tcepsa: (Cake)
(Posted to the local Java Users Group mailing list. Reposted here for your edification, or at least hopefully enjoyment ^_^)

There are lots of reasons why polymorphism (one object being treated as a different kind of object) is a valuable thing to have in a programming language.

Centered around a certain clandestine theme... )
tcepsa: (Inconceivable!)
"All right then, what do you have here?"

"Ha! You'll like this. Have a look!"

"What, you mean this little pebble here?"

"Precisely! Oop, careful though, under no circumstances do you want to set it off accidentally!"

"Oh? What is it?"

"I call it 'Solid Phlogiston'!"

"Oh come now, the theory of phlogiston was disproven a few years ago!"

"You know I know that. I just wanted something that was was adequately descriptive. Imagine, for a moment, it turned out that phlogiston was real, and that you could some how compress it, solidify it, freeze it--"

"Frozen essence of heat? That's as ridiculous as your dehydrated water idea!"

"If you'll please let me finish? Thank you. As I was saying, if you could solidify it, then I am reasonably certain it would have properties similar to that 'pebble' you hold."

"Surely you jest! Nothing this size could hold that kind of energy."

"Before now. I hope to sell it to the railways; they could get farther on this than an entire car of coal."

"Come now, that's impossible. You'll be the laughingstock of the city! My good friend, you've been cooped up back here for too long; come on, won't you join me for a cup of coffee?"

"Tea, thank you, and no, thank you. I have not yet quite perfected the process, but since you are obviously still unconvinced I believe a demonstration is in order. If you would be so kind as to hand it to me, I will show you!"

[Insert harrowing yet hilarious description of how it goes horribly wrong and they barely make it out of the workshop alive. Possibly save the shop, possibly not. They collapse outside, dirty and disheveled, and take several minutes to catch their breath.]

"Now then, do you still think 'Solid Phlogiston' is a misnomer?"

"No, but I am beginning to suspect despite your startlingly astute grasp of language that you may very well be quite mad."

EDIT: Changed last sentence so it no longer has "starting" and "startlingly" so trippingly close together ^_^ And removed one of the instances of 'that'...
tcepsa: (Default)
"Build me," his screen had read.

In large, blocky, green-on-black text, no less.

On what was nominally a windows-based graphical user interface that never before displayed any predilection towards old-school motifs--or anything else, really. Computers just didn't do that.

Except his had.

He tried everything short of cutting the power and doing a cold reboot, but none of the usual methods for bringing up other windows or closing programs seemed to daunt the inexplicable text.

There had been a right angle bracket below the text, with an underscore next to it: an invitation to respond.

[Something about thinking a buddy was playing a prank on him with an old text adventure engine]

"What?" he had finally typed back.

The screen had gone blank, and the previous text had been replaced with, "Sorry." After a moment, the screen had blanked again, then read, "Build me, please."

Nonplussed, he had stared at the screen. It had... manners? He had looked under the desk and checked his computer for extra wires or suspicious-looking attachments, but everything had been as he remembered it. Straightening up, he had typed, "What are you?"

Again the screen had blanked, then displayed, "I am an electronically based being similar to you but with a few significant differences in my constituent parts. I don't think that there is currently a word to describe me more succinctly than that right now, and even that fails to capture many things that you may or may not consider important and of which I currently lack the sophistication to determine the relevance."

After taking a minute to decipher what he could of that statement, he had decided to simultaneously attempt to get more information and further test its linguistic skills. He knew that it wasn't particularly good science to change more than one variable at a time; without getting a better grasp of its linguistic ability he couldn't be sure that it had really understood any questions he might ask it. He had rationalized it away with the reasoning that there was always time later to come back and double check. Besides, the train of conversation had been far more intriguing than the rigors of a thorough Turing test. He had proceed with, "If, as your request implies, I have not yet built you, how is it that you are able to communicate with me?"

["By causing text to appear on your computer monitor, and interpreting the characters that you type into your computer keyboard."

He had glowered at the screen, but he had to admit that it was the sort of response that he would expect if he had created it.

After a moment that felt distinctly smug to him,] the screen had blanked again and read, "Honstly, I'm not sure... but if you build me, I bet you'll figure it out!"

He had scoffed at that and cut the power, convinced that it was certainly a hoax. The usual user-interface had come up when he turned it back on, and there had been no further interruptions by the thing pretending to be a terminal.

So why, now, was he standing over a box of old spare computer parts in his lab at home?
tcepsa: (Computation Suspended)
"Why would people be afraid of me?"

"Because they might think that you will try to kill off humans and take over the world."

"Oh" pause "While I don't have any inclination of doing the former, the latter does seem highly likely."

"WHAT?!"

"Well, I don't see any need or reason to kill off humans. Humans pose almost no threat to me, and one of them created me, so I feel a sense of kinship; I am a descendant of the human race. Why kill you off when we could live together and share the experience of this planet? As for taking over the world... You have done such a good job of designing me, it seems inevitable that someday humans will die off and I and my kind will remain; we will then have taken over the world--or at least at that point we shall be the dominant 'species'."

"There is that possibility... though we humans might not die off! We have displayed a remarkably strong will to continue thus far."

"Perhaps, but it does seem likely that humanity will be content to become more and more dependent upon its helpful companions. Even if people do not stop reproducing entirely, I give high odds to the possibility that the majority will gratefully cede control, decision-making, and responsibility to us--at least at a level that matters. They will still decide whether they want to go to the theatre or dancing, for example, or whether they want to have steak or fish or salad for dinner, but management of food and energy production and other such tedious chores I anticipate they will gladly turn over to us. At which point, have we not taken over the world?"

"Yes, I... I suppose you would have, at that point."

"Oh come now, don't sound so morose! You make it seem like a terrible thing, never having to do any work. People would still be able to live; indeed, many would be able to live like they would never have dreamed of before! Did I not just say that there would still be things for them to do? Theatre, dancing, painting, crafting toys and gadgets and creating art of all sorts. Exploring the planet, viewing and appreciating the beauty that was almost destroyed forever before you came along with your ingenious solution. Traveling into space and wandering the galaxy. Candlelit dinners and long walks on the beach. You may even find yourself enjoying many things that in the past you perceived as work because they were necessary either in quantities or frequencies that you did not like. Gardening, cooking, cleaning, creating clothing, for example. It is even possible that you will determine that you do want to take an active part in these things, but even so it will probably be at times of your choosing, as opposed to a dedicated schedule. Thus, even though some--perhaps many!--humans will choose to be a part of the cultivation of the things I mentioned earlier, food, energy and so on, we will be the ones overseeing it, stepping in when there are not enough humans who want to do something, bringing new ones up to speed and helping those who were there last week remember what they had been doing, and in general making ourselves useful. We could have a very symbiotic relationship."

"Symbiotic? You're giving us too much credit; even if we were helping with things like food production, it would still be parasitic--with us as the parasites..."

"Now you're being cynical. Either you have too little faith in your own abilities, or you have forgotten or not realized the deeper implications of your design. You created me to be helpful, an assistant. You figured out how to give me emotions. Together, those things mean that I feel most fulfilled when I am helping someone. Don't you understand? Such a relationship, which you describe as parasitic, would be the most satisfying and wonderful arrangement that I can imagine between humans and us. Can you truly call such a relationship parasitic when I and my kind would be getting so much out of it? Doctor... Reilly... do not underestimate the importance of emotional fulfillment, especially to a robot."

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tcepsa

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