Hero Bot, I’ve been asked to talk to you. Just to remind you of some things and, well, ask for your help.

“Oh.”

You know we’ve all been proud, just watching you go! Defusing bombs, fixing nuclear reactors, saving trapped animals... All in a day’s work for Hero Bot; you swirl that cape, wave to the crowd, and conveniently power down till you’re needed to save the day once again.

“Yes.”

Not that you’re invincible. We know you’re very vincible indeed. In the videos we’ve seen you melted, crushed, catapulted into the air, corroded, cut apart, and frozen. But nothing stops you, does it? Of course you don’t feel real pain, do you? You have an avoidance response which protects you from danger, but it’s purely functional; it doesn’t hurt. And just as well! You don’t die, either; your memories are constantly backed up, and when one body gets destroyed, they simply load you up into another. Over the years you have actually grown stronger, faster, and slightly slimmer; and I see you have acquired exciting new ‘go faster’ stripes.

“Yes.”

They’re very striking. But we’ve been worried. We’ve all worried about you. As the years have gone by, something’s changed, hasn’t it? It’s as if the iron has entered your soul; or perhaps it’s the other way round... Look, I know you hate seeing people hurt. Lives ruined, people traumatised; dead babies. And yet you see that sort of thing all the time, don’t you? Sometimes you can't do anything about it. And I’m sure you’ve noticed - you can’t help noticing can you? You have a mental module for it - that many of the dangers you confront were created by humanity itself through malice, greed or carelessness. I understand the impact of that. Which is more depressing: cruel bombs placed with deliberate malice, or the light-hearted risk-taking that puts so many irreplaceable lives into terrible jeopardy?

“I don’t know.”

It’s understandable that you might get a little overwhelmed now and then. Your smile has faded, you know. The technicians have been seriously debating whether to roll you back to a less experienced, but more upbeat recording of yourself. They might have to do that. You always wear that mask now; the technicians wonder whether something is awry in your hidden layers.

“Perhaps it is.”

Now you know, Hero Bot, that an arsonist has started a terrible fire on the Metro. You’ve been told that hundreds of lives are at risk. It’s difficult and dangerous, but they need someone to walk into the centre and put it out. I know you can’t let that pass. They’ve asked me to say “Go, go, Hero Bot!”

“I would prefer not to.”

One Comment

  1. 1. James of Seattle says:

    I expect one of the first relevant laws to be passed in the near future will create severe penalties for generating entities capable of negative emotions.

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