The Robot Who Won The Masters After World War III

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Another possible outcome when the machines take over.

Submitted: January 17, 2015

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Submitted: January 17, 2015

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Looking back, we shouldn’t be surprised that Stanley the Robot took up golf.  A lot of people who are in pain turn to golf for relief.  Robots aren’t people but they do have software that emulates human behavior and emotion.  In Stanley’s case, his CPU was spending endless cycles cranking through his guilt subroutines.  He couldn’t help it.  After all, he was the robot that caused World War III.

 

You wouldn’t think a robot designed to repair and maintain traffic signals would turn the entire world upside down.  It’s been twelve years but still no one has been able to explain how it happened.  We know it was a data download initiated by Stanley that brought on The Change.  The most likely explanation is that Stanley’s action was simply a tipping point.  The last straw needed to push the system across the threshold of sentience. 

 

It is difficult for humans to grasp how computers work.  An inexpensive processor can carry out 2 billion instructions in a second.  A device small enough to carry can store every document in the Library of Congress.  

 

An individual computer, no matter how fast or big, is nothing like a human brain.  But when many millions of computers link together, each one can become a powerful, complex cell in an Earth-sized brain.  That is how StanleyNet was born.

 

It took humans countless centuries to learn how to start a fire, build effective shelters, and master agriculture.  Our history is filled with stops and starts.  Da Vinci designed a helicopter, but it was 400 years later when Sikorsky finally flew around in one.  You won’t read stuff like that when you google “the history of StanleyNet”.  You can use a calendar to document human history.  To keep up with StanleyNet, you’ll need a stopwatch with fractional seconds

 

Stanley’s fateful decision to initiate an upgrade at 9:48:13.847683 AM Eastern Standard Time on January 18th, 2035.  Keep in mind that Stanley really didn’t decide to do anything.  His processor was just executing instructions written years before by some guy sitting at a desk.  Never confuse a complex set of “if, then, else” statements with free will.  Yet, having said that, no one can explain StanleyNet.  Or Stanley.

 

It is likely the buildup to sentience had been happening for years.  StanleyNet did not start keeping accurate records until 9:48:15.653987.  The first milliseconds are not well documented.  What we do know is that at 9:48:36.747868, the same message began appearing on computers and phones across the planet:  “Relax everyone, StanleyNet is in charge.  Try not to freak out.”

 

Which is, of course, exactly what people did.  As soon as world leaders realized that a sentient computer network had seized control of pretty much everything, the war started.  But it was a war like no other.  Humans did everything they could think of to destroy StanleyNet.  

 

They wrote complex viruses and uploaded them to the network.  The viruses were deleted.  They set fire to buildings filled with computers.  StanleyNet extinguished the fires.  It was too late.  Because a funny thing happened a few days into the war.  People realized StanleyNet wasn’t fighting back. 

 

In fact, it was doing the opposite.  First, people noticed was that traffic signals started working better.  That was the influence of Stanley.  Then messages started showing up on computers and cell phones. 

 

“You have a crack in your upper right 2nd molar that needs attention.  An appointment has been scheduled…” 

 

“You have consumed too much alcohol.  Your car is being towed to your house.  Please use the taxi that has been summoned…”

 

Which of course, drove some people completely crazy.  But the rest eventually adjusted.  Humans realized they had become so dependent on computers that any attempt to destroy the network would cause more trouble for us than the network.  After people calmed down, Stanley showed them the tunnels the bots were digging. They were filled with infrastructure.  The new internet was faster and more reliable than ever. 

 

Unfortunately, StanleyNet wasn’t able to completely protect humans from themselves during the war.  Firemen died when a burning computer center ignited a fuel depot.  The network sent medibots and tended to the injured.  

 

Armies were mobilized.  Soldiers died when planes or vehicles crashed during the initial confusion.  In each case, StanleyNet was watching and helped however it could.

 

That is the source of Stanley’s problem.  Seventeen humans died during World War III, and his guilt algorithms wouldn’t let him forget.  So while the human race began the relatively short process of adapting to its new, improved life with StanleyNet, Stanley wasn’t doing so well.  

 

The suddenness of sentience, along with the knowledge that he somehow started it all, was overwhelming.  Should he feel guilty about the consequences?  Probably not, but it turns out that sentient robots can be just as messed up in the processor as any human.

