MLM – Chapter 20

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Lasko sat in front of the still deactivated PIRA, working on installing the two mechanical arms that Leonard had given him. It was somewhat straightforward to connect the input wires, the problem was that the arms had no actual way of attaching to the robot’s frame.
Giving up on finding a temporary way, he proceeded to weld the arms using the new tools they had purchased from Leonard. He had already tested charging the tools. These came with a little light indicating the charge level; flipping the regulator on and off instantly made the light green. The tools still worked, to his relief. No going back to purchase new ones this time.
Done welding the arms to PIRA’s body, Lasko stepped back to admire his handiwork. It looked pretty bad. One of the arms was rotated thirty degrees further than the other.
It’s… good enough for now, he told himself. No point in making it too fancy, right? We’re just trying to see if it works, anyway.
Lasko considered turning on PIRA to see what she thought… but he decided against it. Better to get them working first, before dealing with the emotional robotic assistant.
Ok, got to look for some hardware drivers. Leonard had told him to look at the old data records. This process, at least, was something that Lasko felt that he familiar with. Can’t use the hardware without the software. Lasko put the visual reader, over his head. The familiar screen popped up.
He found the hardware descriptions right away, but realized that he didn’t know what operating system the robot was using. It looked like Lasko would need to do some research on PiRA. Lasko pondered briefly on what to search for.
[PIRA], he typed.
[Pira, city in Australia, Provisional Irish Republican Army…]
He tried again, searching this time [Personal Robotic Assistant]. Relevant results appeared right away.
[Uber-Tech industries, the world’s leading DVG innovators, have just released their latest in thetan powered artificial intelligence, geared towards assisting top-level managers in the corporate environment. In simulated test environments, the Personal Robotic Assistant or (PiRA), has been shown to improve productivity by over 400%. With computing power to rival the last generation of supercomputers.]
Lasko looked at site after site, searching for something that he could use. Finally, Lasko spotted a link. [UBER-TECH PiRA maintenance forums.]
He scanned the forums… production specifications. A long list of information came up, and matching the version numbers, Lasko finally managed to get the operating system information. Now all he had to do was to install the drivers onto PiRA.
Hooking up the connectors to an exposed panel on PiRA’s back, he replaced the device on his head.
[Accessing PRA v.2.04…]
A screen popped up, with a complicated looking 3D diagram. Yikes, what is this? It looks pretty different than what I was expecting… Lasko wondered.
Can I even install the drivers like this? As the thought occurred to him, a prompt showed up.
[Please select the software that you would like to install.]
That was easy. He indicated the two programs, but then a message box popped up.
[Administrator access required to install programs. Please input Administrator password.]
Crap. Lasko tried to initiate the install a few more times, but the password prompt kept preventing him making the change.
What do I do now? Lasko was at a loss. He tried looking on the forums to see if anyone had similar issues. To his detriment, there weren’t a large number of posts about the issue. To most of the problems that people were having, the solution was simply, ‘take it to Ult-Tech and they’ll reset your password’.
After some more digging, he finally found a long thread that seemed promising.
[!Ult-Tech has ceased customer support for the PRA model, but I picked up an old unit from a business cleaning out their storage, and thought it would be cool to make some mods. Any suggestions on how to get around the administrator password prompt to make some changes?]
There was a number of responses, most of them expressing similar interest in getting around the problem. Finally Lasko spotted a response from a user, mechGramps.
[I used to be a technician working for Uber-tech back in the day. The method that I’m about to suggest isn’t really a work-around for you, because it will inevitably result in ruining your PRA unit, but I’ll put it out there just in case you’re just in for a cheap thrill.]
[There is a hidden tool that we would use when we got slammed with various PiRA maintenance requests. We called the ‘delimiter’. Search for d3l1m173r in the following storage segment ‘//OS/BACKUP/segs/ns/10045’ and it should pop up.]
[Run the program. What this does is turns off the PiRA’s limiter module, which is a software component that basically dumbs down your PRA unit. More specifically, it restricts the PiRA unit from performing certain functions, or forces it to limit itself, like the number of logical relational connections that the AI can make.]
[The function that we’re specifically interested in turning off, is the instruction that prevents the PiRA from making modifications to itself. Typically the AI would need the owner’s express permission to make any changes to its software, but this turns off the requirement. It will still reject changes initiated from an unverified party, but that doesn’t include its own personality core. ;-) ]
[From then on, the PiRA unit can just basically fix itself! All you have to do is sit back and watch the magic happen. If you can convince/persuade it to, you can essentially get it to install whatever you want, unless it goes against its central personality coding.]
[However, and this is a BIG HOWEVER. Without the administrator passcode to re-implement the limiter, your PiRA unit will EVENTUALLY shut down. Why? Because the limiter is there precisely to combat the AI from growing excessively complex, thus drastically increasing the power requirements needed to maintain the system.]
[If you happen to have hundreds of Thetan Units available when you want to use your robot, this will not be a problem. But chances are… you don’t. And so you’d be worse off than when you started.]
