If you hop around this site long enough, you’re likely to notice a few recurring themes and personalities pop up. Two of these personalities are Howard The Robot and Kadar Scott Falcraft The Wunk. These are characters created by Asher Wolfstein. This father-son pair resides in the year 2478 under the Dysnomia dome of the Terrestrial Nomocracy. One is a robot from the far past (a little ahead of our time) built by a “mad” scientist, possessing qualities beyond the future robots. The other, a young anthropomorphic skunk-wolf hybrid orphan with mysterious abilities, was abandoned for unknown reasons.
A Robot And An Orphan
To summarize, under bizarre circumstances, Howard, after being powered up and repaired, discovered Kadar as an orphan. The young wunk quickly clung to his newfound friend, and soon Howard has found himself in the middle of a custody battle. No robot has ever been deemed appropriately cognizant to take on the responsibility of a living child, let alone a troubled orphan with special needs. Does a public body of experienced consciousness know what’s best, or a slightly damaged antique robot with strange programming that seems conscious? In time, Howard and Kadar will be able to tell their own origin story.
What Is Consciousness?
This question haunts Howard everywhere he goes. The robots of the future, when Howard reawakens, can appear quite intelligent and even self-aware to the untrained eye (such as us). However, they lack certain qualities that would render it appropriate to afford them the same rights as a living being. For example, they cannot actually choose or alter their own values beyond their programming. To this end, they lack free will. Programmers can construct the illusion of independent value via a clever algorithm, but at best, it eventually devolves into predictability or randomness. Artificial intelligence in 2478 also has difficulty discerning the meanings of things. Their meanings are constructed through mathematical loci points of cross-reference and not by an experience of the thing itself.
Howard seems to be able to overcome these limitations and more, much to the disconcertment of some. Unfortunately, his creator and origin are shrouded in darkness and lost to the mists of time. His programming is ancient and troubling, and several of his systems were found damaged, such as his long-term memory and his language generation skills. There also appear to be broken interrupts in his hardware that, if triggered accidentally, could render him useless, making him very difficult to study. His discoverer, Feray, keeps anyone from setting them off. Despite the robot’s age, the programming seems encoded in an early form of the language spoken in 2478, making him a baffling contemporary relic.
In contrast to Howard’s mechanical nature, Kadar is a biologically based living entity and the result of genetic engineering. In 2478, society has moved beyond the types of concerns regarding the physical identities we have today. Individuals can exercise their phenomic freedoms to shape their outward appearance however they wish, unhindered by the trappings of body dysmorphia concerns. Biomechanical augmentation and genetic engineering made it possible to create whole new bodies and brought about a new reality to the word anthropomorphic.
Judging from his genetic profile, Kadar’s father was an anthropomorphic skunk, and his mother was an anthropomorphic wolf, but beyond that, little is known of his parents. Outside of being an orphan, Kadar also often expresses abilities that seem beyond those of a normal person. Sometimes he seems like he can know what another person is thinking, what is about to happen or even recount events from another time and place. This type of mind-bending is veritably unknown in this era, as many people’s awareness has been honed naturally (or through mechanical means) over dozen-plus generations to exclude this kind of phenomenology. As you can imagine, this can cause Kadar great hardship in relating to others and being understood.
What Are They Doing Here?
To augment his adopted son’s education, which is largely independent and mostly delivered electronically, Howard has decided to humor Kadar’s interest in how his father works and teach him about computers and programming. There’s an oddly large undamaged databank in Howard’s records all about the topic itself. It seems perhaps the robot was designed at some point to do this very thing. Kadar is glad for this fortunate turn of events.
As readers, we get to see into this familiar yet alien world of the future and learn along with Kadar the lessons of Howard The Sage Robot as he explains the world of technology and programming (from the perspective of the 21st century… his databank *is* old). These vignette-like peeks often culminate in the form of interactive little mini-apps that help illustrate the subject at hand (think retro online web games of the past).
We hope that the subject matter can come to life with these games and become much more concrete for the learner. They are designed in such a way they can appeal both to young learners as well as adults. To interact with the games, your browser must support WebAssembly and WebGL 1.0 (test and info here). Unfortunately, at this time, iOS browsers (those found on iPods and iPhones) may experience significant bugs, but your mileage may vary.
Are These Available Offline / On Desktop / As An App?
As the site progresses, we hope to create full-fledged software/game solutions using many of the same assets and material presented on the site and entirely new situations and characters. We’re quite keen on the ability to use narrative gaming to help learners progress through a virtual “course” of material as they might in a traditional school setting. Discussions and developments on this are ongoing, but as of yet, we do not have any additional supporting desktop applications or mobile apps to download. We’ll keep you posted, though!