Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 20/04/2004Four billion years ago, the Earth coalesced out of the void, shimmering sullenly in the red-heat of creation. Two billion years ago, give or take, the first chains of life were forged in the energetic soup that boiled around the bones of dead stars.

Tuesday 20/04/2004
Four billion years ago, the Earth coalesced out of the void, shimmering sullenly in the red-heat of creation. Two billion years ago, give or take, the first chains of life were forged in the energetic soup that boiled around the bones of dead stars. Then came photosynthesis and the searing blast of poisonous oxygen that scoured the planet. Sea, land and air fell to the onslaught of life in a billion forms. And finally, here we are: questioning apes that look around us with curious eyes and ask "are we created, or are we accidents of entropy?" The purpose of life -- or its essential purposelessness -- has bemused the finest minds for millennia.

But now we know. Now the true reason for ourselves and everything we do is clear. Our strange compulsion to reach beyond ourselves with technology is explained, and the justification for four billion years of struggle is upon us.

Ladies, gentlemen and related hominids, I present -- The Beer Robot.

Created by transcendent geniuses at the University of Florida, Koolio is clearly the zenith of all thought. Like all true revolutionary concepts, it's simple yet compelling. You may remember our somewhat askance review of the LG Internet Refrigerator where we wondered out loud what the point of the thing was. Oh, how blind we were! What use is a new-born baby? Because if you put wheels on the thing, a Wi-Fi card for connectivity and some sensors for steering, your internet fridge becomes a whole new being. It becomes Koolio.

Imagine: it's late at night, you're working hard at your desk and a thirst comes upon you. Over the network you request your favoured refreshment -- and deep within its lair, Koolio awakens. Your location is relayed to it by Wi-Fi, it consults its internal maps and off it trundles. Minutes later, it arrives and bestows its blessings on your grateful gullet.

Which is not to say there couldn't be some refinement. As any dedicated student of bibatology knows, the serving of drinks is not merely a matter of delivery. A good barkeep needs to bond with their clientele and sympathise with their troubles -- which, if you're stuck behind a desk when you should be drinking, are likely to be dire indeed. They should also know when to stop serving and be tactful about it, when to step in to stop a brawl and -- if they're anything like certain publicans of my acquaintance from the East End, when to stir things up.

All this requires massive breakthroughs in artificial intelligence from the Florida minds: I hope they can stay sober enough to fulfil their promise -- but if they can't, I suggest they read The Proud Robot, by Henry Kuttner, which mixes brilliance, invention, alcohol and autonomous beer devices in equal measure.

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