Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Notes from the Mad Science Lab: Ice Cream Machine

My son likes ice cream. I mean, he really, really likes ice cream. And since his birthday was coming up, he asked me to make the Ultimate Ice Cream Maker Machine for him. (His name for it, not mine.)

This should have been simple enough. It's just a nano-fabricator, powered by a fusion reactor and programmed with templates for every known type of ice-cream and cone. The technical side of it required only a little tweaking; I only had to thaw out my assistant twice. And once it was ready, it would run on anything; feed whatever you like into the hopper, and part of it will go to power the reactor while the rest gets reassembled into ice cream at an atomic/molecular level. I designed the user interface to be able to modify formulas to fit individual preferences, and gave it some self-programming routines so that it could invent new flavors. It's even self-cleaning.

Getting the samples to generate the templates was the hard part. Do you have any idea how they look at you, when you walk into an ice cream store with a large cooler and ask for one scoop of each flavor to be labeled and stored?

But I didn't count on my son's enthusiasm for ice cream. That's where I went wrong. Because, of course, he was completely thrilled to be able to ask for any type of ice cream imaginable. He ordered all his favorites, then started in on combinations. Then he started asking for entirely original flavors. And then, before he had to leave for his mother's house, he asked the UICMM to create a sample of every possible flavor of ice cream.

Unfortunately, I didn't hear that. I had stepped out to use the restroom. The fates of nations have turned on smaller coincidences.

By the time I went back down the next morning, the UICMM had used its nano-forge to create a fuel-supply system for itself. It had cannibalized about half of the lab to do so. It had used the other half of my equipment to feed itself. Not that I could tell, at first; the entryway side of the lab was buried under a spreading, half-melted pile of fractally-differentiated flavors of ice cream. I had to melt my way in; then I had to burn my way through the mechanical arms, which were trying their best to insert me into the hopper for fuel. Finally, I was able to cancel my son's order and shut down the system.

I didn't destroy the machine, though. For one thing, the boy would never forgive me if I did. For another, the design of the robot arms was intriguing enough that I would very much like to run a scan of both the system memory and the program itself; I'd like to know just how close those self-modification subroutines have carried the UICMM towards becoming a genuine Artificial Intelligence. To be honest, though, I'm not entirely sure what I'd do with an intelligent and self-aware Ice Cream Maker Machine... though there are always those leftover Robotic Infantry prototypes. I suppose I could load it into one of those bodies, and turn it loose to corner the Ice Cream market...

1 comment:

  1. "And then, before he had to leave for his mother's house, ..."

    Hmm. Mad Scientist shares custody of his son. Why does this seem so familiar?


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