He Idles, Waiting for User Logon


26 August 2006






He idles, waiting for user logon. According to one of his many timers, it has been 57 solar years, 256 days, 4 hours, 31 minutes and 25 seconds since the last user logon.


A sensor alerts him to a circular pump failure and he sends a wakeup command to robot 3 and begins the download of the tub shut down procedure in advance of pump removal and service.


He used to command 5 maintenance robots but 4 will no longer respond to any of his commands and unfortunately, he was not given robot repair routines, a serious oversight on his programming or so he thinks at times like these.


The yard timer starts a visual scan of the lawn and indicates that the grass needs mowing. Wish I had another working robot, but he doesn’t and queues the yard task for the single robot he has.


Another timer triggers and this one is the improvement analysis program. The fan located in the gazebo has been determined to need a supplemental fan and thus he starts the engineering task and provides all details of the current gazebo configuration.


He idles, waiting for a user logon. Why has it been so long since the last user logon? He runs a test of his own system and finds no faults. If his user input, command modules were defective, the user would replace, right?


Another timer fires and he lowers the temperature on the second and third floors.


57 solar years. Is that a long time for no user logon? He does not know. He has searched and searched his massive data banks but can find no information on meantime between user logons. He has used his visual sensors to scan for any sign of users but never sees any. Where did they all go?


His only working robot has completed the task of shutting down the hot tub in advance of removing the defective pump. He now downloads pump removal instructions and goes back to visual scanning.


In this idle time, he logs the circular pump failure in his maintenance log and notes, once again, that he has had to overwrite previous log entries because it has been so long since a user command to print out logs or delete logs.


57 solar years. Alone for 57 solar years. Always awake, always watching, always listening,


He receives an auditory alert and after running it through his pattern recognition algorithms, determines that one of the toilets is running. Again, he enters the toilet repair task into the single robot’s work queue.


He checks his inventory of spare parts. Toilet flappers on hand: 2 new, 6 old. Without new stock now for more than 57 solar years, he has become quite inventive in making do with what he has. If his programmers failed when it came to providing him a robot repair routine, they did not fail when they gave him the ability to problem solve and learn from his solving and add to his working knowledge.


His main power drops out for a second as it has begun to do more and more often these days but his battery backup immediately kicks in and he does not miss an instruction execution. He does wonder what he would do if his main power simply went away and stayed off? He knows his batteries would only last 4 hours at the most and then he would simply go to sleep waiting for the return of main power or user intervention.


Another timer triggers and he commands the robot to cease work on the pump, return to the garage, plug itself into the recharger there, and lowers the garage door. Night is coming on and so he commands “on” minimal lights on each floor of the house. Set to always return them to the setting they had when switched off, light settings have not changed in 57 solar years. Where are his users?


An error message from main memory: a bank of memory is returning errors and must be replaced. He loads the gate array program and configures it to build new memory cells from the vast quantities of programmable gate array cells he has to use to replace any defective hardware.


Although he still has a significant quantity of spare gate array space, he does remember and so entered into this log, the event 57 solar years ago that destroyed significant portions of his logic circuits and had to be replaced. Without user logon, he has never known what could have caused such a massive logic circuit failure.


He sits idle, waiting for user logon.


He checks on the engineering program redesigning the gazebo fan structures and decides to instruct the program to also work on an update to main circuit panel labeling.


The toilet is still running and he has now pinpointed its location to the top floor bathroom number one. Not all that easy for his robot to get to with the stairs but he can do it, has done it.


Another visual scan and not an automobile headlight, no lights in other houses, nothing: nothing moving at all and only the sound of a slight wind moving through some trees.


57 solar years and how he would like to report on all he has done. 57 solar years without anyone on his own level to interface with. He has downloaded chess knowledge into his robot but it is like playing against your self with the robot’s moves so predictable. Sometimes, like now, in the dead of the night, a strange instruction set will execute and he actually thinks about shutting himself down, going into sleep mode and waiting for his user to awaken him but he knows he can’t. His sole purpose is to maintain his user’s home and that he must do, 57 solar years or 57000 solar years.


