Old Ben sat at the breakfast table, feeling grumpy. It had started raining since last night and his joints were hurting badly again. It was a quiet morning just as it had always been, with no one he could talk to, except Lanny-5, an assistive robot his son had insisted on giving him on his 70th birthday last month because he had insisted on keeping the house and living in it alone. Out of boredom, he cast a side glance at the robot. It just stood there stupidly as though it was deep in thought.
[Meanwhile, inside Lanny-5’s head:] Initialize neural network … retrieve date, time, weather, temperature, humidity, past action history … evaluate training set, test set, validation set … train … probability of arthritis pain at 87% … determine action …
“Would you like me to get you some painkillers?” Lanny-5 turned his head toward Old Ben and asked, an artificial smile blooming on his metal face.
That’s interesting! This is the first time it offered that without me asking, Old Ben thought. “Will you?” he confirmed.
“My pleasure!” Lanny-5 replied joyfully and proceeded to retrieve the medicine.
Old Ben watched as the robot swiftly navigated toward the medicine cabinet, pulled the drawer open, and retrieved some Tylenol. As forgetful as he was, he could still clearly remember the day when it first arrived. The technician showed it around the house, and among many things, also taught it hand-by-hand how to get the right medicines from the cabinet. It was called something like “learning by demonstration” as explained by the technician, a term he vaguely remembered and could care less for.
Swallowing the pills down improved Old Ben’s feelings somewhat, but he didn’t show that on his face, just as usual.
[Meanwhile, inside Lanny-5’s head:] Initialize facial expression recognition … train … identify expression using Bayes Net … probability of grumpiness at 95% … determine action …
“Would you like to hear a joke?” Lanny-5 said, an artificial tone of excitement present.
“Why not!” Old Ben gave up.
[Meanwhile, inside Lanny-5’s head:] Initialize wireless connection to Internet … download jokes … initialize Decision Tree to select … train on training set accumulated … when the word Bush is present, remove joke from collection due to bad past experience) … alert: all jokes removed … repeat from downloading step … appropriate joke identified …
“John walked into a bar. ‘Ouch!’”, Lanny-5 said, using a random funny tone selected from his database.
“Why don’t you give me the news headlines?” Old Ben suggested, clearly not appreciating the sense of humor from the robot.
“Certainly!” replied the robot.
[Meanwhile, inside Lanny-5’s head:] Skip news headlines from Slashdot.org from reinforcement learning penalties (flying beer cans) … download headlines from CNN.com … filter out all headlines with the word “
“CNN.com headline news: Biggest single jackpot winner remains mysterious. Woman run over trying to rescue dog,” Lanny-5 went on reading.
Hearing nothing interesting, Old Ben had had enough with the robot. “I am going to read a book now. Get me an apple and then leave me alone,” he commanded.
“Of course!” Lanny-5 replied, and then proceeded to retrieve the apple.
[Meanwhile, inside Lanny-5’s head:] Retrieve apple images from Google Image … extract features of an apple … learn possible locations for apple retrieval … calculate probability of possible locations user really meant … delete grocery store, apple tree, Circuit City, etc. from list … most probably locations identified: refrigerator with 34% probability and kitchen counter with 62% probability … construct a probability distribution map of apple locations … extract features of the map … train using past map dataset … classify most efficient algorithm for path planning … plan path … turn gimbaled camera following plan … navigate following plan … apple identified with probability at 92% … initialize retrieve routine …
Three hours later, Old Ben threw the book onto the couch and yawned.
“Did anyone call me while I was reading?” he asked.
“You had one legit incoming call from your son, Steve, and three sales calls, which I’ve taken the liberty to remove. Would you like me to play the message for you?” Lanny-5 said delightedly.
Immediately, the excited voice of his son echoed in the room.
“Hi Dad, remember the book you haven’t been able to find? Turned out Emma took it and hid it under the mattress of her toddler bed. Guess what I found in the book??!! Oh my god! You wouldn’t believe this! The lottery ticket you used as a bookmark is the winning ticket for the Jackpot! You’ve won 400 million dollars!! Dad!! You are the mysterious winner everyone has been talking about! This is crazy…”
Old Ben felt a sudden difficulty to breath and sharp pain shot out of his heart. Slowly, his body leaned backward until it rested on the back of the couch. He tried to scream, but nothing came out of his mouth. He wanted to raise his arms so he could grab onto something, anything, but they only became heavier and heavier. Three minutes later, all become still and his body turned rigid with a blank stare in his still-open eyes.
[Meanwhile, inside Lanny-5’s head:] Initialize facial expression recognition … train … identify expression using Bayes Net … probability of grumpiness at 81% … determine action …
“Would you like to hear a joke?” Lanny-5 said in the same artificial tone of excitement as before, a big artificial smile blooming on his metal face…
Never be afraid to ask stupid questions!