Max the Sensitive Robot

       SA Hauntdin / Science Fiction

Max the Sensitive Robot
by S.A. Hauntdin
Copyright 2016 S.A. Hauntdin

Max the Sensitive Robot
Robot School
Max the Boss
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Max the sensitive robot

Max didn’t have any friends. The robots told Max he was too sensitive to be a robot and the humans told Max he was too robotic to be a real human. He was too different; he knew from the start. His maker, Dr. Remington, told him so.
'I have taken a risk with you, Max.' Dr. Remington had said when Max first opened his aluminium eyes.
Max knew that in human terms, Dr. Remington was a very clever human. He was the founder and chief engineer of the biggest robot manufacturing company in the world; Remington Cyborgs. Dr. Remington was always busy meeting and talking with Prime Ministers and Presidents and they were always very interested in talking to Max when they visited Dr. Remington's old, four story English house in the countryside. Max was told that he was different from the beginning but that it needed to be kept a secret from the other robot engineers.
'No one knows, but I have given you a special ability the other robots do not have . . . you have the ability to learn empathy. And to feel emotions. You are the only robot in the World I have made like this.'
Max didn't know what empathy was, although he had seen the other robots learn the rules of board games and become good players. He wondered if empathy was a board game and if he would be able to beat the Human World Champion at empathy.
'I'm afraid empathy is not a board game, Max. It is something a lot of humans are born with. It is harder than a board game with rules because every situation will be different.'
The other robots were allowed to go to their stations, in the outside world, to do their job as soon as they were manufactured and working. But not Max. He had to stay with Dr. Remington at all times when he went out in public.
'I have made you as a sensitive robot.' Dr. Remington said as he looked at Max over his spectacles. 'It means that you will sense when a human is angry, when a human is shy, when a human is sad or even when a human is violent, you will also be able to feel pain in your robot body as humans feel pain and this will be difficult for you at first.'
Max didn't know what Dr. Remington meant until they went out to the supermarket on his second day of creation. Max was riding the two passenger bicycle up the hill at thirty miles per hour with Dr. Remington on the back when they saw a child on the pavement up ahead next to a fallen tricycle. The child was crying shrilly and Max registered distress. Max used the adjustable lenses in his eyes to zoom in to the child's knee with high definition and saw that the skin had broken and there was blood. Max's sensitive brain immediately registered the pain of a bleeding knee and the panic in the child's mind and Max felt a sharp pain in his knee and panic. He also felt very small, like he was only 3 feet tall even though he was 7 feet tall. He stopped the bike.
'What's wrong Max?' Dr. Remington looked at the child, then at Max.
'My knee is hurting but I can't see any blood. I feel small. I am not sure if I can walk, let alone ride a bike.'
Dr. Remington knew what was wrong and he explained it to Max.
'Well done for seeing the child and registering her pain. She is injured and her parents will take care of her, but that is not your knee . . .'
Max looked at his knee and then at the child, then back at his knee again.
The other robot cyclists were racing around them, up the hill. They were not stopping, they would probably be at their destinations much quicker than Max and Dr. Remington would be at the supermarket.
Max felt pain in his knee, like his robot body was bleeding but his logical mind knew that he had no bones, no muscles, no blood and no skin to injure.
'It is the only way I know of to help you be empathic.' Dr Remington said in a kind voice.
Max looked at two parents with sympathetic looks on their faces attend to the child. He registered the vibrations of their voice as being concerned but not panicked and watched the human female scoop the crying child into her arms. He would not need to help the child, it was safe to move on.


