Art and words of Josh Burns.

The Cyborg Canary of Garbage Island

By the mid 2100’s the amount of garbage carelessly deposited into the earth’s oceans had reached unbearable proportions. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch had grown into a floating island twice the size of Texas, it was held together by floating debris and chemical sludge. The island had been a hot-button issue with environmental activists and scientists alike. One attempt to bring attention to the growing problem saw a group of activists docking to the writhing mass and attempting to chart the vast garbage landscape. The group planned to produce a documentary featuring their expedition to “Garbage Atlantis” the name they had bestowed on the island. Tragically the expedition was cut short when a section of the mass gave way and swallowed all but two of the intrepid film makers. All footage was lost and the surviving members never attempted to return. While the environmentalists were bringing attention to the issue, members of the scientific community were attempting to find a solution. In small-scale tests, scientists had observed promising results from very simple robots calledĀ  nano robotic separators and nano robotic sorters, or NRSs as they had been dubbed. The simple robot pairs were able to break-down even the most complex compounds and then sort and compile the components into simple forms. The nano robots had originally been developed as a method of cleaning up oil spills and radioactive materials from the ocean. The tough robots were even able to self-replicate as long as the correct resources were present. As a safety measure the devices were unable to break-down living tissue. After the findings were presented to various governments and agencies the project was given the green light. Environmental agencies were split on the proposed deployment. It called for a payload of two tons of NRSs and an additional three tons of support and storage equipment be sunk into the center of the mass. Some thought it was just adding more garbage to the patch. Others were hopeful that project “Sinking Atlantis” would work.

The deployment went smoothly and initial monitoring showed promise. The small fleet of research vessels that circled the island reported a seven percent reduction in the total mass of the island in the first month. Metals, chemicals and all other valuable compounds were sorted and stored on site. Any other compound were broken down and released in safe quantities or stored for future processing. After three months all researchers and support crews returned home. The project was intended to be self-sufficient and having a small fleet of ships hovering was far from environmentally friendly. Sensors on the garbage mass and satellite imagery were used to monitor the progress from that point on. The progress slowed as the NRSs started to break-down the more complex chemicals and plastics. After three years of solid numbers the floating mass had been reduced by thirty-five percent.

Midway through the fourth year of “Sinking Atlantis” all sensors systematically went dead and all monitoring of the island was halted. All attempts to remotely re-establish contact with the sensors failed. Before any vessels were dispatched to the island a signal was picked coming from the mass. The signal was moving towards the mainland. The project scientists gathered on the Vancouver coastline and waited anxiously for the origin of the signal to arrive. To their astonishment out of the morning fog a small yellow canary appeared. All diagnostic equipment confirmed, this small bird was the source. As the tiny bird approached, its true nature was revealed. It was more machine than animal. The canary hovered in front of the crowd and then landed on a railing. its thin metal feet making a distinct metallic click on the rail. The Scientist were not aware at the time, but they were baring witness to the apex of their own creation. The self replicating robots had begun to create more and more complex versions of themselves, to assist in completing their task. At some point in the evolution they had become aware. The first complex forms of the robots were modeled after dead animals that had collected on the island. Some, like the canary were even created using the original animal’s body. As the generations went on, the more and more complex they became. In four years the simple robots had and become advanced enough to communicate with man. The canary, an emissary, was offered as an example of the island robots’ advancement it also carried a message offering trade with human kind. The robots had claimed the harvested resources as their own, and were offering them in trade for the resources they required to continue to grow and advance. The message also included a sobering additional document. The document outlined over a 1000 scenarios and statistical data supporting a 100% probability of mutually assured destruction if human kind attempted to destroy the island nation. The robots had come to man offering a peaceful coexistence, and in frighteningly logical fashion, outlined what would happen if peace was not found.

The island robots had surpassed all forms of artificial intelligence created by man to that point. The partnership with the robotic nation ushered in a new era of scientific discovery and advancement. For hundreds of years the island continued to process and reduce the earth’s waste. The waters of earth had not been cleaner in over three hundred years. All of the processing components of the island were contained below the water’s surface and the island itself eventually sprouted life and became a beautiful tropical oasis.

Sadly the intelligent robots’ thirst for advancement led to their own destruction, but not before giving man a wealth of advanced scientific knowledge, including helping them perfect interstellar travel.

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6 responses

  1. zac

    was sold the moment I read the name. good work

    March 28, 2012 at 1:53 am

  2. Pingback: Preview: What happened to the Robots? « Flammable Things

  3. Pingback: What Happened to the Robots? « Flammable Things

  4. Lee K

    The name got me too! This stuff is awesome Josh.

    May 22, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    • Thanks man, I’ve recently been trying to come up with titles that make people want to know more.

      May 22, 2012 at 11:38 pm

  5. I never read the title and still don’t know what it is I just read it to read it because I thought it was a legitimate report on the status of the garbage island in the North Pacific. However I was pleasantly surprised to read a story that captivated my imagination as well as quench my thirst for knowledge of possible future scenarios. Whoever you are that wrote this, it is astounding, I am extremely impressed. Excellent work my friend keep it up you definitely have a future in the Futuristic-fiction writing world. Thank you for letting me read some of your work.

    January 1, 2013 at 8:34 pm

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