Copyfree © 2003
The D.J. Salinger
 Foundation, Inc.
July 26, 2003,

Dear Department of Homeland Security,

I am writing this to warn you and the American people of an imminent threat to the continued survival of the human species.

This threat is outlined in documentary evidence obtained, partly by accident, from the Robotics Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Because forces loyal to the lab and its director, Rodney Brooks, are currently trying to kill me and, because of the very real threat posed to all mankind and, by interpolation, to the American people, your immediate attention to this matter is requested.

Though I am withholding my name, pending notification of next of kin, I can say that I have lived at MIT for over 20 years -- sleeping mostly on the old sofa at the rear of the City Planning classroom in Building 7, but also in chairs at the library, on carpeting under stairs, and in whichever offices, laboratories or classrooms were found to be deserted and accessible during late night and early morning hours when I often wandered the endless above- and underground passageways of MIT.

In this way, I have spent many happy hours in the Artificial Intelligence and Robotics lab, not only sleeping, but also rifling through file cabinets, desk drawers, and the usually 3-foot-high free-standing stacks of papers and books which appear randomly in unexpected places.

It was during one such spree that I stumbled on a reference to an advanced project which struck me as just so utterly fucking weird, that I relentlessly followed its trail through paper documents and computer files, till I finally had all the details, which I present below.

One thing is clear from my research and from subsequent events. The project I have uncovered, despite the far-reaching consequences of its outcome, has been systematically and conscientiously hidden from the MIT administration, other researchers in the field, the scientific community in general, the press, and the public at large.

I will now describe to you, while trying to be as succinct as possible, the nature of this project and its devastating results, beginning with some background.

As you are no doubt aware from either your vast intelligence resources or the endless PR outpourings from Cambridge, the MIT Robotics Lab has been at work for many years developing what they refer to as "sociable humanoid robots" -- or robots capable of both perceiving and delivering natural human social cues "through gaze direction, facial expression, body posture, and vocal babbles."

What you are most likely not aware of, is a small dissident group within the lab who, dissatisfied with the present capabilities of the sociable bot, argue for a far more radical design.

Their approach is best described in a paper written 3 years ago by Joshua R. Devoto, now a 5th year graduate student in AI:

"Like the effect of present but unheard harmonics on the human perception of musical events, the constant, unavoidable, overriding human attention to and near obsession with the front and back ends of its digestive process, plays a significant role in the production and understanding of human language and, by direct extension, social protocols.

"A quick study shows that there is no human subsystem more routinely there, at the front of consciousness, driving action, than this one.

"Breathing may be more constant, but is only attended to during malfunctions or in the increasingly rare circumstance of absolute quiet.

"Sex may, at certain times, override all other rational and bodily considerations, but many people go days, weeks, even months and years without it, especially before the age of 9 and after the age of 110. And some people, Sarah Jessica Parker notwithstanding, have even reported going many hours and even whole days without thinking about it.

"It therefore seems a reasonable hypothesis that, in order for a robot to fully participate in truly social interaction with humans, it must possess an intimate, first-hand, understanding of what the key human subsystems mean to its (the human's) consciousness, motivation, and communication(s)."

The paper concludes by recommending a radical upgrade to the current design. In the version it proposes, the sociable humanoid robot 2.0 would have embedded, at the deepest level of its software, the absolute requirement to ingest food and drink several times a day, then "digest" it all, and finally expel the resultant liquid and solid waste.

Surprisingly -- and amusingly -- the bot was actually built, and an almost fully operational unit has existed for over 7 months now. But when I first learned about it 3 months ago, the digestive system (roughly speaking, a neural net implemented in the domain of stomach acids) was still in its "learning" phase.

Certainly, at that point, there was nothing threatening about the project. In fact, just the opposite -- it seemed like a joke. Which is why I decided to clandestinely tape it all using a miniature X-10 wireless surveillance camera I'd bought as the result of a pop-up ad on the net, and a Go-Video 24-hour surveillance recorder purchased online from with Free Shipping and a $20 dollar rebate which, to this day, I've never received despite several calls and emails.

Because I've included an MPEG-4 compressed file of all 2200 recorded hours as an attachment to this email, I won't bother describing the appearance of the bot and its surrounding laboratory environment. But, because of the quantity of material, it's probably useful for me to summarize the high points of what's there.

From discussions between various grad students heard on the tapes but frequently unseen (because of the limited viewing angle of the hidden camera), I first learned that the bot's digestive system, despite 4 months of non-stop learning (except for occasional downtime caused by system failures or software upgrades or both), had failed to emit even the first nanometer of waste -- other than an unidentifiable but non-toxic gas seeping slowly from the plastic tubes which stand in for its nostrils.

