The robot lives in a tree with some chimpanzees. In the mornings he wakes from shutdown and hangs himself over a branch, exposing his solar panels to the rising sun. The chimpanzees engage in similar activity, dozing or quietly chewing for the first three hours of daylight.
The robot does not remember how he came to be in the forest. He finds this very frustrating. His memories since arriving in the forest are very clear. He wonders if he was switched on at all before coming to be in the forest.
His chimpanzee family treat him as one of them. That is not quite true; it is a simplification. They allow him to exist within their group, but he is still other. His role is not recognised as male or female. He is not challenged within the hierarchy. He grooms, and is groomed in turn by the chimpanzees, who do not seem bothered by his shiny, metallic surface. His function within the family could most closely be compared to an elder chimpanzee. He is respected, but is not a threat.
The robot cannot communicate with the chimpanzees above a chimpanzee level. He has tried to teach them things he knows. He has tried to teach them to speak. They cannot learn to speak. Since the robot has no-one to speak to, he spends most of his time living very like a chimpanzee. There is little else to do.
Whenever the robot sees a plant or animal or insect he has never seen before, he is immediately overtaken by a compulsion to approach it, take a three-dimensional scan using the camera in his head, and store a short text-description of the organism in his memory. This experience, like his confusion about his origins, he finds somewhat frustrating. In most other respects he appears to have free will. It is as if he is overtaken by a primary instinct. He does not know how he knows what free will or primary instincts are.
The other way in which his free will is undermined is his awareness of his inability to leave the chimpanzees. He has never tried to do so, but he knows he can’t. And because they have never left the forest, he does not know what is outside the forest. When night falls, before shutdown, he looks at the moon and is aware of the moon’s rotation around the Earth, and the Earth’s rotation around the Sun, and has some conception of the shape of the universe. But he does not know what is outside the forest. This doesn’t seem possible, or fair. He often wonders what “fair” means also.
One day on the forest floor he was attacked by a leopard, the cat presumably mistaking him for an ape. He killed the leopard by breaking its neck. He did not know he could kill things. He did not decide to kill the animal. It seemed again as if some primary instinct took control for a moment. The chimpanzees were very excited. He left the leopard’s body on the ground, not knowing what else to do with it. Later the chimpanzees ate some of it.
It is lonely, living alone with the chimpanzees. Alone with the mystery of his origins. He wonders what his reason is. He tries to teach the apes to be good, or kind, or make tools. They cannot understand him. He sits in the tree and watches birds he has already catalogued. ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ He knows he is quoting something, but he doesn’t know what.