The Robot – Part 2
Blackheath, NSW, Australia
The court battle had been going on for about two weeks when the proceedings came to the attention of the media. Both my father and World Robotics asked that the details of the case be kept secret but the judge ruled that as it was going to be impossible to do so, it was best that the media be allowed to witness proceedings so that a true and accurate report could be released to the public.
Within two days the case had caught the attention of the world media and public interest was so strong that many media outlets broadcast hourly updates of the proceedings. Luke and my family had become the centre of world attention.
Luke became the topic of all the chat shows. We were so overwhelmed with requests for interviews with ourselves and Luke that we had to appoint a private secretary and engage the services of a security company. World Robotics was inundated with requests to be able to purchase a robot with Luke’s capabilities. Every major university wanted exclusive rights to study him.
Within a week the legal proceedings had to be abandoned as it was legally and indeed physically impossible to continue.
We had just returned home after learning of the permanent postponing of the legal case when three huge black vans came up our driveway. When my father opened the door he was confronted by about a dozen men in suits. The one closest to the door produced a badge and said, ‘Your family and the robot known as Luke have been placed under protective arrest by the federal authorities. You will come with us now to be processed.’ My father started to protest but the man replied, ‘There is no discussion or negotiation on this. You will come with us now either voluntarily or forcibly.’
We were taken to the airfield. We were followed by a large contingent of the media but they were kept at bay by an army of tough looking young men in suits. We were taken aboard a small jet that then immediately took off.
We were taken to a secure facility located on an offshore island. Our accommodations were very nice and Luke was allowed to stay with us. A week went by in which we explored the island and tried to amuse ourselves. There were always at least two armed men that accompanied us everywhere. They were polite but refused to answer any questions. We had no contact with the outside world and my father in particular found this most annoying.
We only became aware much later that during this time a huge public debate had occurred. There were many different aspects that were discussed to begin with but the core arguments soon fell into two main groups. Luke was just a robot, an inanimate object that should be treated as such or he had passed over into the realm of a sentient being and should be given all the same rights as a human.
At the end of the week Luke and I were taken into a large room that resembled a media interview area. We sat on a raised stage nearly surrounded by video cameras and sound equipment. There were three men and one woman present who sat next to us and about thirty other people who sat in the lower section of the room.
My father had wanted to come with us but his request was flatly denied.
The three people on the stage asked both Luke and myself question after question. They were mostly directed at Luke and covered a vast array of subjects as diverse as his feelings about religion, love, what he thought about people having pets, did he ever get angry and what did that feel like. They asked me if I agreed with some of his statements. The interrogation, because that was how I began to think of it as, went on all day with only a few breaks for food and comfort.
The people in the lower section did not participate but seemed to be making copious notes.
I was totally drained when the session finally finished at about ten in the evening. My father was full of questions when I returned to our quarters but all I wanted to do was sleep so I left it up to Luke to tell him what had happened.
We were left alone for another week before we were again summoned. This time my father was asked to join us. We were taken into a small office and the three of us were seated in front of a desk. The door opened and in walked a woman who I immediately recognised as a senior member of the government. She introduced herself and then opened a large file that she had brought with her. Opening it to the last page she appeared to carefully read through it. This took some time and I could tell that my father was starting to get impatient.
Finally she placed the sheet of paper back in the file, closed it and said, ‘Luke, I hope you realise what a tremendous problem you have given us. The problem has been not only a legal one, but also, a moral and indeed religious one. It has taken some of the greatest minds many hours of pondering your situation only to come up with the response that you are unique and cannot be categorised, labelled, or in any way made to fit into one of our accepted legal or moral understandings of sentient life.’
‘My government has therefore decided that a new situation needs a new approach. Therefore, until a better designation is agreed upon you will be known and recognised as an “Intelligent Robot” and given all the privileges of a citizen of this state.’
She then went on to explain that Luke did not belong to anyone and that he was a free agent and that all decisions regarding his future were in his hands.
By the time we arrived back home the news of the decision was on all the media outlets. Our security as well as the local police had to control the crowds that gathered around our house. For many days we were prisoners in our own home but after Luke agreed to be interviewed by the major news outlets the crowds gradually reduced until about a month after arriving home we awoke one morning to a deserted street and a silent phone.
Luke was still a celebrity and made a very good living from addressing seminars, taking part in talk shows and lecturing at the state university where he had been made an honorary professor in Humanities.
Luke remained living with us and became an integral part of our family.
To this day I still regard him as my very best friend and indeed as the brother that I never had.
Bio: John is a retired airline manager who lives in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, NSW. He enjoys writing and gardening and is currently in remission from acute myeloid leukaemia after a bone marrow transplant. His sci-fi book, The First Man, is available from Smashwords at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/242599