Robot Ethics and the Turkish Turtledove

An essay by Mando Viday, as provided by Django Mathijsen

Dylah wasn’t the prettiest girl I’ve ever known. Still she is the only one I often recalled with melancholy and even regret. Because although we’d been close, we’d never become “an item.” I’ve often wondered if she should have been the one. So it was no surprise that I recognized her straight away this afternoon, in spite of the fact that I hadn’t seen her since March 2029, almost six years ago. In hindsight, it was also no surprise what subsequently happened. I couldn’t see it coming though. Not for one second. Not even if I’d stopped to think about it.


As usual I’d escaped my office and its choking air-conditioning for an hour around lunchtime. Outside a soothing warmth enveloped me, nurturing like a child’s blanket. A big, white blob splashed apart exactly on the tip of my shoe. A “message of love” from a turtledove that flew up and brushed past my head, chased up by two screaming crows.

“Missed me!” I yelled up to the bird as I burst out laughing. The sunlight stabbed my eyes. I bent over to wipe my shoe. A playful breeze caressed my cheeks. The silver birches at the fountain, which were planted in geometric patterns, were waving back and forth. Loudly rustling in its foliage, the dove found refuge.

That’s when I realized that even on these corporate premises, cordoned off from the outside world with razor-wire, high-voltage fencing, and aramid-concrete walls, nature couldn’t be locked out. Mother Nature was defiantly radiating as if she was celebrating the beginning of summer tomorrow. Even the thirty-foot-high, horizontally whirling windmill that shone on top of the twelve-story office bunker like a crumpled up helicopter rotor, was merrily dancing to her rhythm.

Maybe it’s not fair to call the office building, which was shaped in “biometrically dynamic curves,” a bunker. Sure, you’d be hard pressed to find any heavy stones or stern angles on it. The building had completely been wrapped in flowing curvatures with inflatable plastic façades in primary colors. Those façades opened like rose petals when the solar rays hit them and closed again as it got dark.

But under that “essence of nature and humanity encapsulating” illusion I could still feel the bunker that swallows up people and forces them to degenerate into efficient, creative office slaves.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. Like most people in the civilized world of today, I had entered into this daily incarceration of my own free will and happily endured it. That was just the price I had to pay to be allowed to do groundbreaking research, to work with the best tools and cooperate with the smartest people. People who were now all huddled together in the office canteen, which was craftily disguised as a tropical oasis. With air-conditioning of course.


With the scent of freshly cut grass in my nose and the languor of the day in my legs I strolled along the test track. All over the place, unmanned cars, laden with sensors and electronics, were autonomously making their way through complicated circuits.

Robotic Ethics and the Turkish Turtledove

“Twaddler really knew how to sell it,” she said and started to scribble on my chest with the lipstick. “Emotions and feelings are essential for the successful functioning of people. And so it follows we have to build them into robots as well.”

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2012 collection.

Mando Viday always was into robotics and always wanted to be the best. He already competed in Mindstorms competitions at the age of six and in Robot Wars as a student. Historians disagree whether Mando’s jail time and the sex-scandal following the incident at RCI ended his scientific career, or that it allowed him to find his true vocation. The only thing we know for certain is that he went on to join Helger Scheckman’s detective agency “Roborec”, becoming the first and foremost private detective, specialized in robotics technology.

Dutchman Django Mathijsen ( is the only author who’s won the Unleash Award, the most prestigious Dutch SF-story award, three times.

As a son of professional musicians, he was a jazz-organist while graduating as an engineer at the Eindhoven University of Technology. He was technical consultant on the award winning British TV-programs Robot Wars and TechnoGames. And as a science journalist he’s written over three hundred articles for English and Dutch magazines.

Now, he concentrates on writing music and fiction. His first novel, a science fiction techno-thriller published in Dutch in March 2010, was based on Mando’s story.

Image credit: imagesource / 123RF Stock Photo

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