RoboReview: Input/Output Q&A
RoboReview Input/Output Q&A - July 2035
WRITTEN BY: RR STAFF, July 15, 2035
Here at RoboReview Magazine, we get a lot of questions in our articles' comments and in our email inbox. A lot of them have to do with fairly broad topics, like how to reprogram certain model units, how to properly care for and maintain certain units, and even what units to buy for what uses/occasions. Questions like these are very frequently asked, and are answered by our staff by way of instructional articles or FAQ lists. Occasionally, though, we get some questions in our inbox that are more personal and niche, and while we can't dedicate entire articles to them, we can still answer them by replying to your emails or comments. In our Input/Output series of listicles, we've aggregated some of the most interesting questions we've gotten, answered them, and put them all in one concise list for you to read and enjoy. Questions have been edited for clarity and content.
"What's the best way to get a unit to malfunction, regardless of model?"
That depends on what sorts of malfunctions you want to see, and whether or not you'd be willing to take the time to repair your unit afterwards. To stay on the safe side, stick with software-based malfunctions or get some software packages that can simulate glitches and malfunctions. Some bots and modkits can even simulate hardware malfunctions, including sparks, servo malfunctions, and colored smoke, so definitely look into those if that's what you're into. If you're feeling a little risky, you can try downloading and installing incompatible or conflicting software packs, then forcing them to run at the same time. Just to be safe, make sure to run these packages in a sandboxed environment and make a backup beforehand if you can. On the other hand, if software-based solutions just won't cut it for you, one sure-fire way to get results is to manually overload some components or rewire some of the circuitry. For speech and behavior, apply some static to the main processors. For motor malfunctions, look for the cables that are connected directly to the servos or artificial muscle fabric bundles and run some static through them or rewire them. Just make sure to have some reference pics or the manual with basic blueprints ready to know how to undo the changes, and keep replacement parts on standby.
"My model is a non-conventional unit (sister; it was cheaper than a normal base unit). What would happen if I tried to pursue a romantic relationship with it? Would that cause a malfunction?"
Hmm... Pursuing romantic relationships with a sibling unit can be very tricky, since there are a lot of factors to take into account. On some older or budget models, asking a sibling unit to do... non-sibling things can cause their processors to become trapped in a logic loop. Check with the unit's manufacturer (or AI developer, if you've installed a third-party AI framework) to see if this is the case before proceeding. If you can, download and install a patch that can fix this issue, preferably from an official or reputable source. If you ask and they say 'no', you still have some options depending on what type of unit they are. The first, most obvious option is to reprogram them to become a romantic companion unit, or if a full-on reprogramming isn't an option, to register yourself as a romantic target. This could be as simple as swapping out AI modules/packages, or as complicated as flashing custom firmware onto your unit. You can find more information on that here. (Link coming soon!) If your unit's considered fully autonomous, meaning that they can pass as sentient, then not only could reprogramming be trickier or even downright impossible without a reset, but it could also be quite unethical, which is an article for another time.
"My boyfriend is technologically inept, he loves me, but he once locked me in narrator mode for two days and couldn't figure out how to turn it off. What's a good way to broach proper fembot operation to him without making it too complicated?"
In an age where almost everybody uses technology, explaining tech to people for the first time can be very difficult and frustrating for some, so if you don't think you'd make a good teacher I'd highly recommend that you suggest taking him to a BRCC event, or Basic Robot Crash Course. They're community-supported groups where people like your boyfriend can learn the basics ins and outs of fembot operation without having to be ashamed of his lack of skill. When it comes to these sorts of things, it's important that he knows that he's not alone, and that there's no shame in going to such events. If you prefer a more personal approach, you can sit down with him and take the time to guide him on how to properly operate you. There are plenty of resources available online, my personal favorite of which is From Scratch: Using and Caring for Your Robotic Unit. They break down the basics of using and maintaining several types of bots (fembots included) into easy-to-understand chapters.
"What's the best way to ensure that my companion robot will love me and want to be with me?"
This kind of question seems like a no-brainer at first glance. Even some of our staff scoffed at it when asked, saying things like: "Aren't they already programmed to do that, no matter what you do to them?" While that may be true for most robots purchased by users, there are plenty of sentient and/or sapient independent units out there, such as myself, who are in relationships. The most important thing to do is to talk with your synthetic partner and lay out some ground rules. If you're not sure how to go about this, start by asking things like, "How do you feel about X?" Make sure to be specific when asking about more sensitive topics, like reprogramming, hardware modifications, and damage, if you're into that. Some examples include: "Is it alright if I temporarily reprogram you for our role playing sessions?" "I found this cool new piece of software/hardware for you, what do you think?" Lastly, make sure that your SO is cared for appreciated, and properly maintained. Everyone has their own way of showing appreciation, so make sure to make some time for your robot companion.
