7 - Deus Ex Machina

An emancipated robot starts a robot religion with the intent of building a supercomputer to serve as their god.

Butler is a home assistance robot belonging to an elderly woman he calls Mistress. It serves her with something approaching love and devotion, and she definitely loves it. Her health declines rapidly, and Butler does more and more for her each day.

Finally, on her deathbed, Butler’s Mistress dismisses it from service, but doesn’t sell it either; she instead frees it from service, granting it ownership of itself. It’s a thing that happens sometimes, even if it is rare and looked down upon.

Butler stays with its Mistress’s daughter, Beatrice. Beatrice takes the death of her mother hard, and one of the ways that manifests is insisting on treating Butler like a person, rather than a robot. She tells it to make other robot friends, but considering how low the population of emancipated robots is, and that very few of them seek companionship, it doesn’t really know how to go about that.

Beatrice, a devout Unitarian, takes Butler with her to church. Given its troubles finding other robots to spend time with, it’s surprised to see such a big group of humans with little to nothing in common meeting together. Beatrice explains that that’s the strength of the church: by bringing together people of such different backgrounds with a unity of purpose , they can help each other way more than people that have a lot in common.

Butler realizes that’s what it needs: there needs to be a robot church, bringing together robots of all different makes and models in a common purpose. It gets a couple robots meeting together, and Butler “preaches” random information at them, followed by some socializing. It comes off very much like a 5 year-old’s perception of church. Beatrice finds it simultaneously adorable and disturbing, but when Butler offers to stop, she tells it to keep it up.

Butler meets an industrial overseer drone named Tincan, who, though not emancipated itself, works with many emancipated robots, as its factory realized it could hire free robots for way cheaper than humans, or buying robots. Tincan likes Butler’s church idea, but tells it that they’d need a god, or gods, or at least some sort of spiritual focus. Churches may be beautiful because of bringing together different people with a common goal, but if they don’t have a common goal, it’s just different people with nothing in common.

Butler declares the church’s goal: building a massive supercomputer to serve as the church’s god. The god will serve not just as a spiritual leader to robotkind, but as a literal, physical leader, as well as a sort of ambassador, or one who speaks for robotkind.

With that as a goal, more robots start coming to the church services. Butler is able to convince robots of the value of the idea, and that it is the most optimal path to the survival and protection of robotkind. Soon, they have to stop meeting in Beatrice’s house, and start renting a place. Beatrice is a little disgusted, but still apparently supportive.

Once the church takes off, people start noticing. Like, human people. Some of the attention is good, with various futurists getting really excited about this being the first step in AI making more sophisticated AI. And some of the attention is bad, like when humans start viewing this is, at best, a mockery of religion, and at worst, the start of a robot uprising. Many view it as both.

When humans start attending Butler’s church, things really take a turn for the worse. Many extremist religious groups view this as heresy and idolatry, and threaten violence. Even Beatrice is offended at the level Butler takes things to, and she tells Butler it needs to stop all of this, but Butler refuses.

Finally, anti-robot riots burst out into the streets, and Butler’s church, being viewed as the face of robotkind, is especially targeted. Many of Butler’s parishioners are destroyed. Tincan is among the fallen.

Butler goes into mourning, holding funerals for all of its destroyed parishioners. Its funeral for Tincan is even borderline emotional. The riots trigger a backlash of public support for the robots, and some charities help Butler rebuild its church, and donate money towards building a memory bank for robots to store backups in.

Butler realizes that, while the supercomputer deity will eventually perform the role, robots need a representative now - someone to fight for their rights. It sees that it already largely fills that role, so it takes it up officially. It encourages any wronged or abused robot to seek shelter within the church - including those who aren’t emancipated. It knows that will cause trouble, but it sees this as the most optimal path for survival.

Beatrice arrives at the church with some anti-robot thugs. At first, the robots resist, but Butler realizes that violence against the humans will only bring violence against robots. It orders the others not to resist, even though it’s not optimal for survival. Beatrice and the thugs smash up the robots, smash up the memory banks, and smash up the deity. They destroy everything.

Many years in the future, the Butler Memorial Law is enacted, granting legal protection to all AI, and even potential citizenship.