believe now..? You wanna try..?" Celin asked
"Sure" He almost cried in excitement
(Nayana had already started tearing off petals from the rose, and examining each with immense curiosity native to a child)
"Pull in a chair and join us" We all adjusted our chairs to make space for one between Celin and mom. "Put this on" She pulled out her electronic stethoscope from the bag, and handed it over to him. "This will block outside noises, and you will hear only me". She kept the probe in her hand, and adjusted the knob.

"Okay, lets start. Close your eyes, relax... concentrate... take 3 deep breaths... I'm now going to let my power flow into you, strengthening your senses, empowering you to do this..." She spoke softly into the probe, and clutched his left forearm.
"You will now feel a tingling sensation flowing into you from my palm. That's the power filling you.. In 2 minutes, you will be soaking in it... You are now feeling a special sensation in your muscles, a very peculiar consciousness on your skin, you are able to identify even the tiniest of perceptions... The throbbing of a vein, the mild wind when people walk past you... The awareness is getting stronger each moment, as my power is filling you... You are now able to identify all the tiny sensations throughtout your body - beneath and over your skin... The movement of your hair strands, the flow of blood through the veins... everything... Now you are almost full with my power... the sensations are intense now... so powerful, that you can even sense your clothes, the tick on your watch, the minute vibrations it causes, the tiny wind against the fabric... you can clearly distinguish the feelings on your skin, and those on your clothes... My power is filling you up to the brim... Your senses are so powerful, that you now sense everything around you... you can feel the table infront of you, the chairs and the people around you... you can clearly distinguish each and everything, as my power is now full in you... you are now like the steel pin on a magnet... you have the entire quality of the magnet... I'd like you to reach out with your senses and feel the vase at the middle of the table... You can feel the smooth curves on it, the beautiful roses in it... feel one of the roses... sense its velvet petals... now, move down the petals, and feel the stem of the rose... you can feel the rough surface of the stem... wind your senses around the stem... try sensing the weight of the rose by giving it a slight nudge... the rose is very light... you have picked up hundreds of such roses in your life... you can feel the weight of the rose, its gravity, and u know that it is easy to lift it up. Go ahead... and pick it up... my power is full in you, and you can do it as Nayana did... get it out of the vase... now, pull it towards you... let it float infront of you..."

"Open your eyes, and take a look" Celin stopped with a smile..
"Ahhhh!!!" Manu amlost screamed with ecstasy when he saw what he had done !!! The rose fell down now. He pulled off the stethoscope...
"Wow... its incredible... I mean.. woohoooo..." He whooped. We all gave a low clap, and he responded with a huge hearty smile. "Thank YOU, ma'm..."
"So, I guess now you are convinced that you have the capability to do it"
"Yessss.. I've seen with my own eyes that I can do it..."
"One question... like the steel pin, when taken away from the magnet, will I lose this..?"
"That's the one difference between the steel pin and us humans. You will not lose this, and if you keep on practicing, it will grow in you"
"Trust me... you know you can"
"I know.. I know.. I trust you... whoohooo.. wow" he started whooping again...
We all smiled at each other...
"Okay, then.. I guess I'll leave u guyz to decide on you menu" He got up.. the huge smile was still on his face...
"I guess your dinner today is on the house..." He added..
Celin cut him "For this..? No, Manu... if you want to thank me, help someone else the same way later in your life" She held a reassuring smile.
Manu posed for a while, with an gratified and obliged face "... ofcourse... " and after a thoughful pause, "... sure.. ofcourse..."
"Very well... meet you in 10 minutes" Celin gestured an adieu and turned back to us.

"So...?" she smiled
"Mom... that was brilliant" Robin was at the peak of excitement.
"It indeed was" Dad and mom added
Celin looked at me...
"You rock!!!" I put all my emotion in one single phrase adorned with a huge smile.
She smiled back hearty, and winked...
"Now, explain... " I leaned forward with a smile... "for the kids..."
She laughed... "Okay... sure.." she cleared her throat
"Manu was a subject clouded with doubts on his capability. The doubt had already started metamorphing in to a belief system, reinforced by the feedback from parents, relatives, and experience from the teachers he mentioned, and that too, in a vicious circle. As we talked, he was trying to defend that belief, which is a part of his ego, using formatted reasons. The framed rational was dominating, but, still there was a little vent in the armour, where somehow he still hoped if he could do it. I decided to strike there... My agenda would be to widen that gap, and to reprogram him with the new belief of 'possibilities' rather than 'impossibilities'... But to believe, a typical human intellect needs proof of sight and experience... I started the conditioning process with the analogy of magnet and steel.. yeah, that's nonsence, I know... but, at times, illusions can help the process... Once I instilled in him that little thought, I had to get it strong in him, strong enough for me to work further on it. So, I gave him Nayana. I gave him the illusion that my touch gave Nayana the power to pull that flower to her, though it was me who did it. It gave him feedback from his own senses, and the rapid-fire of proofs weakened his existing belief system. But, I had little time here... this tiny incident had lightned his cynicism, but if I let him think, his rationale would challenge and overcome it, and he'd be back at where we started. So, I struck when the iron was hot. I gave him the illusion of offering to share my power, thereby further conditioning him for the metamorphosis. His psyche was so receptive by then, that I used a bit of verbal suggestion - hypnotic techniques, to easliy deliver the idea... The ambience created by the stethoscope promoted the suggestions more effectively..."
She contiued after a pause "Well... all I did was I placed 'possiblity' over his 'rationale'"
"Heyy.. !!!" Something in those words struck me...
"The very basic principle of any so called 'mental faculty'" Celin stopped and looked at me... "what happened?"
"'Possbility' over 'rationale'...!!! That's it... "
"The 'if-else' clauses... the rational processing and the telekinesis processing... Rex..!! I need to check the code..." I was now mumbling to myself, oblivious of my surroundings.
"Excuse me guyz..." I snatched out the computer from the belt clip and placed it on the table. the virtual screen & keyboard beamed themselves to life. In a short while, I was through the retinal scan into Yantra's network, and loaded Rex's code. I scrolled down the familiar code of the module I was looking for... there it was... a long cascade of 'if-else' clauses... and amoung the dozens of them, I spotted it... the two clauses which discriminated 'arithmentical-reasoning' and 'possibilities'... the clause for possibilites came after the one for reasoning... and that's why the control never reached this code fragment. The reasoning snippet would always take the control over, and process based on its logic. I moved my fingers, selected the reasoning-clause, and pasted it after the 'else' clause for possibilities. My heart was pounding hard, my fingers where shivering, as I started the build.

