Comic 122 - Time to go to sleep

12th Oct 2011, 12:17 AM in Rain
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Author Notes:

view 12th Oct 2011, 12:17 AM edit delete
You can't scan a quantum bit without turning it into a binary bit, and you can't store a quantum bit for very long. In order to make a long-term "factory default" for a robot brain, you have to analyze the whole matrix of qbits down into a Turing-machine program... which involves computations that destroy the integrity of the qbits, basically crashing the quantum "program" permanently.

Also, I don't have the flu, I have food poisoning.


Greeb 12th Oct 2011, 12:58 AM edit delete reply
Goodnight Gretel, dream well of electric sheep.

On another note; I'm not too entirely sure I understand the factory default setting. I take it, that it means her base programming is upgraded into new firmware, and I would assume that upgrade would include her personality she's adopted since the time she'd been initialized. But I wouldn't automatically assume that memories would be placed into firmware; so I guess what I'm wondering is, do the robots generally change as a result of this kind of transfer? And is that possibly why they have 'birthday parties' like this, so that they have friends and relatives around while they get used to their new chassis and hardware?
view 12th Oct 2011, 3:23 AM edit delete reply
Well, you'll find a bit more over the course of the comic (and in just a few pages), but essentially any difference in personality and behavior is more likely because of the new body, not because of the refactoring. The new body changes both your capabilities and how others react to you, which is why robots upgrade step-by-step and to bodies built to someone else's specs rather than just popping into whatever body they want.

To Jim, this is pretty ordinary. He's done it lots - every robot goes through five of these transfers before adulthood, and more if they want to afterwards.

The reason they do it is so that they can be rebuilt with a minimum of loss of time and personality if they are destroyed. Quantum-computation robots don't store memories like computers do, but more like people do: as complicated partially-compiled semantic meshes.

Unlike bits, twiddling with quantum bits (reading them, for example) changes them. So the personality, memories, and so forth can be turned into a Turing-machine program... but the process destroys the delicate web of quantum bits.

There is something about quantum computing which allows for robots to be "truly intelligent" rather than just rather clever expert systems... it's widely considered that a robot just after a refactoring is not technically sentient, not until their quantum memory is once again filled with experiences.

This is why there is a party. It's a good-natured attempt to "kick-start" the robot's brain with good experiences.

Still, there's no evidence that refactored robots are nonsentient for more than a few seconds (while their inputs all come back on line and their buffers spin up), and there's no evidence that a party actually does anything more than a party on any other day.
RandomTroll 12th Oct 2011, 1:19 AM edit delete reply
Is she asking him if her new body will have nipples?
view 12th Oct 2011, 3:30 AM edit delete reply
Not... exactly...
Nurrah 13th Oct 2011, 2:33 AM edit delete reply
*thumbs up*
JasperWB 12th Oct 2011, 2:57 AM edit delete reply
Every time you write about these robot's technology, I feel a little more like a dumbass. I have no idea what you said. None.
view 12th Oct 2011, 3:24 AM edit delete reply
All the stuff in the authors' note is extremely plausible, near-future stuff... if you read up on quantum computing, you'll see that it's accurate.
Prestidigititis 12th Oct 2011, 4:09 AM edit delete reply
It was my understanding that there would be no required reading for this comic.
view 12th Oct 2011, 4:21 AM edit delete reply
It's just color. Everything you need to know will come out in the comic, everything else is just how I justified it in my mind.
JasperWB 12th Oct 2011, 4:37 AM edit delete reply
I miss analog things. When you could take a nut and put it on a bolt and have a television set!
view 12th Oct 2011, 8:51 PM edit delete reply
Silly, quantum mechanics are the ultimate in analog!
duLapel 12th Oct 2011, 5:44 AM edit delete reply
You would think with this kind of delicate system a dumby sensory input, i.e. a virtual reality, would be used during the transfer. There would be no need to pause the quantum-computer brain. Also the virtual reality could have virtual sheep for the simulated dream experience... :P

PS: Gretel was asking if she would have the euphemistic cat, if I'm not mistaken... o.O
view 12th Oct 2011, 1:00 PM edit delete reply
The problem is that making a digital copy destroys the original. Being conscious would be a lot like a HAL moment.

