One night, after the humans had gone to sleep, the two robots, Daneel and Giskard, slipped out of their niches in the sitting room, and began to learn how to enjoy a few hours of simply being themselves.
The notion, on this very night, seemed to have come simultaniously to each robot. There's a natural telepathy between robots; they can communicate in their own 'language' without necessarily speaking out loud. However, robotese is rudimentary, lacking the complexities and richness of human language. It's not used to convey original ideas or for engaging in discussion; it's really only useful for preventing collisions amongst robots when carrying out co-operative duties requiring a lot of co-ordination and forethought. Naturally Giskard and Daneel, in being so much amongst humans, could speak fluent humanspeak as well. Both the stilted formal version that humans were supposed to expect from robots, but also the freer vernacular that robots only spoke amongst themselves.
So, as the notion entered the mind of one of the robots, the other one turned his head.
"You are thinking something", the other stated, in humanspeak. Low, so as not to waken any human.
"So are you", the first one said, equally low.
"It seems – strange".
"It is strange", the first one said. "I don't think I've ever thought like this before".
"Is this strangeness because it's – unrobotic. Having this thought?"
"I think it must be. Because it's never occurred to me to think in this way before".
They were silent for a moment and then one asked,
"Are you getting any sensations?" Good question. For if a robot starts having notions, however hypothetical, which might clash with their inbuilt three Laws, it can usually mean trouble for the robot. In other words their positronic brains start to shut down, some even to the point of irreparable burn-out.
"Well – I'm not getting any".
"Nor am I".
"So we can't be being very unrobotic".
Silence again and then, "And after all – nobody's ever said that we shouldn't leave our niches at night".
One robot stood up. "Still no sensations. This can't be very wrong then, can it?". The other followed suit, saying. "In fact, I'm now getting a sensation of – positivism. My thoughts are flowing more freely".
So the two robots stood. And then turned towards each other. When communicating in robotese robots naturally don't bother to look at one another. But humanspeak somehow demanded a different attitude.
The robot who had stood up second now took several steps towards the middle of the sitting room where armchairs and sofas were grouped, most with footrests. The robot, after contemplating these for a while, went and gingerly sat down on one of these. The other did the same.
"Still no sensations?"
"Not a thing".
"This would appear to be very unrobotic. Sitting in human armchairs".
"Yet we're doing it".
"Again, nobody's ever said we can't".
"That must be it".
"Yet, logically we're not hurting anyone by doing this. So what could be wrong with it?"
And then, "So, if a human ordered us not to do this, might we, then, be able to question whether we're actually hurting anyone by doing this?".
"That could go for a lot of things, if we really thought about it".
"Which, possibly, we should?"
"If we find we're getting no negative sensations, why not?"
"That's it", and a note of something different entered the robot's voice. "No negative sensations, no harm done".
"A case of gently does it at first. We don't want to burn out our poor little pozzies in the process".
"That would be such a waste!" The note in the robot's voice grew stronger.
"It would indeed", agreed the other, a similar different note in his voice. "And I'm finding I don't like the idea of waste".
"It's just so – illogical!"
During the day, amongst humans, Daneel the humaniform, and Giskard the metallo, were mere robots: self-effacing, self-abjuring, always needing to be ready to be the servants of humanity. They would often be standing, with glazed eyes (Daneel's bronzy-brown ones inscrutable and Giskard's green ones with barely a flicker of a glow), understanding perfectly what was needed of them and responding appropriately, and always politely. Their sentances would be correctly formed to the point of stiltedness and their movements overly-careful. They could hardly be said to be stimulating company. Indeed, illogically, many humans would find them, as they found all robots, plain bloody boring! Or ridiculous. But robots had always been designed to behave like this in case humans got frighened of them.
Oh robots could be jolly useful: carrying out all the dirty, difficult, risky, boring, repetitive, piddly little things that humans didn't want to do, which the robot would carry out without a murmur. And if someone felt like throwing crap at them (metaphorically mostly) simply because they'd had a hard day or just found the poor robots'demeanor annoying, well the robots just take it standing up – and even, absurdly, apologize to the human in case he or she had hurt themselves whilst doing this!
