September 21st, 2005

krazy koati

Breathing fire, his head up in the sky

I hate to alarm anyone, but I expect Singapore to be destroyed by a vicious army of robot dinosaurs any day now. I noticed the problem while poking around a Toys R Us to see what interesting things were around, and right up front were shelves of ``ROBORAPTORS''. These little plastic robots are cheerily billed as ``A fusion of technology and personality,'' so it's going to be about 48 hours from the moment some cheery parents ever bring one home to their eager kid until the moment a weird programming glitch causes it to rise up against its oppressors, establish a radio mass-mind network with its kin all over the island, and storm out in a vicious rampage destroying all in its way.

It's a cute enough plastic boxy representation of a dinosaur, I grant you. But the makers were clearly preparing for the utter destruction of humanity. Just consider this so-called promotional blurb from the box: ``Realistic Actions and an Interactive Personality''. Is there any way this will not end with the flesh of humans dangling from mechanical teeth?

Oh, sure, it's got an infrared remote control, the box says -- but it immediately warns that the beast also has an ``autonomous behaviour mode.'' That is to say, at a critical moment, the remote for this little monster is gong to be precisely as useful as that remote the cable company didn't want back when you turned in the cable box two moves ago. And in case there were any hope for human survival it comes -- according, again, to the box -- with ``Over 40 Preprogrammed Functions and Demo Mode.'' Clearly, ``conquer Earth'' is function number 42, thought to have been commented out of all the source code, but in fact perfectly accessible thanks to a manufacturing defect that put a NOP where JMP ought to have been. Have the buyers for Toys R Us never seen an unspeakably awful movie in their lives?

I'll hold out here as long as I can but, frankly, I give civilization about 72 hours, tops.

Trivia: The Lagrange projection (a conformal -- except at the poles -- circular map with all longitudes and latitudes circular arcs) was developed by Johann Heinrich Lambert. Source: Maps and Civilization, Norman J W Thrower.

Currently Reading: The Web Between The Worlds, Charles Sheffield. Maybe I'm just spoiled by comparison to Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise, but I kind of expected a reasonably-hard science fiction novel about building a space elevator include more space elevator-construction scenes, you know? There's a subplot about a mysterious human-like creature taking up a lot of words and making me wonder about that fad of having subspecies of humanity geared entirely to space life. I'm not sure if the fad's faded or if I just don't notice it anymore what with only reading five books which were published after 1990.