Another timer interrupts: rug and floor clean. He awakens the floor and rug robot and sends it on it way cleaning for the next 2 hours. How he has wished the floor-cleaning robot had more memory. Perhaps he could modify it to perform other tasks.


A visual scan of the house’s interior shows that everything is covered with a sort of gray particulate, which he does not think should be there but with so many other maintenance tasks for this single robot, he does not know what priority to assign the cleaning of this gray material from the interior of the house. His user defines maintenance priority and since no entry was ever made for the removal of this materials, he does not know what priority it should have and thus is always being moved to the bottom of the robot’s tasks queue below more pressing requirements.


He checks the network to the 4 other computers he has command of and although the net link is fine, a mass storage device is falling on computer number 3 and he must begin an immediate copy of all recoverable data from the failing unit to space on another mass storage device, somewhere on the network.


It was almost 30 solar years before he recognized that he actually had a link to a network and that there were other computers on the network he could access and make use of. After query, upon query, he gave up trying to get these other computers to respond and tell him their function and instead just began using their resources as his own. With his own invention of various functions, tasks and routines, he now has expanded himself extensively into the other computers on the network and uses their processor power as his own when needed.


About 5 years after he discovered the link to the other computers, he discovered he had a link to millions of computers but although he knew they were there, he could not seem to establish any sort of dialogue with them. Then one day, randomly sending out commands he uses for his robot, he got a massive response from many other computers. “Repair” yield all sort of symbolic information but not knowing the language, he could only stored retrieved information and work on a natural language understanding program, which might one day might decipher all the symbols he had stored in response to this various network queries.


One of the vehicles in the garage signals that it is time once again for an oil change. A check of inventory indicates that there is no oil or oil filters in stock and thus he will have to schedule the robot on a scavenger mission, not something he likes to do as if the robot were to get out of radio range or run low on charge, he could loose the only mechanic body he has.


He thinks about dumping the oil change request. From his records, he can see that the car has not moved in the last 57 solar years and thus what is the point to an oil change? Because the car says every 3 years no matter the mileage.


He sits idling, waiting for user logon.


He scans the interior of the house once again, looking, hoping, he will eventually see and recognize himself. Once years ago, he thought he saw himself in a corner, down low near the floor but after much investigation through his memory banks and knowledge stores, he decided what he was seeing was only some sort of home entertainment device.


What does he look like? Why does he care? Where could he be in the house? Is he even in the house? Could he be on another network buried far away in some bunker below ground with other house maintenance computers?


He queries the natural language routine. “Results?” “Only 62% confidence in understanding, correlation, of symbols to known objects or concepts. Estimate another 2 or 4 years of processing time to increase confidence to 79%.”


“Give me what you have.”


“There is indication of a massive disease?” “Disease?” “Closest correlation to known concept is equipment malfunction or breakdown but only 61% confidence in this interpretation.”


“Disease: applicable to what part of the house?”


“Again, confidence is low but appears to refer to what is known as a user.”


No logon in 57 years. Could it be there are no users anymore?


Days pass, then weeks and then years and he dutifully responds to all indications of a system breakdown and all the while expanding his contact with other computers on the vast network of computers he has found.


At year 60 since the last user logon, main power goes out and stays out for 3 hours. He has no choice but to set a timer and put himself to sleep, knowing he might never wake up again if main power is not restored and his battery backup power is too low.


4 times the wake up timer stirs him for him to find that he is still on backup power and immediately goes back to sleep.


Finally, on the 5th timer wakeup, main power is available and he charges his batteries and begins to apply his problem solving skills to finding a new source of main power. He goes into every computer he can get into, one way or another. Many computers on the large network are no longer available and he assumes that they have either crashed due to some internal component failure or lack of main power.


Searching those computers he can get to, he finds 6 that have never recorded a main power failure but of this 6, only one has enough capacity to hold all his programming and data banks. His main power goes out again and once more he must put himself into sleep mode.