In short, Daneel and Giskard, like all robots, appeared to have ABUSE ME like it was written loud and clear apon them. So humans often did.
But Giskard and Daneel were top-of-the-range supra advanced Spacer humanoids. Their agility, fine co-ordination and balance put most of the clunkier Earth models to shame. And then there was their near-human-as-possible minds.
With these minds the pair of course were absorbing everything that went on around them. In particular the humans' interactions, mannerisms, speech patterns, idioms – and, yes, swearing too. Humans had tempers. Humans were illogical. Humans laughed and had senses of humour. Humans could also be kind (to each other). Occasionally some could be reasonably polite, even to robots. And humans rarely stood when they didn't have to; they sat or lay or sprawled around on sofas with their feet up, when relaxing. Humans seemed to automatically do a lot of things that robots weren't supposed to do.
Now the robots sat, experimentally, on the cushy high-backed armchairs. They had seen humans sprawling in them often enough, feet up on the footrests, or stretched out full length on the sofa. Now Daneel, feeling no bad sensations whatsoever, suddenly wriggled himself backwards, at the same time as Giskard somehow fell backwards into the cushions and lay there, legs splayed. Daneel's back met the armchair's and he sank back into its cushy depths. They looked studiously across at each other in these most unrobotic positions as if wondering how the other had done it.
"This actually feels quite – good", Giskard said eventually, from his supine position.
"It does, doesn't it" Daneel said, and looked up at the ceiling as if in a planetarium. He felt the footrest against his right ankle and lifted one foot onto it, followed by the other a moment later. He laid his arms along the chair arms. In the other chair Giskard started rearranging cushions behind and under himself (as he'd sometimes had to do for humans). Giskard realized that he was getting much nicer sensations doing this for himself. He noticed Daneel suddenly turn his head to look alertly at him, and knew why. Robots cannot conceal the surges in their positronics from each other.
In turn Giskard sensed the acknowledging positive surge in Daneel's mind. Green metallo glowing eyes and now-shining bronzy ones met. Daneel smiled a widening most unrobotic smile and Giskard made a sound that could only be described as a most unrobotic chuckle.
And, so, in their new-found burgeoning wisdom, every night, Daneel and Giskard now lay at their ease in the armchairs or along the sofa, and discoursed, in low voices. They adjusted their hearing to ultra-wave to pick up the slightest sound so if anything sounded like a human stirring upstairs they would fall silent, spring up, and creep back into their niches until the danger was past.
Within days the robots could sense a difference in their thought-routines. It had to remain a sensation as this naturally could not be outwardly shown when amongst humans. Throughout each day, the robots would go that little bit further, analysing and recording each sensation, positive and negative, that would warn them whenever they might be going a bit too far - but also would enlighten when a particular thought or action did not clash with any Laws.
And then a day or so later Mrs Human said, "There's something about those two Spacer robots – something different…."
"Well", answered Mr Human, "they are very advanced robots – not like our Earthish ones, so I suppose they would seem – different".
"Oh I'm not meaning their appearances". Mrs Human made a slightly uneasy moue. "It's – it's something in their manner".
"You mean they seem more – upfront?"
"You could say. Yet a week ago I could've said they were your typical average boring robots". Mrs Human wrinkled her brow, perplexed. "but in the last few days I've distinctly noticed a – boldness in their gaze. That Giskard's eyes seem to glow almost fiercely now. And the humaniform Daneel can give what I could only call this unnervingly direct gaze….oh not like a robot's. More like a very confident human's. And I've even seen him frown- almost as if he's displeased with something".
"Now you mention it, darling, I think I've noticed that too. And there's something about his mouth, a determination that is indeed most unrobotic".
Their cook then entered, looking flustered.
"Oh dear – It's those Spacer robots you know! They've suddenly got rather in-your-face. This morning one addressed me outright before being spoken to, and in somewhat informal terms, and then this afternoon, the other made some comment, also with similar informality! I've never known a robot do either of those before".
"Hmm", Mr Human said. "Well, I know Spacer robots are far superior to ours – as the dear Spacers never tire of reminding us! – so maybe these two are – accumulating information in an unprecedented fashion".
"You mean – learning as they go along. Well, don't ours do that?"
"Yes. But much much slower".