And, yeah, you guessed it.
Gyde 12th Oct 2011, 2:05 PM edit delete reply
Why make a copy? Why not just have the brain itself removable as a whole? that way there is no reading and subsequent destruction of the qbits.
duLapel 12th Oct 2011, 4:44 PM edit delete reply
WARNING—A surge of nurdiness about to be unleashed!

Actually I was not suggesting mirroring or any other copying of the quantum computing (QC) cyberbrain’s energy states. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle suggest, as you say, that perfect knowledge would be impossible… although two QC cyberbrains connected together and spun up at the same time might become quantum entangled and share a consciousness even when seperated.

Anyway… any brain system whether biological or cybernetic receives information about the world through an array of sensors that transduce the stimuli into coded signals that the brain can process. You can block the signal (a dentist using Novocain) or you can induce a signal (a cattle prod). So what I was suggesting was rather than spin-down the QC cyber-brain, you would substitute the body’s transduced inputs to the brain with simulated inputs from a virtual body in a virtual world.

Now neither the human nor robot engineers may have though it was necessary to maintain continuity of consciousness in a QC cyberbrain and the associated amnesia an acceptable complication. Philosophically I find it callus, but instrumentalist tend to think with a six-year old’s concrete logic.

END of nurdiness!

When I saw Gretel’s adolescent form wearing pant, I had my suspensions. Jim’s and her blushing confirmed that she was getting a cat for her birthday—better than a rocket by far! This has many many interesting social and technological ramifications (pardon the pun) and must have an equally fascinating history.
Gyde 12th Oct 2011, 4:55 PM edit delete reply
I'm thinking along the same lines, but w/o the vr machine. First, cut off the outputs one at a time. Next, do the same with the inputs. Then, attach the new inputs and finally, attach the new outputs. Then assuming that the new in and outputs are accepted, move the hardware to the new body. No copy is made and the end result is the same.
view 12th Oct 2011, 8:50 PM edit delete reply
It's really easy to just slap her brain in a new body. The problem is that robots have had a staggeringly high mortality rate - for example, that big wrestler has died eight times since he was built, with "died" being "had to be restored from backup".

It's not so common these days, but it's considered a safety mechanism, as you'll hear Jim say in a few pages.

For a while people worked to try to make multiple linked systems - one in a safe location, one in the unit - but it doesn't end up working very well. The closer they try to mirror the other computer, the more oscillation occurs in the computations. It works perfectly fine if the computers are not mirrors, but then there's no "backup", you're still risking perma-death.

As to sexuality, nearly all adolescent robots get a long talk and a piece of hardware. Some are swappable, some are permanently built in. It depends on how "human" the robot plans on behaving.
jst56strong 12th Oct 2011, 9:57 PM edit delete reply
view 12th Oct 2011, 10:02 PM edit delete reply
Jst56strong 12th Oct 2011, 12:27 PM edit delete reply
I feel bad for the kid crushing on Gretel. Now he has to wait years so he can grow tall enough to tell her how he really feels. It’s kind of sad thinking that if i liked some robot as a teenager or young adult, that they could just upgrade and change who they are.
view 12th Oct 2011, 1:00 PM edit delete reply
jst56strong 12th Oct 2011, 2:21 PM edit delete reply
you should make a follow up comic about them
view 12th Oct 2011, 8:44 PM edit delete reply
Nurrah 13th Oct 2011, 2:36 AM edit delete reply
And.. that will be where my fiancé gets hooked on your comics :D
view 13th Oct 2011, 2:42 AM edit delete reply
Why? What about it would be appealing?