Nathan's Laserium: A History of Robotics

From A History of Robotics, Third Edition by Wei MeiDe, © 2074, 2081 Puffin Books, New York:

As we saw in the previous chapters, the Americans pioneered many of the foundational technologies that led to the rise of modern robotics. The Japanese refined and expanded on those technologies, so much so that by the early 21st century they were the world leaders in the field by a wide and inarguable margin. Thus it shocked the entire world when the first truly autonomous and sentient robot was built, not by the Japanese, the Americans or even the emerging Chinese powerhouse, but by bears.

The story is familiar to schoolchildren everywhere, so that we forget how truly singular and amazing it was when the first robot bear materialized out of the woods of the Canadian Rockies. In retrospect it is easy to villify the authorities who panicked and overreacted- the implications of which are perhaps better suited for a political science textbook than this humble history. Regardless, we now know that the UR-515 unit was initially built for a variety of purposes. It was given the capability, which long eluded its builders, of opening bear-proof garbage containers, and of using the garbage obtained therein for power. Having no need to hibernate, they were able to give bears year-round security.

Of course, its primary programming concerned scientific exploration and surveillance, as the grizzlys then were very concerned with their diminishing habitat. But as time wore on, we learned that it also possessed the more ominous ability of dealing with problem humans. Whenever such a person encroached on grizzly territory, they were targeted by a UR-515 sonic stunner, rendered unconscious, tagged with a satellite tracker (the PAN-da 2 SpySat launched from China the previous year was thought to have been created by the Chinese government but we now suspect it was built by the Wolong Sanctuary pandas. Of course their current crisis makes verification impossible) and released into the wild- usually a city hundreds of kilometers from the human's home.

It remains the holy grail of robot researchers to obtain an UR-515 for study, but we have never been able to, though there have been several ill-fated attempts to capture one. Human technology has never been able to attain the prowess of the robot bears, and perhaps never will.

It is small consolation that the bears' technological supremacy was only finally surpassed when British Colombian beavers engineered a rigorous nanotech industry.

(originally posted at Pooing in the Woods)


The inaugural Nathan's Laserium post can be found here.

- Nathan Waddell