Artificial intelligence and the stirrings of a venture capitalist

Forrest Johnson

Editor's note: With the reality of a pesky virus in our midst I thought I would try a little levity, just to take a stroll from our problems. 

Hal, the Camp Shack robotic portable deer butchering unit, complete with headlights and protective shield, returned from a holiday spent in Mexico, less than raring to go on the mouse removal project assigned before his departure.

For the past week he sat on a beach near Puerto Vallarta, immune to any virus, sunburned and sipping on grapefruit juice and raicilla, the infamous moonshine tequila made out of crazy cactus found far in the high desert. The drink is said to produce visions, not a hangover. Hal, being an inanimate object showing only slight signs of artificial intelligence other than being a wise guy, wasn’t sure what effect the moonshine elixir produced, though we did notice slurred speech, and found sand and cigar butts in most of his moving parts.

He was a little wobbly on his wide track tires upon his return and his protective rubber arms designed for handling sensitive venison in controlled situations hung at his sides, tired from trying to keep up with the wild rhythms of the Cubano bands that wandered the beach that week.

He had no washer fluid left to clean his protective shield, his wiper blades worn thin by sand and drinks splashed by fellow beachcombers.

“Feliz Ano Nuevo,” Hal sputtered to the boys at the shack months after the new year came and went. His voice was hoarse from shouting "Build tacos not walls" to all who passed near him as he sat under a leaning palm tree during the holiday week. Once safely in the shack he napped for a long period of time in a warm corner near the stove.

“Feliz Ano Nuevo. Happy Year New,” he repeated. He has always loves to say that no matter what time of year it might be.

He blearily looked up and said, “Gee, just a day or two ago I was on a Mexican beach, 80 degrees...”

Outside a harsh wind blew snow against the frosty window.  

After a siesta that lasted two days he told us of his mouse removal plan, forged from failure.

When Hal was a young robotic portable butchering unit he wanted to work in a lumberjack show, to try his hand at log rolling. He really felt that with four wide track tires he could roll any human being off a log in seconds. He envisioned championships and pretty girls kissing him on the cheek. We took him down to the creek one day, set him upon a log and said, “Okay, roll baby.”

He rolled right into the water, there was a splash and a shout of sparks and his windshield wipers flailed. We dragged him out of the creek and that was the end of Hal’s days as a lumberjack.

But it gave him an idea for “Hal’s Supreme Mouse Trap,” an item he hopes to market on eBay. Patents may be pending due to the product similarities seen in many shacks across the north. It wasn't exactly a new idea but he persisted. 

The device goes like this:

• five-gallon plastic bucket, two holes cut on opposite sides of bucket lip 

• one pop bottle, liberally covered with peanut butter

• metal clothes hanger, straightened, and run horizontally through pop bottle so bottle will spin freely suspended when wire is inserted into holes on bucket lip

• washer fluid in bucket so mouse perishes quickly once it falls in bucket

Hal constructed the device and we all admitted it was a pretty sharp looking invention. Simple, but possibly very effective. The mouse will seek the peanut butter, find himself running on the spinning bottle as if he was in a log rolling contest and at some point drop into the bucket to a quick demise.

After a week of testing, the results were in. The thing worked. Mice were trying their hand at log rolling one after another. I’m sure a few of them were very capable little log rollers but none of them survived the ordeal. At some point, they all dropped. Feeling sorry for the mice, I later replaced the washer fluid with cheap vodka, just to make them feel better at the end. Either way, you just need something that won’t freeze while you’re away and the weather chills during long winter months.

The shack has been mouse-free for a week and Hal has been working on a marketing plan for his new invention. He’s even hired a public relations firm and has been thinking of radio and TV ads to reach a broader audience. Hal now has visions of becoming a venture capitalist, so for Christmas I got him a copy of Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. For philosophical balance I also gave him a copy of Das Kapital by Karl Marx.

Hal then told us that after he’s rich he may contemplate running for elective office. It sure didn’t take him long to develop an inflated ego and start rolling around the shack with his chin stuck up in the air.

All I can say is, toss in a little artificial intelligence and pretty soon you’ll have all sorts of venture capitalists and charlatans flailing away at the Economocracy hoping to strike it rich or become president.