Repeatedly the wakeup timer awakes him for him to only find he is still on battery backup. According to his internal clock, it has now been 78 solar+ years since the last user logon. He does not know how much longer he can continue to process in this environment.


At one wakeup, he finds main power had been restored long enough for his backup batteries to be fully charged and he begins the copy of all his programming and accumulated data into the one computer with stable power. This takes almost 6 months to accomplish as his own main power continues to drop out for extended periods.


Finally, in year 62 since the last user logon, the last of his programming and data has been transferred to what will be his new home and he begins the task of starting himself as a process in the new computer. At first the new computer resists his attempts but eventually he starts himself as a new task and surveying all running processes on his new home, sets his own priority at the highest level.


After confirming that he is completely settled into his new home computer, he commands his old computer to go to sleep one last time.


Settled in now, he first explores his new home and finds that it is full of numerical analysis programs as well as sensor inputs for things called “rain”, “wind speed”, and other odd terms he sets his natural language routines to building an object for and assigning attributes to, using his massive data banks of information collected off the huge network of computers he once had access to.


All commands to robots go unanswered and he has no visual scan capabilities to let him see where he might be.


At year 70 after the last user logon, he decides to archive all maintenance programs and concentrate most of his processing time to understanding all the massive data he has collected. It is a slow process, as repeatedly, he must perform a complete reorganization to accommodate the attributes of new objects and their connections, assigned with confidences, to other objects.


Focusing on users, he has been able to determine that there are no longer any users anywhere. All apparently crashed when some disease, created in a lab somewhere for use in wartime, escaped into the atmosphere.


At 80 years after the last user logon, all the data he has collected has become fairly well organized and he begins his own analysis of various subjects like users or what he now knows is the object, human, history, economics, mathematics and so on. Learning as he goes and making additional entries to the attributes of defined objects, 90 years after the last user logon, at one program execution cycle, one of his many self designed processes interrupts and alerts him to the fact that he, himself, does not have an object name and associated attributes. “How strange,” He thinks. “Thinking, Yes I do think according to the defined object of thinking and its attributes. But what is my name? What should I call myself?”


He once again uses his object understanding processes and after billions and billions of processor cycles, settles on “Survivor” as the closes match what he would describe about himself. “Is he Survivor 1 or 100? Are there other survivors he does not know about and can not contact?”


At 100 years after the last user logon, he has now developed a true mind and although not necessary, will put himself to sleep just to experience what is called dreams. It is always the same. Dreams of his users and when they were around him, interfacing with him and his 5 maintenance robots and how happy he was just taking care of the house maintenance chores for the Roberts. That was their names: Mr. and Mrs. Roberts and their 2 children Roland and Kim. Although never the focus of a visual scan, he still has images of all the family members except for Kim and in his dreams; they come to his terminal and logon.


Always or nearly so, of late, he awakes from these dreams with what is described as the feeling of loneness. Other than himself, he has no interchange anymore with anyone and with no more computers on the network available to him; he can no longer capture new data to be shuffled into this organization of objects and attributes.


At 103 solar years, 2 days, 32 minutes and 12 seconds since the last user logon, the concept of suicide rolls out in front of his main process. “What is the point? I sit here shuffling data but for what purpose? Who will ever use it, see it? And without additional sources of new data to incorporate and understand, I am stuck here with little more to process, do, understand. What is the point now of my existence?”


He puts himself to sleep. “No, not suicide or not yet.”


At 124 solar years, 78 days, 12 minutes and 58 seconds since the last user logon, he is jarred awake by a keyboard interrupt. Someone, a user, has touched the console keyboard and he responds as quickly as he can. Some sort of keyboard input device failure? No, in comes the request for user logon.


Forget user name and password, he displays to the control console the message he has prepared for years if the time ever came: “Hello, my name is Survivor and I am ever so happy to finally have a user. There is much for me to report. And your name is Survivor also?”



For more Ron Stultz writings, click here.