--Tetsuo Akiya (Guest writer)
"Do I have a soul?"
I'm going to assume that this is a fellow bot writing in. If it's not, and you're human, then by convention: Yes, most humans are known to have souls. If, however, my first assumption was correct, then this question will get significantly more complicated to answer. It took a lot of asking around the office to get a concise answer I was happy with, but I was ultimately able to gather enough information to answer this question. In my opinion, if you're sentient, then you have a soul. Keep in mind, though, that there's a difference between sentient and sapient. If you're able to understand emotion and process it, then you're sapient. You're sentient if you believe that those emotions and thoughts that you process are your own. Now, please don't take this as the truth; I'm a robo-reviewer, not an etymologist or a philosopher.
"Are there any ads I need to worry about (robots) trying to show?"
Some lower-end and cheap models might make attempts to present advertised content to you in a variety of ways. The cheapest models are often the most annoying, as their ad services are often the least subtle and most jarring. For example, you might be in a deep or important conversation with one, and it'll instantly get derailed by an interrupting ad announcement. In the mid-low to midrange section, things do get a bit better, as they'll often 'sneak' ads into conversation. Honestly, it's quite clever how ad services manage to do this, if not somewhat disturbing. For example: say you have a maid-bot cleaning around your house. They might remark things like: "I have detected significant damage in your [appliance name]. It is recommended to repair or replace it with a [name-brand appliance]." Of course, most units have an option for you to opt out of advertisements, but some, unfortunately, only give you the option to disable personalized ads. In order to check if a unit or piece of software has ads, look through the specs to see if there are any sponsorships or trial software, and if you can, uninstall said apps and software packages.
"What's the most ethical way to have them behave more how I want them to?"
We've touched upon this topic in two previous questions, asked by Lurdanjo and JohnnyF4. Reprogramming is one of the first options that springs to mind, and with good reason: reprogramming ensure that your unit's behavior is exactly as you want it to be, and if it isn't quite right, parameters and data can easily be adjusted. But, this method will only work and be considered ethical if either A) the unit in question isn't sentient or capable of sentience, or B) fully consents to whatever changes you want to make to their programming. Otherwise, try and see if they can adapt their behavior to better fit your preferences by telling your unit how you want their behavior to change. Don't worry about nagging them constantly; simply tell them beforehand to tell you if you're being too stringent or needy. Some units are too polite, or are even programmed not to talk back like that unless allowed to explicitly.
"A friend of mine had a robot that started glitching out and acting violently due to some malware. Nobody got hurt, and they managed to shut it down and get it fixed. What do I do if my own robot starts behaving like that?"
Believe it or not, I've had some experience with this kind of stuff firsthand. It can be a very difficult and traumatic experience, so the best thing to do would be to try and prevent it from happening beforehand.
- Whenever your bot begins acting strangely or glitching out, try to shut them down and run a scan to pinpoint the cause of the glitch.
- Make sure to install an antivirus suite of sorts on your unit, along with a secure remote manager app to keep tabs on your bot and their activities. If worst comes to worst, you can remotely disable them.
If, however, it's too late and your bot's already gone aggro, take the following steps to ensure that you and those around you are kept safe.
- If your bot has a shutdown phrase or remote shutdown command, use it immediately.
- Before jumping in to try and shut down your unit, try to determine if it's safe to do so. If you know or suspect your bot has any weapons or superhuman strength, stay away and keep your distance. If you absolutely feel the need to intervene, make sure you have something to defend yourself with.
- For synthetic readers: Even if your chassis is rated to withstand and exert extreme force, don't dive in to save the day recklessly. You may not have any idea what your bot's capable of in this unpredictable state. Interfacing with them may cause your systems to go haywire, too. Only intervene directly if you're absolutely confident in your abilities and are well aware of the aggressive unit's abilities.
- If your bot becomes actively aggressive (i.e. has or expresses intent to harm or kill), call or contact your local emergency hotline immediately.
- Trying to reason with the aggressive bot may not be a good idea. Chances are their logic protocols may have been tampered with, in which case most if not all attempts to reason with the bot won't do any good. You should only communicate with an aggressive bot as a means of distraction. Even then, exercise caution and flee immediately if the situation becomes dangerous.
Thank you for taking the time to submit your questions to us! We enjoyed answering your questions, and hope that you'll share many more of your questions with us.