June 22, 2002
Funny, I don't remember "The Great Escape" ending like that

When I saw the story about Gaak, the robot who made a break for it when a staff member at the Magna science center in Rotherham, England left it unattended, I got the impression that Gaak's escape attempt was actively thwarted by scientists (this may have something to do with the headline "Thinking robot escape attempt thwarted"). My first thought was, why, why, why did they grab Gaak by the scruff of its robotic neck equivalent in mid escape? Why didn't they tail the fugitive? Wouldn't anyone with even the tiniest bit of curiosity want to know where it was headed? Have we learned nothing from crime dramas?

But then I realized that the article I was reading only said that Gaak was "discovered at the main entrance to the car park," so I went hunting for a more specific account of Gaak's capture. Eventually I found a version of the story that revealed Gaak's escape was thwarted not by scientists, but by the great outdoors - apparently "dappled shade from trees fooled its solar batteries into steering it round and round." Most iterations of the story out there omit that little detail, and now instead of thinking about the unsettling implications of intelligent robots, I'm stuck thinking about the unsettling Telephone Game that is the transmission of news.