April 13th, 2014


LJI:5 Build a better mousetrap

Bill flashed a relaxed smile at the uniformed men as he finished his pitch.  “Based on the thousands of designs that I have input into my computer system ROCKY, it can create blueprints and plans for nearly any machine you could want.  It will save you both time and money through automation.”

“Nearly anything?” one of the older generals asked, getting a chuckle from the room.

“It has to be something that already exists in some version.  Then ROCKY can synthesize what it knows about the object and the forces involved and create something amazing.  Though I did once ask it for a time machine and got a set of plans back; for a vehicle to travel over the International Date Line.”

The room roared with laughter.  Bill started to let himself get excited, maybe someone would finally take him seriously. ROCKY had been a labor of love, started to build the best pinewood derby car in the city, but he soon realized that he had created an algorithm that could do much more.  Over the years he kept adding more design schematics to the file library, adding computation power, and making further refinements to the software.  ROCKY looked a little slapdash but Bill knew that if given the chance it would be his ticket to an entirely different life.

Captain Jay Ward, Bill’s neighbor and the reason he had this meeting, spoke up.  “How about we run a test?  We’ll pick something relatively simple, and build a few according to ROCKY’s plans to determine the efficacy of the design and the functionality.  What do you think?”  Around the room the men nodded and murmured their agreement and the old general asked, “Do you have something in mind?”

“In fact I do.”


Bill still couldn’t believe his luck.  They had asked for something much simpler than he expected.  It seemed to take them a long time to build, but he figured there were military processes and systems he just didn’t understand.  Several times over the past week Jay had come by asking if Bill was certain ROCKY worked, and once even brought a set of the plans to go over.  Bill waved it all away. Other than inputting the command line he wanted nothing to do with the process to prove that ROCKY had done it all.  Even Jay’s obvious nerves couldn’t dissuade Bill: he had seen some plans from ROCKY that made no sense to him either until he had them assembled and realized how elegantly simple they were.

Finally, it was the day.  Bill arrived at the complex where the meeting had been held and they loaded him and the original committee members in vans to set out.  They drove for nearly two hours, far away from any urban area.

The vans stopped near six large box-like objects and everyone got out.  Now Bill started to worry a bit because they were much too big.  Maybe he should have looked at the plans. The box nearest them began to shake as something inside banged against the walls.  All of the boxes started to shimmy, and the creatures inside started to bellow loudly.  Everyone turned to stare at Bill.

Bill plastered on a smile and tried to figure out what the hell had gone wrong.  He walked, as casually as he could, up to the nearest box and started to circle it.  He noticed a small window (smart ROCKY, have to see what might be inside the trap) and looked in.

A few minutes later Bill rejoined the group.  He had the tablet that allowed him to remote into ROCKY in his hands and was shaking his head.  “Well, gentlemen, while this was not quite the intention, you have to admit that the result is spectacular.  I do need to apologize for the entirely avoidable human entry error that caused this, but I do believe these may be the best moose traps the world has ever seen.”

***Here's my entry for week 5 in LJ Idol, head over to the topic post to read more.  Bill does get the contract, the military calls it project Bullwinkle.***