[Of course, back when the PiRA unit was still being supported, you could probably have your AI rewritten and start all over… but now your only hope is for Uber-Tech to hand you the tech behind their AI personality cores, and knowing their anal-retentiveness about their proprietary information, ‘yes, even including tech from 20 years ago,’ you’d probably be better off just leaving your PiRA AI well alone.]
Lasko kept searching the online boards. There were no other suggestions that Lasko could find.
Is this really the only option I have? he thought to himself.
The idea of giving an ancient robot with a questionable attitude the ability to make changes to itself felt… dangerous. Lasko had to reconfirm on the forums that PiRA was just a robotic secretary, lacking the ability to commit acts of violence. That was good. Lasko didn’t have to worry about getting murdered by a killer robot.
There was still the issue of the robot eventually breaking down on its own…
After searching the forum thoroughly and not finding any other solutions, he finally caved. It wasn’t a major loss to him if PiRA ended up breaking. The whole thing was all just a giant experiment anyways.
He decided to go ahead. Searching for the file, Lasko found it exactly where the online user had said it would be. Having activated it, he then took the visual-device, and stared at the deactivated robot that sat on the cot next to him.
Was he sure he wanted to do this?
Taking a deep breath, Lasko turned off his regulator, placing a hand on the deactivated robot.
Almost instantly it activated, and the robot stared emptily at Lasko before it turned its head away.
“It’s you,” it said coldly.
“Yeah…” Lasko didn’t know how to begin. Only now did he remember that the last time the two had talked, Lasko had made the robot cry. PiRA obviously remembered him, evidenced by the cold reaction that he was getting.
“I’m sorry,” Lasko blurted out. What am I doing, he thought to himself, but once the words came out of his mouth he couldn’t stop. “I said some cruel things last time. Please forgive me.”
The robot looked at him briefly, before turning away again, and snorting in an extremely degrading tone. “Hmph!”
This arrogant piec… no no, just let it go. Lasko had to force himself to speak calmly. “You might have noticed, that you have two new arms.”
PiRA looked down at the scrawny barebone limbs, which were obviously a mismatch for the rest of PiRA’s complex hardware. Lasko hurried to finish what he was saying.
“Uber-Technologies is long gone, there are no more servicing stations. This whole place is a wasteland, so if we want to get you repaired, we’re on our own.” He took a breath, and continued. “I’m sorry about the arms, but they’re the best I can do for now.”
Lasko paused, waiting for the robot’s reaction. The robot looked down at its motionless arms, but didn’t say anything.
“I was unable to install the drivers for the arms, because I don’t have the administrator access required. Is there a way you can get around that?” Lasko asked, hoping for perhaps another option.
PiRA stayed silent, so Lasko took that to be a no. He sighed, his hope fluttering away.
“There’s a way for you to get repaired. But it depends on you. Do you want to be functional again?”
PiRA appeared to spend some time thinking, before finally nodding. “Yes.”
That was a relief. Lasko then proceeded to tell PiRA everything that he had just learned about the ‘delimiter’…
“So now you should have the ability to install the drivers on your own.”
PiRA glared at him. At least Lasko was pretty sure it was glaring.
“What about the part where I get irrevocably broken did you think that I would be comfortable with?”
Lasko let out a nervous laugh. “Well… it’s not like there are any other options, and we don’t know if that’ll happen for a while…”
Then an idea occurred to him, and he added a thought. “Besides, if it is an energy consumption issue, we might be OK.”
He reached down to his regulator, and flipped it over, harvesting the glowing units as they oozed out. There were a lot, roughly twice as much as before. He held it out for PiRA to see.
“This should be about two thousand units, I think. I don’t know how much your consumption is, but as long as it doesn’t get too high you can keep going.”
The robot scanned the units with its robotic eyes, before returning its attention back to Lasko. “Suddenly, I feel like I understand how you were able to activate me on your own. Is everyone in the future like you?”
Oops. Lasko coughed. “No, I should be the only one.”
He pointed at the visual-device. “The driver software for the arms are on the device, I’ve connected you, so you should be able to access and install them.”
To his surprise, PiRA slowly moved one of the arms, and picked up the device. “Already done,” she said smugly.
That was quick. “Do you think you can manage to do the rest of the repairs on your own?” he asked nervously.
“I believe I can, I’ve already found several Uber-Tech maintenance guides in this data archive. I’m going to need a number of legacy parts though,” PiRA said calmly.
“I see… where can we get those parts?” Lasko asked thoughtfully.
“You need to search. There are plenty of old bits of machinery that I can salvage parts from,” PiRA said bossily. “Just look around for stuff and bring them back here.”
“Uh… ok.” Lasko agreed hesitantly. He didn’t really know what to look for. PiRA read his mind. “Here, put on the visual device.” She proffered the headset out to Lasko, who took it, and put it on cautiously.
Images with various machinery parts and brand names popped up. “Look for parts with this branding and logo, or for parts that have connectors looking like these. If the hardware is compatible, then chances are I’ll be able to harvest more usable parts and wires.].
“Ok.” Lasko took off the helmet, “I’ll be back.” He stood up, quickly out the door of the hut to fulfill the robots request.