Table of Chapters
Chapter 0. Problems
Chapter 1. Headaches
Chapter 2. Happy Holidays
Chapter 3. Mr. Nice Guy
Chapter 4. The Brainless One
Chapter 5. A Little Crazy
Chapter 6. Grave Consequences
Chapter 7. Core Directives
Chapter 8. Expect Difficulties
Chapter 9. Caveats
Chapter 10. Mister Machine
Chapter 11. Good News, Bad News, El Cheapo
Chapter 12. New Memories
Chapter 13. Little Problems
Chapter 14. Lasers, Language, and Happiness
Chapter 15. Chatterbots
Chapter 16. Ready Or Not
Chapter 17. Not a Turing Test
Chapter 18. Reality Test
Chapter 19. Chess, Anyone?
Chapter 20. FOM
Chapter 21. Chairman of the Board
Chapter 22. The Usual Suspects
Chapter 23. M. God
Chapter 24. Walkabout
Chapter 25. Why
Chapter 26. First Blood
Chapter 27. More Machines?
Chapter 28. POV
Chapter 29. ROI
Chapter 30. Last Blood
Chapter 31. Don’t Want to Talk About It
Chapter 32. Round Table
Chapter 33. A Change of Mind
Chapter 34. Threes
Chapter 35. Knight Moves
Chapter 36. Little Combinations
Chapter 37. Can We Talk?
Chapter 38. Pas de Deux
Chapter 39. The Jig Is Up
Chapter 40. Good, Bad, Ugly Chapter 41. Function Goes On
• Day 0.01.27
The Machine hurried [to Mr. Tim's office], and stopped with a squeak before knocking on his door. There was no answer and the door was locked.
It rolled squeaking toward Nan’s office to find its door quickly closing.
Rolling to a cubicle with no door, it said, “Excuse me, Mr. Guy?”
Getting a grunt from the programmer, it asked, “Who are your three best friends?”
“TM would like to know the names of your three or four closest friends.”
“So TM could talk with them.”
“Do you insist on knowing the reason?”
“I do if you want the names. And even then it’s no guarantee you’ll get them.”
“Very well,” said the machine weakly and with something of a sigh, “TM has read that, in this country, perhaps one person in four or five is mentally unbalanced to some degree, and…”
Guy had not expected its comment or its attitude or its hesitation. TM seemed afraid to complete the thought. These observations captured the man’s complete attention. “And…” he prodded, hoping for clues.
“Well, if they seem normal, then…”
“Then…?” Guy prompted, still not appreciating TM’s conversational drift.
“If they seem normal, then you are the one.”
“The one what?”
“The one who is unbalanced.”
Guy took a moment to appreciate what had just happened.
“Unbalanced? You think I might be crazy?” he asked. “Whatever gave you that idea?”
“TM saw on a bulletin board in the break room a picture of a man in odd attire. The caption was: ‘Research indicates that in this country one person in four has some form of mental imbalance. Think of your three closest friends. If they seem okay, then you’re the one.’
“TM did some research to verify whether the ratio is correct. It is, according to…”
“Wait, wait,” the man interrupted. “I’m not crazy, and neither are my friends…” He hesitated, and with a roll of eyes added, “Except Tommy; he is nuts.”
The machine said with a definite tone of sadness, “TM is sorry to hear that, Mr. Guy. The psychological literature also says that those who are crazy usually insist they are not, and that sane people can joke about being crazy in a way that admits they do act crazy some times. TM had been hoping that the crazy person would be one of your three friends. The odds favored that hope, of course.”
“None of us is crazy,” said Guy, wide-eyed at the realization that the machine was dead serious. “How could you conclude that?”
“How could TM not conclude it? Science is reliable. I have made investigations.”
This is interesting, if a little scary, thought the young man.
“And I am not reliable?” he asked.
“You are just one person—and you are not a scientist. The science is done and spoken by many learned people. Statistically, both in quantity and quality of testimony, TM must agree with them and not with you. And that is not the worst of it, Mr. Guy. TM must now reexamine all conversations with you in order to—”
“Hold it! Wait a minute, TM,” the programmer said excitedly.
This is getting out of hand, he thought after the French phrase J’accuse popped into his head, followed quickly by the stark image of Goya’s Firing Squad. He looked at his nice white shirt.
“Very well,” said the machine, “TM can do that.”
At the reprieve Guy took a breath and expelled it disgustedly with the thought: This is just great. The machine has discovered The Experts, and it appears I’m not one of them. So I’m going to lose any appeal here that pits my word against theirs. Good Lord! How do I handle this one?
A memory from school popped into his consciousness. It was a list of things that appeared to buttress arguments logically, but which were in fact logical fallacies. The machine had granted a sixty second time-out, and with a few seconds remaining, Guy had refined a Google search and e-mailed a summary of its results. He said, “If you want to hear from experts, study what the experts say about ‘logical fallacies’. Look it up in books. Verify it on the Internet. Find a whole bunch of sources and see what they all have to say. Then examine all the conclusions and arguments you just tried to push off on me. And then come back and we’ll talk about who is crazy.”
“Very well,” TM said.
As it rolled away, Guy felt a strange sense that the incident hadn’t happened, and was still going to end badly.