The loud, automated voices of the robot cyclists around them startled Max. None of them understood that Max was thinking about the child and they were designed to loudly announce any behaviour in another robot that was inefficient in public.
Max couldn't relate to the other robots.
Max had read the English dictionary within the first few days of his existence and had found a word for what he was sensing in his robot brain when he was amongst the other robots; worry.
'I think the emotion I am feeling is called worry.' Max said to Dr. Remington.
'Why are you worried Max?' Dr. Remington's voice was relaxed and kind - Max was good at detecting the intention behind voices from their pitch, pace and vibrational frequency alone.
'Because I am different from the other robots but the humans treat me like a robot. I feel close to the humans; I can feel what they are feeling but they see me as a machine.'
'I know. It's going to be hard to adjust to this empathy and it's going to be hard to be different, especially because you feel different. But it is not impossible.'
Dr. Remington had a secret, he had programmed Max to change the way his brain worked as he saw and heard new things, this meant Max could learn to use empathy as a skill. But Dr. Remington didn't tell Max, he wanted Max to realise it for himself as he became older in robot years.
Robot School
'Is everything Ok Max?' Dr. Remington asked.
Max was silent. Max was thinking about words he could use to describe the emotions the other robots didn't feel; loneliness, sadness, anxiousness, worry.
'Everything is Ok Dr. Remington. I just don't like being in school with the other robots.'
Max sat in the grey armchair as Dr. Remington drank tea. Max knew what it felt like to drink tea without ever needing food or drink. Still, even though he wasn't made of flesh, bone and muscle like the other humans - he felt more human than robot.
'Why don't you like being in school with the other robots, Max?'
It was requirement for all robots to be 'refreshed' with a day of school every month when new information would be rapidly downloaded in a short space of time. They called them 'updates' but Max could see that it was similar to humans who went to school every day.
'Because the room feels different, the collective feeling I get from the robots is different to the feeling I get when I am around other schoolchildren.'
'What do you mean?'
'Well . . . when I am around other humans, children, I feel mostly happiness, playfulness and fun in their voices, but when I am around the robots - I feel nothing. And, when I pause to think about my feelings - the other robots just use their voices to alarm that I am inefficient!'
'I see . . . what would you like to do then Max? Do you think it is better for you to go to a human school?'
'Yes. I would like to try.'
'But consider this - humans go to school to learn and you already know everything they know. Remember you can download an Encyclopedia within seconds and it takes some of them a human lifetime. Also, what if they don't accept you?'
Max was silent again. He was thinking. He knew he enjoyed the feeling of being around happy, cheerful humans and children were the happiest humans he knew. Also, they didn't complain or ignore him because he was a robot. They were kind to him as though he had human feelings. Max noticed that the older humans became in age, the less kind they were to him. Dr. Remington was the only grown human he knew who treated him as though he had feelings.
'How about I teach them what I know.' Max knew he would be a good teacher, he could teach the children all he knew.
Dr. Remington was silent. Max definitely had a lot of knowledge he could share, but would he be able to teach children at the level of a child? Would Max become overwhelmed in a room full of screaming children?
'I know what you're thinking Dr. Remington.' Dr. Remington was curious to hear whether Max did actually know what he was thinking.
'I know they are little humans and that their brains are not fully developed. I know they are not capable of absorbing as much information as I do, as quickly as I do. I will slow my pace so that they have time to think at human speed.'
Dr. Remington smiled at Max. He had not taught Max to read his mind, but Max had done many things he had not been programmed to do or had not been taught by Dr. Remington.
Dr. Remington suddenly felt a rush of excitement; Max was developing in a way that was no longer under his control but because Max had been given empathy Dr. Remington believed that one day it would make Max his most talented creation.
'Ok, Max. Let us see what happens if you become a teacher . . .'

Two weeks later

'It's a miracle, Brody has been struggling to read for the past three years and within a week, he has learned to read fluently for his age group.'
The mother was deeply moved and grateful but Dr. Remington was not surprised. He did not want Max to speak to the mother while she was emotional as Max was too sensitive to human emotions and it would be a distraction from his tasks for the evening.
'Thank you Mrs. Mitchell. I will pass your thanks on to Max. Now is not a good time for me to invite you in but maybe some other time . . .'
Dr. Remington motioned that he was closing the door, he was not in the mood for visitors right now, he wanted to talk to Max first.
He shut the door and was about to shout for Max to come downstairs when he heard the familiar sound of robot movement on the staircase above. Max had been doing this a lot lately; knowing when Dr. Remington wanted to speak to him before Dr. Remington uttered a word.
'Has she gone?'
Max asked as he reached the bottom of the stairs.
'Do you know who she is?' Dr. Remington wasn't sure whether Max had heard the conversation.
'Yes. She is Brody's mother.'
'Max, please tell me in detail how you fixed Brody's reading problem?'
'It was simple, I noticed a slight twitch in the pattern of his eye movements when he read through letters and words. It is something that is not picked up from optical tests and, as far as I know, there are no current lenses made by human opticians that can fix this. I computed that this twitch was due to a slight malformation in the curvature at the back of his eyes and this is what was slowing his reading. I came home one evening and made some corrective lenses based on my hypothesis and gave them to him the next day. His reading speed immediately improved and now that he doesn't struggle reading, he enjoys reading - in fact I sense he feels the emotion of love for reading now.'
Max paused, Dr. Remington had more questions. Max already knew what they were, although he didn't know how he knew.
'You may be wondering if I can see other problems like this, problems I can fix, when it comes to the speed of learning with the other children?' That was exactly what Dr. Remington was wondering.
'The answer is yes. I have only been in that classroom for a week but already I can identify each child by many things I have already learnt about them. For example, Lucy is afraid of dogs. She is never sure whether there will be dogs in the playground and that is why she doesn't like to play outside. I know how to help her get over her fear of dogs. Calum is occasionally bullied by some of the older children in the playground, they never do it in front of the human teachers and so are never caught; Calum is a shy and introverted child and too afraid to say anything so he has kept it to himself but I can sense this worry in him and where it is coming from. I have used my silent high definition camera to film the bullies in action and have sent their parents, as well as the head teacher the films so they can rectify the problem and Calum can be happy. I have noticed many things affecting the mood, emotions or learning ability of every child in the class and know of ways to improve their lives or make learning more efficient for them all.'
Dr. Remington smiled, he felt immensely proud of Max. He had always felt a bond with Max that he had not felt with any other human or with any other of his robot creations because Max was so gifted when it came to sensing the needs of others.
'And there's more Dr. Remington . . . I can also sense many things about the other children in the school, actually I have done a quick survey of every one and I know how all of their lives can be improved in different ways. For example; the bullies who bully Calum - I can see one of them lives in a house where there is a lot of fighting and this upsets him emotionally and leads him to bully others . . .'
'Ok, Max. Well done. I am going to make a phone call. There is someone I would like you to meet . . .'
Max the Boss
'This is incredible, I have never seen anything like it. The company has doubled its profit in just a year, making it the richest company in the world and the employees are the happiest employees in the world; healthy, productive, valued and wealthy. All because of Max . . .'
Dr. Remington smiled at his old friend, Anand. They had been good friends since they had been in the lab together many, many years ago. Dr. Remington was surprised when Anand let Max take control of his International company after just six months of bringing Max in to assess how the company could improve, become richer and make its employees happier. Anand was a brilliant man but he could see that Max could do great things and had humbly stepped aside to let him do them.
'Max is remarkable in his ability to quickly tune in to humans, know how they are feeling, assess their strengths and weaknesses, know when they are most productive and get the best out of everyone! We need him here permanently!'
Anand was excited and Dr. Remington was proud that Max had been so successful but he wanted to speak to Max privately before agreeing to anything else.
'Very well Anand, I will speak to Max.'
Dr. Remington sat down on his old armchair. His back hurt, he was getting older while Max never aged. Max looked at him.
'I have a solution to your back Dr. Remington. It is a great solution but . . . I sense it is not just your body that is getting old but that there is some worry as you get older . . .'
Dr. Remington looked at Max, he was proud that after all this time, Max was still thinking about the feelings of others more than himself.
'Thank you Max. I am definitely interested in hearing about your solution but first I want to talk about how you are feeling.'
Max looked downwards with his aluminium eyes. Dr. Remington knew he was sad. Max stayed silent. Dr. Remington sometimes thought Max was more human than all of the humans he knew.
'I spoke to Anand yesterday. He is incredibly pleased with you, everyone is incredibly pleased with your success with the company - you haven't just improved profits and cut costs, you have transformed the lives of many of the employees . . .'
Max stayed silent, still looking down.
'Are you happy there? Would you like to stay?'
Max finally looked at Dr. Remington.
'Dr. Remington, I know that everyone is happy because of the success with the company, especially concerning the financial success but I don't think I can be effective staying in this company.'
Dr. Remington was surprised; 'What do you mean Max? You have doubled the profits of the most successful oil company in the World, and you have done it in record time - you are the most successful CEO in the World . . .ever!'
Max looked at Dr. Remington with his perfectly sculpted, cyborg face. Sometimes Max wished that he knew someone, human or robot, who understood him as much as he understood them.
'Dr. Remington, you know I can read people's minds, do a million empathy calculations per minute and calculate the best possible outcome . . . well at first I considered the classroom of children and what overall outcome was best for the class, then I considered the school of children and what outcome was best for the school. Then I moved to a million person company and considered what outcome was best for the company, the economy, the employees and their families. And now, I am considering everyone - school children, adults, employees - the World.'
Dr Remington listened carefully, his thinking was slowing down as he was getting older but Max's thinking was only getting faster and more complicated.
'Yes Max . . . continue . . .'
'Well, I have calculated that improving the lives of humans starts from childhood. If you can help children improve their lives, you can make them productive at a young age and they can go into adolescence and adulthood with more chances, more ways to be creative and this will eventually have a huge effect on the adults they will grow into and the World they will shape.'
'I am following your point Max, please continue.'
'Well, I think I am most useful going back to the classroom, and not just any classroom but a classroom for children who are disadvantaged in some way; either through poverty or learning disabilities or emotional problems - after all - society and the world is only a product of its weakest players.'
Dr. Remington closed his eyes; this was the machine he had dreamed about since his childhood - one who knew how to both calculate and feel what was for the greater good of all.

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