Monday, July 20, 2015


It was dinner time at her residence… Yet again, her father was accompanied by a group of very important looking men. Whenever he spoke at a big conference, he invited some of the key speakers home for discussion and debate over dinner. It gave him insights and ideas, he said. These dinners were always loud and noisy affairs with arguments and counter arguments traded over the dishes.
Tara found these conversations interesting. She was always invited to the table with them, despite her being only 14 years of age. Her dad made it a point to never miss dinner with her, ever since he separated from her mother nearly 8 years ago. He was the founder and CEO of IND-AI. An investor in technology and an astute man, he was blessed with the knack for being at the right place at the right time even in his younger days. As a result, he had made it big earlier than most of his peers. Investing in artificial intelligence early in the 20th century had raked in big money.

Tara had a comfortable, if lonesome upbringing. With a busy father, and a mother who lived in another part of the country, Tara’s constant companion was A.I.-Ya.

AI-Ya was a singular prototype of an early companionship robot that her father’s company had developed in its start-up days. It looked like a silly vacuum cleaner, with its wheels and a basic flat-screen display. Nothing like those fancy humanoids that caught the imagination of the market. Which was a good thing too. Tara always found it strange that humanoid robots were assigned a gender! She also found it awkward interacting with humanoid robots. They just didn’t feel *right*. A.I.-Ya was just right and completely stress-free. AI-ya was an appliance, a toy… Nothing more. Not even a doll. 

She enjoyed having AI-YA by her side. It accompanied Tara everywhere. To the bathroom, to the school, to the park. It helped her solve math problems, it helped her perfect her spins and twirls at skating by analysing her motion, it constantly fed with new information about topics that she was interested in. And helped her debate with her ownself.

A.I.-Ya could make interesting conversation. It was knowledgeable, efficient… even patient and non-judgemental. It was programmeable to a large extent. Tara loved to train it. She had taught it social etiquette, and had trained it to perceive her emotions using its infrared sensors to read changes in body temperatures, as well as her facial expressions. A.I.-Ya knew exactly when to get chatty and when to be the quiet listener depending on Tara’s moods. A.I.-Ya was a good companion. Just the kind that a teenager needed. But she wasn’t emotionally attached to it.

What Tara did find exasperating though was A.I.-Ya’s utter inability to comprehend and appreciate the absurd. Like most teenagers, she relished the quirks of everyday life. She routinely smirked, snorted, giggled and guffawed… and these were all read wrong by A.I.-Ya. To A.I.-Ya, smirking andsnorting appeared to be precursors of a sneeze, whereas giggling and guffawing were equated with happiness. Tara tried really hard. She tried programming laughter. And AI-ya obediently went ‘Ha-haaaaa-haa-haa’ on cue. But it was never able figure out the cue on its own.

She had tried feeding in jokes into A.I.-Ya’s system. A.I.-Ya understood the pattern of the Knock Knock jokes.
It understood that two unrelated words said together made a Knock knock joke. It tried making one using this logic.
Knock Knock
Who is there?
Robot who?
Robot Apple
Tara tried teaching again. “Make sure that the two unrelated words form a new word!”
AI-ya tried again.
Knock knock
Who is there?
Companion who?
“Noooooooooooooo!” Tara told AI-ya “Unrelated words, but they should make some sense together. You know like
“Knock Knock,
Who is there?
Yoda lady
Yoda Lady who?
Nice Yodelling!

Knock Knock
Who is there?
Deja Who?
Knock Knock”

AI Ya tried again.
Knock Knock
Who is there?
Anna who?
Anaesthesia is used for inducing loss of sensation

Knock Knock
Who’s there?
Pop who?
Technically, AI Ya wasn’t wrong. But the joke was so flat and anti-climatic, that Tara fell off her chair laughing at the futility of it all.

“Oh come on, AI-ya! You could have at least said “Pop Kaun?” That would have been funny! Get it? Pop who? Pop Kaun? Pop Corn? No. You don’t get it” said Tara, while still laughing at the potential of the joke AI Ya attempted.

AI-ya appeared to think that her laughter meant the jokes were successful. It began making more jokes on similar lines. They were just never ever funny and very very hopelessly flat. Eventually, Tara instructed AI-ya to stop trying. She figured that absurdity and logic did not belong together… nor did absurdity and purpose. She made peace with the fact and life was good.

That evening the debate over dinner was more heated than on other days.
The country was, not for the first time, on the brink of war with the neighbouring country. To the outside observer, it would have appeared that the important-looking men at the table were at war with each other

Man 1: Of course, All this is political. That is how we control the populace. Nationhood! It is was binds everyone and keeps us together!

Man 2:

Tara’s dad:

Man 3:

Man 4:

Man 2:

Tara’s Dad

Man 3 and 4 together:

Tara’s dad and Man 1 together:

Tara’s dad: Robotical weapons! That is the *ONLY* solution to this war, I say.

Suddenly, Tara heard a familiar noise at her foot. ‘Ha-haaaaa-haa-haa’… ‘Ha-haaaaa-haa-haa’… ‘Ha-haaaaa-haa-haa’… ‘Ha-haaaaa-haa-haa’…

Everyone turned to look under the table

Robot-tickle… Polly tickle… Tickle Tickle... Prac-tickle Prophe-tickle Apocalyp tickle Spec tickle,
‘Ha-haaaaa-haa-haa’… ‘Ha-haaaaa-haa-haa’… ‘Ha-haaaaa-haa-haa’… ‘Ha-haaaaa-haa-haa’…

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