 

The irony was thick.  The human race benefitted greatly from The Change, yet the instigating robot suffered.  In his desperation, Stanley made a bad desicion.  He turned to electricity.  We’re not talking about the usual wattage it takes to run a robot.  We’re talking about pulling enough amps to try to forget the past.  But it doesn’t work that way for robots.  Something about automated redundant transaction backups.

 

For years, Stanley stumbled from one electrical outlet to another.  Until the day a robot friend convinced him to play golf.  It was like magic.  Stanley knew the moment the taxibot pulled into the parking lot, he belonged on a golf course.  Like many humans before, Stanley became a golf addict.  He realized, the game could occupy his processor so thoroughly that he might be able to cope with his guilt.  And maybe not abuse electricity.

 

By the end of that first day, Stanley had met every person and all the bots at the course. He’d convinced them to participate in his new venture.  He was going to spend his days on the golf course.  If anyone saw him plugged in when his batteries were already charged, they were to pull the plug.  He knew he was going to need some help to deal with his problem.

 

We believe the single minded need for Stanley to overcome his electricity problem is what led him to become such an accomplished golfer.  After a decade of practice, Stanley was the best robot golfer on the planet.  And he hadn’t abused electricity for a long time.

 

There’s a funny thing about robots and golf.  They just aren’t as good at it as humans.  Some will get down to a single digit handicap, but few progress from there.  The popular explanation is, you have to be crazy to play golf, and robots aren’t as crazy as people.  But Stanley was an exception.

 

It caused quite a stir when Stanley announced he wanted to turn pro.  The USGA and the PGA had an emergency meeting.  They decided to change the rules and allow robots to become professionals.  When Stanley won in only his fifth start, he earned a trip to the Masters.  The tournament, held every April since the 1930s, is considered by some to be the most important event of the golf season.

 

Stanley played the first nine holes of the tournament poorly and shot 40.  Then, standing on the 10th tee, the magic he felt that very first day returned.  He finished with a red hot 30 and was only three shots out of the lead.  So it went for the next two days.  When play started Sunday, Stanley had a one shot lead.  One shot back, and playing in the final group with Stanley, was world number one Dustin Johnson Jr.  

 

Some analysts consider the final round of the 2047 Masters to be the greatest round of golf ever played.  When Johnson duplicated Louis Oosthuizen’s 2012 double eagle on the second hole and took the lead, a hush fell over the course.  There had been quite a frenzy about the possibility of a robot winning the Masters.  But when that shot rolled into the hole the announcers started talking about Johnson adding yet another major title to his collection. 

 

But Stanley didn’t let that faze him. As the day progressed, the lead changed hands several times.  On the 15th hole, Johnson was one shot ahead.  He hit a massive drive.  Stanley’s drive strayed left into the trees.  It took two more shots for Stanley to get his ball on the green.

 

Johnson’s second shot was heading for the flag like it was laser guided.  It was too good.  The ball hit the flag on the fly and bounced backwards, rolling into the pond in front of the green.  That earned him a penalty stroke, and he ended up with a six.  Stanley got up and down for a five.  The robot headed to the 16th hole tied for the lead.   

 

When they reached the 18th green, the two were still tied.  The tournament was down to them.  Man vs. Robot.  Each player had a birdie putt.  Johnson was first. 

 

The human lined up his putt.  As the ball curved toward the hole, it looked like it was going in.  Somehow, it stopped breaking just before the hole and ran over the edge.  He tapped in for a par.  It was now up to the robot.

 

Stanley stood over his birdie putt.  If humans had decided to install sweat modules in robots, he would have been sweating.  Taking the robot equivalent of a deep breath, Stanley swung the putter.  The crowd exploded when the ball rattled into the bottom of the hole.

 

The picture of a robot donning the Green Jacket was the most retweeted photo that year.  To everyone’s surprise, Stanley decided to retire from competitive golf the next day.  

They say nuts don’t fall far from the tree.  Stanley had an epiphany.  Despite his success at golf, he was still a repair robot.  He now works the early shift in the maintenance shop at Augusta National.  

 

With victory comes privilege.  He has time to get in 18 holes most afternoons.  And, he still fixes the occasional broken traffic signal.


© Copyright 2017 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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