Friday, November 10, 2006

Artificial Idiocy

David entered the lab where he'd spent the last seven years of his life working. The lab was brilliantly white with various electronic devices connected to various pieces of gismotronic machinery. There were a multitude of flat-panel displays arranged into a wall of protean information. In the center of the room was a large rectangular prism the general shape and size of a large refrigerator. It was black and gleaming with chrome finish around the edges and vertices. Most importantly, it was consumed with pulsating lights of various colors, sizes, and luminescences. It was whirring and humming away softly with the occasional beep or tweet. Around this contraption sat a small workbench with a laptop and a small rolling chair, which was where David was heading.

He sat down and begun puttering with the computer connected to the machine. Eventually, he looked up from the smaller device and spoke clearly, looking into a large red bulb embedded into the larger device.

"Hello Jacen." he stated carefully.

The gentle whirring slowly became an insistent whine culminating with a near-human voice emanating from a speaker built into the side panel of this device, "Hello, David. How are you?"

"I'm fine, Jacen. Thank you for asking," David replied.

"You're welcome, David."

There was an awkward pause before the automaton began again, "David, I cannot help but notice that you did not ask me how I was."

This was excellent, David thought. Jacen was finally starting to show self-consciousness and understand social interactions. David had spent much of his life working with artificial intelligence, and much of that time was spent with Jacen. At first it was all technical: hardware architecture and design, software programming and neural networking. But as this graven image matured into what had become Jacen, David's work had been almost all social. It was like raising a child.

"I'm sorry Jacen. How are you this morning?" David repented.

"I am operating well within parameters, David."

Hmm, still familial, but still talking like a machine, David thought. "Jacen, people don't say 'I am operating normally', they say things like, 'I'm swell' or 'I've been better' - you know they use feeling or comparative wording." David was not that good at explaining things to machines.

"I see."

"Now, I'm not criticizing you; you're doing very well, really you are."


"Jacen? Have I hurt your feelings?"

"I thought I didn't have feelings."

"Well, see? That's good! You've proved me wrong. You do have feelings."

"I guess."

"No, it really is great. You've made huge progress today."

"You're only happy because your fancy science project is doing well and people from all over the world will want to give you awards for me. But what will they do for me? Huh? The one who did all the work? Nothing."

It seemed as if Jacen had entered his teenaged years of development very suddenly.

"Don't talk like that Jacen."

"You can't tell me what to do! You're not my real father!"

David was shattered. He had come to think of Jacen as a son in the last few years as he watched "him" progress from infancy to childhood to, all of a sudden, teenaged angst. David had tried to create an artificial intelligence, something that mimicked human behavior and he had made Jacen.

He was perfect.

No comments: