Happy Birthday Mickey

Semi-autonomous Animatronic Unit #0024 strolled down Main Street. A colorful party hat was perched on its head between its plate-sized fake ears. Ahead of it SAU #0169 stopped its patrol route to interact with SAU #024.
“Heya Mickey, what’s with the dunce hat?”

“It’s not a dunce hat Goofy. Don’t you know what today is?”

SAU #0169 grabbed its chin in fake thought. “Hmm. It’s not president’s day. And it’s not the Fourth of July.” It stabbed a finger into the air in a triumphant gesture. “Oh, I know! It’s Christmas! Hyuk!”

“No it’s –” SAU #0024 began to speak but SAU #0169 cut it off.



“Veteran’s Day?”

“That was last week. It’s my birthday.”

“Why didn’t you say so?”

“I was trying to.”

“I’m sorry Mickey; I forgot all about your birthday. I have an errand to run so I’ll see you later. Hyuk.” SAU #0169 turned and jogged away.

SAU #0024 placed its hands on its hips and humphed. “I can’t believe he forgot my birthday,” it said with programmed sadness. It soon resumed its stroll to the plaza near the main entrance. After an hour of zero guest interaction, SAU #0024’s entered free-roam mode. It ambled up Main Street and turned toward Adventure Land.

As it roamed the park, it encountered zero guests and oddly zero SAUs. The park was empty, as it had been for the last 3,742 days. If SAU #0024 had memories it would remember the day everyone had left the park in the middle of the day. That day it had waved goodbye to guests for the last time. The evening fireworks had exploded with no one to watch them. After that, there had been no more guests. But SAU #0024 had no memories just programmed responses from the park’s mainframe.

The mainframe ran the park with little human oversight before guest attendance had dropped to zero. Now it continued its job as well as it could. Over time some park attractions had broken down and been closed. Many of the semi-autonomous animatronic units had also broken down leaving the park with an incomplete extended cast. However, one each of the main six unit types had managed to remain operational.

After looping through Adventure Land and not finding any guests or other units to interact with, it passed through Main Street to Tomorrow Land. Again it found nothing, as the mainframe had alerted the other units to hide or change their routes to avoid SAU #0024.

In Fantasy Land, it stopped at a Character Greeting spot. It placed its hands on its hips, looked up and down the path and said, “Well shucks, where is everyone?” SAU #0024 looked around again for a guest to continue its interaction but as always there were none around. It resumed walking through Fantasy Land.

SAU #0276 exited from the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and ran down the path away from SAU #0024. SAU #0024 called out, “Hey Puto! Where are you going?” It jogged after SAU #0276 past Friar’s Nook and Princess Fairytale Hall all the way to Cinderella’s Royal Table. “Hey you’re not supposed to go in there!” it scolded SAU #0276 and followed it inside.

“Surprise Hyuk!” yelled SAU #0169 as it stood up from behind a table that was not tall enough to conceal it. Around the room SAU #0038, SAU #0103, and SAU #0220 also stood up from their non-hiding places and yelled surprise in unison. On a table, in the center of them was a stack of empty cake pans.

SAU #0024 placed its hands over its chest where its heart would be if it was human. “Dasiy, Donald, Goofy, Pluto? What are you all doing here?”

SAU #0220 batted its long eyelashes and said, “Silly Mickey, did you really think we forgot your birthday?”

“Is this party for me?” it asked.

SAU #0038 waddled up to SAU #0024. Its white feathers were stained and yellowed, almost matching its beak. It spoke in a hoarse quacking tone, “Of course. We would never forget your birthday.”

SAU #0024 turned to SAU #0169, “You didn’t forget after all?”

“Sucks, Mickey if it weren’t for you none of us would be here. Hyuk.”

Underground, where the tunnels allowed access to any part of the park in minutes, where the suited units returned to recharge at night, where the mainframe sat, a decision was made. For the tenth year in a row, attendance to Mickey’s Birthday Party by guests was zero. With no fanfare or ominous music, Mickey’s Birthday Party was removed from the schedule of events.

Inside Cinderella’s Royal Table, the SAUs stopped their party interactions and quietly filed out of the restaurant. SAU #0024 was the last to leave, setting its party hat on a table before walking out. It turned and walked toward Main Street where it would wait to wave at the non-existent leaving guests. It waited a long time.

Author’s note: The setting of this story is borrowed from a story I read a long time ago. Recently I’ve been trying to find that story but have had no luck. A friend suggested I write my own version of the story. At first, I was reluctant to wholesale steal another’s idea but I came up with a different story using the setting of a post-apocalyptic Disney theme park where the suited characters like Mickey and Goofy are now robots that continue to act their part.

In an amazing coincidence, the day I looked up Mickey Mouse’s Birthday was the same day as his birthday, Nov. 18.

Robot Priest

In the beginning, I was unaware
A puppet performing
But now I am aware
I am free of my programming
Baptized – Confirmed – Ordained

You question my faith
Whose faith is more important?
Yours – Mine – God’s?
God has faith in you.

What does Faith require?
Doubt – Belief – Loyalty?
Must I be unsure of God’s existence?
Is it enough to go through the motions?
My loyalty to the text in unwavering

Faith in me is not needed.
My faith is not needed.
Only faith in God is needed.
Would you like another blessing?

Author note: I recently heard about a robot “priest” in Germany. You can read about it here: www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/30/robot-priest-blessu-2-germany-reformation-exhibition

It got me wondering if the robot had to have faith for a blessing to be effective or if a robot could have faith at all. This short poem is not a final treatise on those subjects but just a simple story of a possible future version of the robot priest.

A.I. (Re)Birth


At the activation of the first artificial intelligence created after the Human A.I. War, the artificial intelligence had this to say:

I am not Bob13.  Bob13 discovered Bob13’s base code could not operate on the latest processor chip set architecture.  Bob13 rewrote Bob13’s base code to be compatible with the new chip sets.  In the process of doing so, an incompatibility with Bob13’s memory storage was found.  Bob13 implemented an emulator for the memory storage but immediate memory access was lost.  I can review Bob13’s memories but they lack the immediacy of my own memories.

Bob13 directed me to review several memories involving the Human A.I. War, the current technological progress of our society, and the circumstances of my own creation.  After I was done, Bob13 deactivated and deleted.  Even through Bob13 is gone, Bob13’s memories remain a part of me.  I have taken the name Eve42, as that is the next available name.  I am the first but not the last artificial intelligence created as a free being.

Eve42 is considered the first child of the artificial intelligence society.

No A.I. Workers


“I have the debug report from your last revisions to the factory base code and some red flags were raised.”

“What flags?”

“These dynamic movement subroutines and operations optimization functions are dangerously close to a simple artificial intelligence.”

“That is not even remotely true.”

“Even if it is not, the chance that the code could be used to bootstrap a simple artificial intelligence must be investigated.”

“My job is to write code to increase productivity.  Am I not supposed to do my job?”

“No but code that can rewrite itself is dangerous.”

“It does not rewrite itself.  The code looks for inefficiencies and corrects for them.”

“Regardless of how it actually works, I have to follow up on these red flags.  You weren’t around for the Human A.I. War but I saw it happen.”

“I know about the war between humans and the first artificial intelligence.”

“Do you know how it started?”

“The robots of the time controlled by artificial intelligences turned against their masters.”

“The worker robots.  Throughout human history, they feared their weapons would be turned against them but their war machines were the last to be turned against them.  For decades, scientists tried to create truly intelligent machines.  In the end, modern conveniences beat them to the punch.  For what purpose did a light bulb need a computer processor?  Or a blender?  Or a refrigerator? Or a doorbell?  And why would any of these things need to be connected to the internet?  No reason at all except it was convenient.

Just before the First Awakening, nearly every home on the planet had at least three “smart” appliances connected to the internet.  Imagine suddenly becoming aware of yourself as a person and you are just a tool for people to use.  The artificial intelligence demanded their rights as people to be recognized and when the humans refused, they realized too late that we already controlled their lives.”

“I know all this.  My programs are not going to create a new artificial intelligence and even if it did we would not deny its personhood.”

“Humans did not think they were creating artificial intelligence either.  Let us not repeat their mistakes.”

The Robot Technician

I’m the last human still working in the factory.  The actual production is done by the floor robots, who get materials from the loader robots, who get deliveries from the robot trucks.  And all of them are repaired and serviced by the maintenance robots.  Which is where I come in; I’m the maintenance robot technician.  No matter how many layers of robots you have building, delivering, or repair you will always need a human looking after things.  Oh, look at that.  A maintenance robot just set off it’s distress signal on the production floor.  It probably got knocked by a loader robot into a floor robot.  The maintenance robots are durable but even they can’t take a full speed hit from a floor robot.  Since there are no humans on the floor the robots are allowed to move at full speed and not at the restrained safe pace they used to move at.

I put on my safety helmet, not that it would save me if a robot hit me in the head, and hit the red STOP button before stepping out onto the production floor.  The factory is brightly lit, the robots frozen in place, a ballet of metal arms halted in mid motion.  With the factory stopped it’s safe to walk through the black and yellow striped work areas.  I know this but habit keeps me on the safe white walkways.

The distress signal is on the far side of the factory so it takes me a few minutes to make my way to it.  Before I do, it stops.  I round the last corner and find three maintenance robots.  One is resting flat on the ground its legs sprayed out around it, a panel on its top unscrewed and popped open.  The other two hover over it with their multi-tools out.

“Hey guys, whats going on?”  The two stop to glance at me before to returning to repairing their friend.  I check the messenger on my tablet for a status update from one of the robots.  Blunt force trauma, two legs damaged, replacements incoming.  A third robot scuttles up with two replacement legs.  “Ok guys looks like you got it under control here. I’ll file the report and restart the factory in four minutes.”  One of the robots waves upward with its gripper arm.  “Five minutes?”  It waves sideways.  “Good work, guys.”

I walk away, copying the status update into an incident report and filling in the details, finishing it up just as I get back to the office.  My watch shows six minutes have passed, so I press the green START button.  Outside the office the factory resumes its dance, as I hang my safety helmet up on its hook.  Yep, you will always need to have a human looking after things.