In a small room in a small building, a man was playing god. The man was
a brilliant scientist, but he was generally considered utterly insane.
The institute had only accepted him with obvious reluctance. He had a
small room in one of the smaller buildings at the institute. The
building was full of long white corridors and featureless white doors.
The whole place was incredibly silent and disorienting and intimidating.
His room, unlike all the other extensively (and expensively) equipped
ones, was completely bare when he got it.
True to his general image of insanity, the first thing he did was to
paint the room black and paper over the window. He brought in a table,
and placed it in one corner, brought in a computer and placed it on the
table. He closed the door, and spent the rest of the day drawing what
looked like a plan of the room. He spent an afternoon in a hardware
store, and emerged with an incredible array of, well, hardware. He
returned to his room and set to work, making his room look like a
carpenter's shop. When he finished, he cleaned up the room. Vague
outlines of his work began to emerge from behind a haze of sawdust. A
gigantic pane of perspex covered most of the floor. Under this roof, an
incredibly complex multi-level maze had been built. The sides of the
maze were all black, and any one part of it closely resembled any other
part. In the little remaining space inside the room, there was a device
which resembled a production unit hooked up to the computer on the
table, which is exactly what it was.
For the next week, he sat down at the computer and worked at some
esoteric looking designs and several intimidating equations.
Occasionally, he broke off to devour a soggy slice of pizza (with
chocolate sauce). The production unit started chugging out something
that looked vaguely like a post-impressionistic rendering of a cat. Then
it produced something that did not look like a mouse. He looked at his
creations dubiously, and then labelled them carefully, to avoid
confusion as to their identities. That afternoon, he went to the pet
shop and bought a cat and a rat. For the next month, he conducted a
series of increasingly complex experiments with the cat, the rat and the
maze. People who looked in occasionally shook their heads in disbelief
at the man who knelt peering closely at a reflecting sheet of glass.
After that, he worked for another month at his mechanical cat and mouse.
At the end of it all he released them into the maze at different
positions and started testing his creations.
He was mostly unsuccessful at first, but as he went on, the better his
mechanical animals became. They managed to negotiate more and more
complex mazes, mazes that changed while they were in it, mazes that had
intentional distractions in it. With a startling lack of originality,
they were affectionately called 'Mew' and 'Squeak'. They both got better
and better at their cat-and-mouse game, until one day their creator had
to acknowledge their intelligence and the fact that they were better
than any known organism at solving mazes. He had created artificial
He got the Nobel prize for his work soon enough and became famous all
over the world. His colleagues looked at him with respect and spoke with
hushed voices whenever he was around. But he did not let all this get to
his head, and continued work with mew and squeak, improving them and
producing new models. He published papers and papers on their behaviour
and intelligence. He conducted experiments on collective intelligence
and competitiveness, on emotions and the evolution of intelligent
Though he had made several new models of mew and squeak, he still
harboured unscientific and rather illogical feelings of attachment
towards the originals. One afternoon, he decided to leave the lab and go
home to rest. He shut down the computer, removed Mew and Squeak from the
maze, switched them off and locked them in a cabinet. Then he walked out
of his room, carefully locking the door behind him.
He walked down the blank white corridor, took the left door at the far
end, then turned right and walked down the stairs...