Over the next few months, as I scanned the latest tapes on weekends, I saw the bot's disposal apertures remain adamantly silent (synaesthetically speaking, of course) while the expression on the attending students' faces grew sadder and more desperate.

But then, only a month ago, as I fast-forwarded through the same old same old, I noticed a sudden, drastic change. I rewound and played the tape at normal speed. What was happening (to summarize the general banter in the room) was that after hundreds of trillions of self-modifications of its own digestive code, the system had suddenly reached its critical mass or tipping point or emergent moment, and had finally undergone its Cambrian explosion or Big Bang or, less dramatic-sounding, a long hoped-for phase transition.

At the same time, in the surrounding lab, monitor screens flickered and blew out, unable to display the system's new source code as fast as that code was self-rewriting. Multi-Gigahertz processors burst into flames, frightened to death by the overload which finally forced them through their first and last moment of self-awareness. Meanwhile, grad students and faculty advisers stopped talking, stood silent, frozen, watching, listening.

Then slowly, from the virtual rectum of sociable humanoid robot 2.0, the waste from months of unmitigated scarfing began to emerge. The entire process lasted for well over 48 hours till completion, but by only hour 5, there was little question as to what horror its end would hold.

Light-color strands emerged first, like a paper-shredder that took in telephone books and encyclopedias at one end and emitted spider webs at the other. But soon it was clear that the spider webs were attached to some sort of ball or melon, and it took the better part of 3 hours before the melon had emerged from the simulated rectum far enough to reveal its first feature, which appeared to be an embedded marble surrounded by some matted chunks of spider web shaped like a partial moon.

The small number of onlookers at that point began to snap their heads apprehensively from one to the other and back to the bot. And then, at 4 hours and 15 minutes into the process, a second feature emerged -- another embedded marble -- and the look on the collective face made it clear that, down to the core, each one of them felt that for none of them to have ever been born would have been best.

Soon, students and faculty and professor emeriti who'd wandered into the lab responding to the light and sound, were visibly crying, trying to console each other, as more distinguishing features of the robot's first dump continued to emerge. But no sooner would one stop bawling, than another would burst out screaming, with the others, though trying to help, immediately joining in with their own unique form of wailing.

Even I, watching the tape, hours and buildings and disciplines removed from the actual event, could not refrain from shedding more than a few tears. Because, you see, Secretary Ridge, (and as you will see if you have the fucking balls to fast forward to the end of the tape) what emerged whole and complete and mature from the robots artificial anus, was.... a HUMAN BEING!

In other words, Mr. Secretary of Homeland Security Ridge, we now have absolutely undisputable, fully documented evidence, from no less reliable a source than the Massachusetts fucking Institute of Technology, that we great and wondrous humans, masters of the universe and time, are really nothing more than the first pathetic shit of our own most primitive social robots!

Needless to say, this information in the hands of our enemies -- shit, even in the hands of our friends -- could be devastating and could undermine our best efforts to perpetuate our crapass little species much longer. After all, who would want to go on living as a human being knowing that we are no more than the fecal matter of glutton circuit boards running Perl code.

And if you are saying now, wait a minute -- what about the Pyramids, the Sistine Chapel, the Space Shuttle -- what about Shakespeare, Cervantes, the Who?

Well, rest assured, that in its first full day of total digestive functioning, man's first sociable humanoid robot shat those out too. Right up to Keith Moon's broken drum stick.

So, given all this, I am sure you will agree with me that knowledge of the heinous end product of this scurrilous experiment gone awry is in no way safe in the hands of the constantly way too stoned-out anarchist Marxist post-structuralist post-modernist anti-Christ hippies and B-boys from whose number MIT grad students, faculty, and professor emeriti are almost exclusively drawn.

I'm sure you will also agree that a surgical strike on the MIT Robotics lab -- taking care not to disturb the nuclear and biologic weapons lab next door -- should be undertaken at your earliest convenience.

This should be done from the air using laser-guided munitions, as a ground assault might risk exposing American forces to the documented knowledge that they, their commanders, the populations they serve, and the populations they destroy, are all -- well, you know, just something that emerged from the fake anus of a primitive machine.


[Name withheld pending nullification of next of kin] Note: this is a work of fiction and/or satire or both. Anyone trying to kill me is purely coincidental as is any institute of technology named Massachusetts, any lab named Robotics, or any race named human.