I looked up and scanned my surroundings... 5 pairs of eyes peering me (Nayana was still enjoying her rose)... I swallowed a faint gulp, and kept low... I looked back into the translucent optic screen. It was still compiling... I picked up my phone, and dialled
"Rahul ?"
"Yes, sir"
"You still at office?"
"Yes, sir.. I was just getting ready to leave... Is something wrong?"
"I need a favour"
"sure sir.. tell me"
"I think I fixed the bug... I've fired a build.. should be done in a few minutes.. I'd like you to reload Rex with the new binary"
"Oh... sure.. okay, Sir... I'll do that.."
"I'll stand by" I paused and looked nervously at my family. I had already started shaking my legs, cracking my knuckles, looking around with dreamy eyes, scratching my head, and massaging my temples. I got off into a totally different world, where there was only me, Rex, my code and Rahul.
The clock ticked by...
"Sir.." Rahul pinged "The binary has been reloaded.. booting him up"

"Rex is up, Sir... I'm switching to speaker from headset.. Rex, prof is on line"
"Thanks, Rahul... How are you, Rex?"
"perfect, professor"
"Rex, listen... I guess we've fixed the bug... listen to me carefully"
"I'm alert, sir..."
"Okay... great. Rahul, do you have a pencil with you?"
"Yes, Sir"
"Rex, Dr. Rahul will now throw the pencil up... Catch it before it touches the ground"
"Without using your limbs or extensions"
"You sure, Sir?"
"I'm sure... Rahul, now."
I heard the faint thud of the pencil hitting the carpet
"No sir... he didn't"
"Try again..."
again the sound of pencil on carpet.
"I'm sorry sir"
"Hold on..."
The vein on my forehead had already bulged out... I looked at Celin "I know I've fixed the bug... but he's still not able to... May be the AI needs somekind of training... I dont know.."
"Are u sure the code is perfect?" Celin enquired
"umm... 100 percent"
"And your only suspicion is on the training required for his AI"
"I guess so"
"Gimme the phone"
"Trust me"
She took the phone from me.
"Rex..? This is Dr. Celin"
"Hello, m'am... I remember we have been introduced earlier"
"Perfect... I see that you are having a bit of difficulty there..?"
I listened to Celin... She kept on and on... it went similar to the one that happened a while ago, just that the dialogues were now adapted for a machine, and the subject was Rex, and not Manu.

She looked at me after a while, smiled, switched on the speaker, and said, "Rahul, now"
I heard the faint cling of wood being tossed, and nothing else... no thud, no cling... a short silence... and then a yell, "wooohoooo", Rahul's...
I jumped up, and with a whoop, shot my fist into the air... "Yesssssss" a moment, then stooped over Nayana and wrapped Celin in a tight bear hug. She was laughing. Another moment, and I realized that the whole population was staring at me... I gave out an embarressed laugh, waved an apology, but with a huge smile, sat back...
"What's next Sir..?" Rahul was now almost yelling...
"Go have a blast, my boy... enjoy your weekend... monday would be our big day..."
a "wooohooo" was the reply...
"Its a happy moment, Sir... I hope we'll be having a great time ahead" Rex's gay-tone synthesis was working perfect.
"Ofcourse, Rex... ofcourse..." I was still all in my gay-tone
"Okay, Sir... I guess we'll reconvene on Monday?"
"Sure, my boy... catch you on monday.. bye"
"Bye, professor"

Roshan and Robin had already grabbed me around, and Nayana as if it was a competition, jumped in too, with her chuckle. I hugged them tight, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath.

"Hey, guyz... ready with your menu?"
I opened my eyes... Manu was back with his little notepad
"Manu, can I ask you something..?" I had that childish naughty smile...
"Sure, sir..." he replied puzzled
"For the last time..... " I paused "...gimme 10 more minutes..."
The entire family irrupted into a laughter...


  1. cewl cewl cewl....
    cant wait to buy a REX :-)

    good one tedka... need more of this stuff....

    yeh dil maange more

  2. Realy fantastic. Continue the rex episode.